SAE Oxford Film student tells us how he was inspired by #MeToo to tell the story of a sexual assault victim

12 Aug 2019

TW: This article contains references to sexual assault, which some readers may find distressing. 

We recently spoke to SAE Oxford Film student Sam Gosiewski about his Major Project film, Distant Voices. The 10-minute short tells the story of a girl called Georgia who misses a train home one evening and on her way home gets sexually assaulted. The narrative explores the process of dealing with the police and Georgia (Alice Lucy) having to tell her Mum (Sian Francis), and focuses on the triangular relationship between the victim, her mother and the lead Police officer (Eastenders actress Gillian Kirkpatrick). 

Sam worked on the prodction with fellow SAE students Naomi Weaver (Lead Producer and Editor,) Joe Sandford (Gaffer) and SAE alumni Jason Farries (Casting/Actor), Emily Stanley (Assistant Director/Associate Producer), with cinematography a joint effort between SAE graduate Benjamin Eeley and freelancer Jason Croxall.

Sam told us that it was about a year ago when he came up with the idea, and added he is a big fan of the crime thriller genre so it felt natural to produce a project in this vein. The political climate in Hollywood, with the sexual assault allegations made against Harven Weinstein in October 2017 and the subsequent rise of the #MeToo movement seemed like a logical backdrop to the important and upsetting subject matter of Sam’s film. 

Sam said that it was important to him to avoid self-insertion in this project, a practice he feels many creatives are inclined towards. This is why he wrote the film with three female leads, and only one male supporting actor. He said: “Artists in general tend to write what they know, so it would have been easy to add my own characteristics e.g. slang. But several people looked at the script so hopefully I have managed to avoid that.”

The subject matter isn’t based on anyone in particular’s experiences, although Sam does say that he has a few friends who have been victims of sexual assault and he thinks it’s important to draw attention to the issue. 

He wanted to focus on the subject sensitively and tastefully, which is why he was thorough in researching the procedures a sexual assault victim must go through to report the crime. He spoke to Thames Valley Police, first studying the vast amount of information on their website, before phoning them to ask about specific things such as whether officers are in uniform or plain clothes, and the type of officer or department who normally handles these cases. 

As the film also deals with trauma induced psychosis, Sam drew on the expertise of Student Experience and Recruitment Officer, Jon Jang, who has two PhDs. He wanted to ensure that his project was as close as possible to the genuine, traumatic experiences encountered by victims of sexual assault.  

Sam explained that he originally wanted the film to be 15 minutes long, but it ended up being 10 minutes because of casting difficulties. Now that he is finished and has submitted the film as his Major Project, he plans to expand some of the scenes, adding to the undercurrent of tension between Georgia’s mother and the almost surrogate figure of the Police Officer who supports Georgia through her traumatic experience. 

Other challenges that Sam was faced with included having to compromise on the time of day/night the film was shot. Initially, he wanted to shoot the film late at night but due to the availability of the crew, the majority was shot in daylight hours, with sections colour graded from day to night. He is happy with the result of these scenes, but said that he would have preferred the authenticity of shooting after dark. 

Sam said: “The biggest takeaway from the experience was the people. I’ve made a really good network of people regardless of the barriers we hit. Everyone put in their absolute best even though they largely weren’t paid. The most valuable resource people can give you is their time.”  

The film had a budget of £3,500, half of which Sam saved up himself from working in retail, and for the other half, Sam received help from his family, who he is very thankful towards. He said in particular his Dad and brother Peter were really supportive, and he benefited from the fact his older brother Peter has a Masters degree in scriptwriting so was able to give Sam pointers on his work. 

In terms of other projects Sam has in the pipeline now that he has finished his Major Project, he is working on a series of three music videos for local Oxford band Echos4Four, whose lead singer Charlie Asbridge is an Audio student at SAE. Sam has been directing and producing these videos, and has completed 1.5 videos already, and will be doing another 1.5 videos soon depending on the band’s schedule.

Sam has also been assisting SAE graduate Jason Farries, working on the script for another short film. 

In terms of the area of the Film industry that Sam is most drawn towards after graduating, he wants to work primarily with actors, whether that’s directing or freelance camera work, as he has the equipment and is available for the day-rate of £135. 

We wish Sam the best of luck with his future endeavours and hope that he will keep us informed with the projects he is working on going forwards! 

To hire Sam or find out more about the range of film services he can provide, email him: 95679UK@saeinstitute.edu 

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