Student film “un(SILENCED)” explores theme of speaking out against rape, sexual violence

Published by adviser, Author: Courtney Tietje - Rocket Contributor, Date: April 27, 2012
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Sexual violence is a big issue on college campuses, according to senior English Literature major Jennifer Reeher, 23.

“One in four women on a college campus will be raped before they graduate,” Reeher said. “I feel like we need to be doing more to talk about that and start examining what we need to do to change that.”

That’s why, for Reeher, it was so important to create her film, “(un)SILENCED,” which was co-directed by Scott Patton, a student at Point Park University.

The film follows college student Krystal through the retelling of her rape and her struggles to find her voice afterward.

Freshman dance major Emily Shaffer, 18, portrayed Krystal in the film.

“She’s just a very typical college girl,” Shaffer said of her character. “The movie is showing her after the rape and looking at how things were before and the change in her from before to after. She’s basically just someone that people should be able to identify with as a character.”

Due in part because the script was written by Reeher, because of student volunteers, use of school-owned cameras and editing programs, and the use of public grounds, the film was low-budget.

However, according to Reeher, the experience the cast and crew gained from the making of the film was priceless.

“It was interesting working with people with varying degrees of experience with films,” she said. “But no one had worked on a project this big before so it was definitely a learning process for all of us.”

While the script was originally intended to be a one-scene play executed at Slippery Rock, circumstances changed, preventing Reeher from producing the play here in the university. According to Shaffer, this was a “happy accident.”

“Jen always talks about happy accidents,” she said. “There are a lot of things that ended up happening in this movie that weren’t what we originally intended… but I feel like everything ended up working out for it being the best that it could be. I don’t’ think I’d change anything about it.”

Reeher connected with Patton, who is currently studying film in downtown Pittsburgh, to get his opinion on whether or not they could turn the play into a film. When Patton assured her that he would help out with the project, Reeher began searching for the perfect cast and crew.

The cast, including extras, was upwards of 20 people. With cast and crew combined, approximately 30 people total worked on the film.

The filming process involved two weekends, including Easter weekend, according to Shaffer, in which the cast and crew worked all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

According to Shaffer, there were a lot of makeup effects required for the film.

Reeher hired SRU graduate Kelly Myers, of Natrona Heights, Pa., as the primary makeup artist.

Makeup effects included lots of bruises, wound makeup, and the stitching up of Shaffer’s mouth, symbolic of her inability to speak after her rape.

“It took longer to do the sewn mouth because the adhesive, which is called spirit gum, needs to get tacky in order to stick to anything,” Myers said.  “Each zigzag of string on her mouth was a separate piece… then I had to add the blood.  I would say it probably took me 30 minutes for the mouth the first time I did it.”

Myers planned and researched specifically for the film.

“For wound makeup, you always want research images of actual wounds, which is always fun to Google for,” she said.  “You then would do sketches from the research of your designs for the show.”

Afterwards, Myers said she has to stay on set the entire filming period to do touch ups.

“Once on set I find a space out of the way to set my kit up and wait for the director and actor to be ready for me,” she said. “You always want to move as quickly as possible because oftentimes everyone is waiting around for you.  I make sure there are pictures taken of all the bruises so that I can replicate them again if needed, and to put in my portfolio. I then stand by to freshen up the makeup between takes.”

If there is one thing that Myers, Reeher, and Shaffer agree upon, it is that film-making is a process.

“Ultimately, I’m really happy with what we have, and as much as it can be stressful, it was definitely worth it,” said Reeher. “Being able to have everyone on set and coming together and saying ‘You know what? This going to be a really crazy stressful two weeks for everyone, but it’s worth it to be able to bring that [awareness] to people.”

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