By Sara M. McDonald
“Written on my skin,” a short film, packs a powerful punch.
Written and directed by Rod Roberts, it tells the story about an up-and-coming actress named Rachel Ryan, who is reliving being raped. The film is heavy, flashing back and forth between that night and the current one, where she is sitting on the bathroom floor, contemplating suicide.
She relives how her rapist’s fans —who is a celebrity — and press said she deserved being raped, because that’s how things are in Hollywood.
It’s a film that deals with how to deal with traumatic events. Do you commit suicide or continue to seek counseling? Rachel weighs all of this as she relives the emotions and events.
The Crow’s Nest got a first look and interview with Roberts, to learn what inspired the film, why it is so important and what we can learn from it.
The film has been submitted to over 20 film festivals, but no official release date has been announced. To stay connected, watch behind the scenes footage and learn more, follow the film on social media: Instagram (writtenonmyskinfilm) and Twitter @womsfilm.
Q: Tell me about yourself:
A: I have a marketing degree out of Oklahoma State but I have been doing movies for the past 14 years one way or another. (I) started out in photography, booking talent. Then I left Hong Kong for LA to further my film career as a director and writer. I wanted to make films that would educate the audience and something that would move them. I’m a huge fan of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg but their movies weren’t the kind of movies I wanted to make. I wanted to make movies that would move you.
Q: What inspired the film:
A: This was my own personal way of dealing with the subject. The reason I have had an interest was my older sister was violently assaulted when I was 16/17. Long story short, he broke into her house … put a gun to my nephew’s head and said this is how things are going to go down.
Afterward she came to our house, I answered the door and she’s crying. I asked her what was wrong but she ran in the bathroom and waited for our sister and mom to come home. I made this movie because (other actors, directors and storytellers) always portray it as the good guy fights and gets revenge and wins by court drama. That is not necessarily the case in the real world. These stories don’t usually end with justice. The victim has to find their way out of that so they can become a survivor.
Q: What was the process of making it come to life:
A: The rapist was hard to cast. It was very hard finding guys to cast that role. One reason was because they wanted to be an action hero. They were worried about how people would react to them playing this rapist type of villain.
If you look at it from a bigger picture, you’re nervous about your acting career when these women are worried in real life how they will be looked at when they come forward. I was the judge (in the movie) and I casted the entire jury as men.
I had some actresses turn down the roll because they didn’t want to relive their trauma. That was understandable. But one thing is important is that we never show the rape. Rape scenes from other movies are on porn sites. You know it happens, and you can tell the story without showing it.
Q: Why are films like “written on my skin” important:
A: The film is a short. It’s 26 minutes long.
Every 2 minutes someone is raped. That means by the time you are done watching the movie, 13 women have been sexually assaulted. The truth is we need movies like this, with the realities and no happy ending or hero to save the day so we can start having a conversation that is desperately needed. It is hard and horrible but it needed to be told in an honest way.
Q: One of the pieces of advice the victim gets in the movie is she should “dress a little more and drink a little less.” Can you tell me why this was the advice she was given and why it was put in the movie?
A: An actual judge said that in Toronto. After the rapist was found guilty, he gave him time served and said to the victim “you should dress a little more and drink a little less and try to keep your knees together.” A lot in the film was from real incidents.
Q: Do you think that movies like this and the #metoo movement can change the atmosphere surrounding rape and sexual assault?
A: I think Rose McGowan (an American actress) hit the nail on the head. Now on social media we are seeing hundreds of thousands of women coming forward and to see that the vast majority acknowledging their own assault is huge.
It speaks to all the people who have sat silent for so long. We have to stop having conversations about taking defense classes or pepper spray. Let’s take those resources and put it into teaching guys not to do it. It has to be a punch in the face like these movies and movements.
Q: In the statistics provided at the end of the movie, you touch on some heavy statistics. Which one stands out to you the most?
A: There’s a statistic that covers athletes and how they’ve handled game suspensions. It’s ironic because the NFL wears pink one month out of the year to “support women” but their actions say that’s just marketing when someone punches their wife and only gets suspended 2 games.
Q: What is one thing you wish for people to take away from your film?
A: The lawyer is telling the court, ‘It wasn’t that she was promiscuous or wore the wrong outfit.’ You have to look beyond the nonsense of it all and focus on the person who has done it. Rachel makes no apology for being promiscuous or wearing a flashy dress or for even taking ecstasy. These situations may play a part but that is not the reason these things (rape) happen.
Pictured Above: “Written on my skin,” a short film, tells a story about an aspiring actress, named Rachel Ryan, who contemplates suicide as she relives a traumatic moment in her life.