Director Torey Byrne and screenwriter Mahogany J. Slide, who made the new scifi short film Extract: The Ghost Complex earlier this year, did a video interview together this Fall since my webcam was on the fritz. Many thanks to them for taking the time to do this. (Due to length and some audio problems, parts of the interview transcript below have been truncated.)
UPDATE: Byrne’s film Extract will be taking on a new form soon (work is currently being planned), and news about the direction the film will be taking will be posted on the film’s Facebook page at the beginning of 2013.
The entire interview can be viewed on the Her Film YouTube channel or by clicking on the video below. (Total running time about 33 minutes.)
[I]f you ever want to work with me,
you have to watch ‘Firefly’ first.
Extract: The Ghost Complex tackles a huge philosophical question: “are we really only defined by the things we know?” And the main character is under existential threat! Can you give a brief background on the story and talk about what inspired you to write the film, MJ?
Slide: [Inaudible] Well, I guess it was one of these things where I have this thing, it’s basically a library of ideas I’ve come up with that I just haven’t had any time to be able to do anything with, and — long story short — Torey wanted to direct something and she was like, ‘Oh, I need a writer,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m a writer.’
Byrne: Are we really gonna talk about this? [laughs]
Slide: I’m a writer. So, I basically gave her access to the dropbox folder with all the ideas and she picked one she really liked, and we went from there. I just have a crazy obsession with information and data. I think it was sort of the concept, that we were both captured by the idea that society has gotten to a point where everyone and everything is defined by their digital footprint in one way, shape or form, and it doesn’t even have to be just your digital footprint. Information in itself is everything because it also is who you are, and the things that you choose to do and your personality, and all of that. And is there a way to take that and simply strip it down to its rawest form and it just be data and things you know about you and things you know about other people and the world around you, because everyone and everything is sculpted by one’s interpretation and perception. That’s why I found it interesting.
Byrne: I wanted to, I had a campaign, that I wanted to direct my own short film, and we had a plan and that sort of fell through. So I was on Twitter one day and I was like, you know I really kind of want to direct something, I need a script. And that was the whole ‘I’m a writer’ thing from MJ, and she asked me a stupid question, and she was like, ‘Okay, do you want scifi or drama?’ What kind of question is that? Of course I want scifi. So, I don’t know, we made a scifi film. It was awesome.
Slide: She’s just so darn eloquent, folks.
Byrne: Shut up.
Slide: [laughs] So, yeah, that’s pretty much — I wanted an excuse to finally get to cut my teeth on writing or seeing one of something — [groans] speaking of eloquence! I wanted to be able to cut my teeth on something that was science fiction based because that’s the genre that I love the most and it’s one of those things that’s relatively hard to tackle in a short film and just in independent film in the South. We chose something incredibly high concept which has been an entirely interesting journey in itself. So that’s been a fun process.
How did you become involved in the project, Torey, and how have you approached the material as a director?
Byrne: I met MJ on Twitter, was it April? Not too long ago! [both laugh] We haven’t known each other for as long as most [people] think. We just sort of clicked. I stepped off of the bus in South Carolina and it was like we were instantly best friends, it was weird. But I wanted to work with her for a really long time and I finally got the chance to fly out there and meet them about a film that was called Those Lighter Fluid Days and I was cast in that. So, we’d been working together and we had a couple of really awesome opportunities for that, so it [Extract] was pushed to the next spring. So, we have been trying to film and we decided that we were going to make another film! [laughs] We had originally planned on making this back to back with Lighter Fluid Days when I was out there which would have been insane.
Slide: Just a [inaudible] [laughs]
Byrne: That would have been crazy. We were exhausted by the end of the two or three days. But, I don’t know, [inaudible] it was really this small couple minute-long short film just to give me the chance to direct something of my own. And after Lighter Fluid Days was pushed, we decided this story and the universe that the story takes places in — we needed to give it the chance to be what it could. We needed to give it a chance to grow and become something that we originally hadn’t planned, because everything was there, all this information was there, so we had numerous really long phone calls. [laughs] We were up until five in the morning, six in the morning, and we’re in two different states. So there was a time change…
Slide: And then you were in California.
Byrne: I was, I did go to California for a couple of weeks for a couple auditions and to go to Comic-Con, which was awesome. And so that was — is it three hours?
Slide: Three hour difference.
Byrne: So it’s already difficult for us to find time to do this ‘world-building,’ as we called it, but that was even more difficult. But we did it! We did it. This story is its own world. It’s just really insane, it’s really awesome what we did. [laughs] I’m really proud of us because we turned something that was, well, just an idea that you had into a living universe.
Slide: Yeah, and I think it’s deliciously ironic with the whole concept of the film, and I don’t want to give a whole lot away, but the fact that we’re doing, like, predominantly, most of our collaboration has taken place online, is — you will understand the irony once you see the film and see how it all comes together. But it’s been a very, very interesting process. It’s just something that any writer or any person who has a massive love for scifi understands and has the desire to be able to create a world from the ground up.
Sci-fi’s such a popular genre, but the production of a sci-fi film isn’t typically considered an affordable process. How have you put together this film to portray the world and characters of the story in a way that you feel is believable, working with a less than astronomical budget? What were your biggest challenges?
Byrne: Am I taking this one, or are you taking this one?
Slide: You’re the director.
Byrne: Obviously, it was difficult. MJ is so talented that any time that she writes — [laughs] — and I’m [inaudible] to do this now and I’m quite proud of myself, but any time that she’d write something I would want to film that. I don’t want to change anything, I don’t want to do anything to it. I just want what you wrote. And that’s not possible a lot of the time! [laughs] So I’ve started in this next film we have on the docket, I started to [inaudible] to do that, but we basically went line by line and was like, what do we need for this? Do we need special effects for this? Is it something we can do in wardrobe? Is it something we can do in the art department? Which was us! By the way, if any of you are wondering —
Slide: We had a fabulous art department.
Byrne: People were like, who did you have for costuming and art, and, that was us! Basically we went on Etsy and found everything cool that we could.
Slide: Pretty much.
Byrne: There was a little more planning.
I’m really proud of us because we turned something that was, well, just an idea that you had into a living universe.
Slide: [inaudible] The thing about it is this is where the seven plus hour conversations every couple of days came in and everything that we decided that the characters ended up wearing and that were portrayed was very, very purposeful because the two leads are, like, they’re polar opposites physically, but there are so many things about their characters that are oddly similar that we wanted to sort of create that contrast but let the audience pull together the similarities to how they actually are as individuals and how they play off of each other. So that was all very purposeful. Like any indie film, you spend the money you have and you make it happen and you make it work. There are always sort of surprising expenses, but we had a movie on our hands, and we had a film that we absolutely adored and we wanted to see come about and happen, so we made it happen. It was cool because there was like — we needed bikes — so we had a local bike shop, we called them up and were like ‘hey, what can we do to get a bike for free?’ And that all worked out and people were being incredibly supportive of the film, and I think they’re kind of surprised with, like, by the way, two 19 year old chicks and we’re just doing this film for it, and there’s just something refreshing about the whole situation and there have been a lot of people who’ve just signed on simply because first of all, they love the genre, they love our take on it, and they want to see cool films happen.
Byrne: And that’s my favorite part about the whole, the entire indie film community, and I’ve said that from day one, the fact that everyone is so incredibly supportive. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, if you’re making an independent film, another person from the independent film community will come and help. That’s how our entire crew — I talked about this in my director’s statement — we didn’t know each other. With the exception of you and I, and you and Rebecca, none of our crew knew each other, we just, we talked with them on Twitter all the time.
I’ve seen more than a few mentions of “world-building” and creating a “world” for this film on your film’s facebook page and MJ’s blog. What does that process entail and how are you going about tackling such an enormous task? You also have to create a world of the film in terms of social media — for fans — so how are you going about doing that for Extract?
Slide: I think, hilariously, now, I think part of it we do unconsciously because we’re so darn excited about the story. So many people ask me ‘what’s your mentality for promotion?’ And I’m like, ‘Um, I just think it’s really exciting so I tell lots of people about it.’ I say that, but it’s obviously a lot more complicated. But as far as the world-building goes, there aren’t any questions that you don’t ask. That’ where we got, like half, wow, more than, more like three-fourths of the things that we concluded will never end up on screen.
Byrne: Oh my gosh. We know way more about this world than we should.
Slide: And scenarios, and it’s sort of, I actually posted an article on Extract’s Facebook page about sort of, Steven Spielberg did an ‘idea summit’ for Minority Report, and Tim…our graphic designer actually linked me to it. I read the article… and basically he just got a bunch of intelligent people in a room and started asking them questions about what they felt the future would be like. And that’s pretty much what me and Torey ended up doing, where fashion, art, culture, how would the [inaudible] of the McGuffin in our storyline affect…world economics and all of that jazz. Those were the kind of conversations we had, and we started off with a very large view and then pull it down to how does that affect the characters’ mentality, the leads and all of that? So it was really like, as a writer, it was really the greatest process ever. They were these ridiculously long conversations and there goes all of my sleep, but I was okay because my brain was happy.
MJ stated in a video posted on YouTube about the production, that “a lot of the inspiration for the process and the approach has come from Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly,'” Can you explain what you mean by that?
Byrne: When you watch something that is done, you don’t question the universe that he created, and the universe that the characters live in. And it’s because of all those details that normally people don’t think about, you know what I mean? Like the fact that they speak another language, because that’s probable. That’s probably going to be the case in the future that there are brands everywhere, things that you don’t pay attention to, it’s all art department and things like that, but it brings that to life. And we tried to do the same thing, so we created brands, not that would exist in the future, but that would help us bring that to life. We had slang that people would use.
Slide: That was fun.
Byrne: We talked about culture a lot and where we are headed in the future. We actually, originally it was in 2097, [but] we pushed it back to 2067, just to close that gap. That would give us —
Slide: Primarily because technology moves so quickly, I was just just thinking about, 1957 was the technical birth of the internet, and what, it’s 50, 60, 70 years later and we have all of this. So it was, it was one of these things, like I tried to talk Torey into bumping it to 2036 but we had already, like, made stuff official. It just is the opportunity to interpret something that is, that doesn’t exist but could. I think that’s the allure, playing with the familiar and making it unfamiliar but approachable at the same time. And it was empowering, it was a lot of fun, because who else goes to work, serves ice cream and then comes home and builds a world on the phone with some person in Oklahoma? It’s like, we love our lives and we love our jobs because it’s absurd and fantastic… Joss Whedon is kind of my hero. It’s funny…if you ever want to work with me, you have to watch ‘Firefly’ first.
Byrne: I had to do it.
Slide: She did.
Byrne: It was great.
Slide: She did.
Byrne: Really good.
Slide: Yeah, and just to sort of gather the mentality, because it’s really, it’s why I write. Like, ‘Objects in Space,’ final episode of ‘Firefly,’ probably one of the best hours of television ever. And it’s like, I just sit around and I’m like I’m just gonna write that good one day, like, that’s the goal, to get to the ‘Objects in Space’ level.
Shiva Rodriguez has a long history of working in costumes, makeup, set construction/dressing, and prop-making for theatrical productions, but, her greatest love has always been for horror and splatter FX, a generally male-dominated occupation that she fought tooth and nail to get into. She and her husband D. Duckie Rodriguez founded Siren Productions in 1997 and began producing photography series and stage shows. Shiva’s primary responsibilities for these productions were building sets, costumes, & props and executing any practical FX or casualty makeups when needed. In 2008 she made the switch to working for film and video productions primarily as FX / makeup artist and has since become a familiar face in the Central Florida independent film scene. Recently she’s been involved with the feature films Dangerous People and Rough Cut, as well as the live-action comic series Moonie VS. the Spider Queen.
Shiva Rodriguez (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)
The story: Field researcher Kyle Reading believes that the terrible bear attack that he is investigating is actually the work of something far more sinister. Acting on his suspicions, he reaches out to the only survivor who is beginning to display some very unusual behavior.
But someone is also watching Kyle… someone who sees an advantage to having a stranger in town who cries “werewolf”.
Predatory Moon is a very old-school style horror film geared toward fans of the genre. This production will be shot on location in Florida in 2013, utilizing a talented cast and crew of local film-makers, natural locations, and 100% practical effects.
Campaign goal: $7,476 goal (At the time of this post, the campaign is about 14% funded)
Campaign ends: January 2, 2013
Photo of Shiva working on FX for “Dangerous People” in 2012 (Photo by Richard Anasky)
From the director:
This will be my first time sitting in the director’s chair.
Predatory Moon is a feature-length film that was written to be an extremely challenging project…I expected many of my friends in the industry to think that I’d lost my mind when I decided that I was not only going to take on a werewolf story, but also feature an elaborate on-screen creature transformation without using any computer-generated effects.
…I still have a few more hurdles to jump before I can yell “Action!” for the very first time…
One of the perks for donors:
Artwork by Daniel Byrd (Image courtesy of Shiva Rodriguez)
“Blood Drive” video, part of the fundraising campaign. A plea from the First AD to give money to help them kill a zombie!
Synopsis of Predatory Moon:
Kyle Reading is a zoologist who has been studying wild animal attacks across the country in hopes of finding ways to prevent them. When a young boy is allegedly killed by a bear in Florida, Kyle launches his own investigation. He quickly turns his attention to Dean Clout, the child’s uncle, who somehow survived the vicious attack.
Dean, infamous for being the town drunk, remembers very little about his brush with the bear. Found unconscious in the woods, he only recalls that he and the boy were left there by a friend who went to run an errand and never came back.
But in the weeks following the attack, Dean begins to drop some of his bad habits and pick up some strange new ones. Kyle is convinced that Dean was actually attacked by a werewolf and wants to help him deal with his new condition while keeping the rest of his family safe. He knows that the lycanthropic disease runs in a twenty-eight day cycle and that Dean is running out of time.
Unfortunately for Kyle, there is someone who has been keeping a close eye on him. Someone who sees an advantage to having a stranger in town who cries “werewolf”.
Photo of Shiva with some of the crew of Predatory Moon during filming of the “Blood Drive” (Photo by Richard Anasky)
Shiva Rodriguez (Writer/Director/FX Supervisor)
Virginia Jasper (Producer/Casting Director)
Garith Pettibone (Director of Photography)
Daniel Byrd (Creature Designer)
Dee Dee Seruga (Makeup)
Garo Nigoghossian (Co-Producer)
Daiv Russell (Unit Production Manager)
Jeremey Westrate (First Assistant Director)
Connect with this filmmaker and learn more about this new film:
Interview with Director Amy Berg and Producer Lorri Davis – West of Memphis
at Women and Hollywood
This is a film I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. More than 10 years ago I heard about the West Memphis Three through something I read or heard from Henry Rollins, and soon after, saw a fascinating and heartbreaking documentary film about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, all just kids when they were accused, tried, convicted and sentenced (living for years on death row) for the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. This was a deliberate effort by the criminal justice system to “hang” these young men for the disgusting and abominable murder of three young boys despite evidence pointing to the stepfather of one of the boys as the murderer. The story of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley is a story of injustice that was overcome — in part (they are now out of prison but are still fighting (and paying for, quite literally), to be legally absolved of all charges) — through years of tedious and torturous work by legal teams including Echols’ now wife, Lorri Davis; celebrity supporters (among them Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, and Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson who produced this film); and unfathomable dedication. Berg’s film opens in theaters on December 25.
For years my mother asked me to read Auntie Gert’s memoirs. I knew that the wrinkled woman with a cane who we visited once a year had been a militant suffragette fighting for the right of women to vote. But that era seemed so distant, so unrelated to me. Auntie Gert died in 1977.
When I finally read her memoirs ten years later, complete with photographs and her own sketches, her story changed my life. Personally, Gert became a beacon to light my feminism and social activism. Professionally, I became committed to telling the world this little-known story of the fight for the female vote. The violent revolt by British women less than a hundred years ago is without precedent, yet it continues to be treated without prestige.
Misfit: The Early Years, New Brunswick and Hawaii (1889-1912)
Gert Harding is born in 1889 on her parents’ farm in New Brunswick, Canada, youngest of six. One simple sketch shows a girl galloping across the field on Old Barney the workhorse, with nothing but a halter and rope. Gert goes camping in the woods alone; she prefers fishing to sewing and hunting to housework. When she is 18 her mother dies, leaving Gert to do all the cooking and housework, with no indoor plumbing, hot or cold. Discovery of a heart murmur turns into a godsend. As such conditions are considered risky in those days, Gert is sent to Hawaii to be companion to her sister Nellie, who has married wealthy Dr. Ernest Waterhouse.
For a few years, Gert leads a life of relative ease: tennis and horse riding, boat parties and midnight walks on Waikiki Beach. But Gert strains against the fetters of financial dependence on her brother-in-law. After sneaking off to her first paid job – selling chocolates at the Palm Cafe – she is found out and forced to quit the job because “Waterhouse women don’t work!” Gert concludes, “And so ended my first sallying forth to gain independence in the year 1910.”
Rebel: The Suffragette Years, London and Glasgow (1912-18)
At 23, Gert is invited to go with Nellie’s family to their new home in England to study art. Within weeks of landing in London, Gert sees a poster parade of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, whose members are called militant suffragettes. Their slogan, “Votes for Women,” strikes a chord she didn’t know she had. Gert quits art to join up as a volunteer and finds herself in her first poster parade. In her words:
Clapham is a miserable sordid suburb of London and a poster parade of women supplied delightful entertainment to the sadistic-minded men and youths lounging on street corners. From fruit and vegetable vendors they would select the most luscious of overripe plums, tomatoes and apples to hurl at us as we plodded along in the rain trying to be oblivious to all that went on around us. Being the last in line, I was a prime target and received a perfect barrage of these unsavoury objects. Then, without thinking, I did the one thing sure to bring on disaster – I raised my umbrella! With loud guffaws of joy the onlookers armed themselves with fresh ammunition and made a bulls-eye every time. Too late I realized the stupidity of my would-be humourous gesture and hastily put down the battered umbrella.
Having shown her pluck, Gert is asked to join up as one of only 75 paid workers in this organization of thousands. Her six siblings, spread out now from New Brunswick to Malaya, are horrified. Joining any of the dozens of women’s suffrage groups is shameful, but to work for the notorious Pankhursts and their lot — one of only two groups that condone militancy — is scandalous. As Gert joins, the WSPU has just started its ‘campaign of terror’ against property. Women terrorists? How did that happen?
Since 1867, British suffrage groups have been asking the Government to grant women the basic right in a democracy … and getting nowhere. You can put up with injustice and deception for only so many decades. In the early 1900s, legal tactics had escalated to noisy demonstrations and window-breaking, both in protest and to try to get media attention for the cause. When they were jailed as common criminals, instead of as the political prisoners they were, many militants began to hunger strike in protest. The Government’s response was, and still is in 1912, the degrading and painful torture of forced feeding.
Gert’s first “job,” along with co-worker Lilian Lenton, is to break into the world-renowned Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and cause as much damage as possible to the most valuable orchids before being arrested. At midnight, during a raging thunderstorm, they break into two orchid houses, smashing glass windowpanes and breaking pots and plants. No police arrive, so they scale a six-foot wall and escape. The next day 12 newspapers report on the ‘outrage’, some claiming that a male sympathizer to the cause must have perpetrated the havoc because only a man could have scaled the wall to escape. (“That was nothing for a farm girl from New Brunswick,” my mother always says.)
Acting on their own initiative, a few extreme devotees decide to up the level of violence even further than attacking public art and gardens. They start to bomb and burn empty buildings. Lilian Lenton returns to Kew Gardens alone and torches the empty Tea Pavilion. Such tactics were and are still used by men fighting for the vote, but with many deaths. The suffragettes ensure that they never harm ‘so much as a canary in a cage’. A feminine form of violent protest, if ever there was one.
The raid on Kew Gardens is Gert’s only act of violence. (She doesn’t say why.) She next joins the staff of the newspaper, The Suffragette, recently raided by Scotland Yard and driven underground. Gert and her colleagues travel through back alleys with soot on their faces to avoid detection. They set up the type and crank the printing press all night in secret flats, always on the lookout for spies and detectives.
Mrs. Pankhurst, who formed the WSPU with her brilliant daughter Christabel, travels far and wide giving rousing speeches, and by now she is the most recognized woman in the world. Each time Mrs. Pankhurst is imprisoned, she hunger strikes and is released. (The Government doesn’t dare force feed this renowned leader, wife of a former Member of Parliament.) When Scotland Yard is given the special unconstitutional power to re-arrest Mrs. Pankhurst on sight, the WSPU decides to form a secret bodyguard of women to prevent her constant re-arrest while pubic speaking. The Pankhursts consider Gert, the colonial from Canada, to be so resourceful and daring that they choose her to head up this bodyguard. Gert is one of only a few Canadians to join the WSPU.
Despite training in jiu jitsu and the use of India rubber clubs, the women soon realize that when pitted against the fists and truncheons of street-tough bobbies, they risk broken bones and concussions with each confrontation. Scotland Yard will have to be outwitted:
It had been advertised that [Mrs. Pankhurst] would speak on a certain evening, and when the time arrived a huge crowd was waiting, and so were dozens of plain clothes detectives determined to arrest her. Mrs. Pankhurst… made her speech, and then announced that she was coming down…. A veiled woman closely guarded by a group of the bodyguard was pounced upon by the eager police and spirited away after a token fight. Immediately afterward Mrs. Pankhurst quietly walked down the steps and I escorted her to a waiting taxi.
Sharp wits beat strength several more times, always with humourous results. Gert and the other organizers are wanted criminals, but they enjoy going about decked in costumes and wigs supplied by the Actresses’ Franchise League. For most of these women, their years as political protesters will be their happiest and most rewarding.
The string of bodyguard successes ends at a suffrage rally in Glasgow in 1914. Hundreds of police storm the hall and overwhelm the combined English and Scottish bodyguard.
It was a fantastic scene of violence, with Mrs. Pankhurst in the midst of milling police and bodyguard trying to protect her from injury…. [T]he audience now began to join in with shouts of disapproval against the police. The elderly ladies (who had no use for Suffragettes) rose up in their boxes and, using umbrellas as weapons, began hammering on the heads of two policemen trying to climb on the platform with the help of the “garlands” strung across the front. They let go in a hurry however when the barbed wire [hidden in the garlands] came to light.
The speaker’s table was overturned, and chairs flew about in all directions. I found myself looking up at a very large policeman with truncheon lifted ready to descend on my head. For some unknown reason he lowered it and tossed me instead into a pile of overturned chairs. Many of the bodyguard had been struck on the head, and some were found later on to have suffered slight concussion. A brave and wonderful fight was put up by these women.
Mrs. Pankhurst is again imprisoned, the bodyguard dispirited. Back in London, Gert soon becomes editor of The Suffragette, as the senior staff is all in prison. It is July 1914.
Within a month, World War I breaks out. The Pankhursts make the controversial decision to cease protest and to help with the War effort. Many women leave for other suffragist groups that continue to fight for the vote. The WSPU scales down but keeps Gert on staff. Christabel Pankhurst, the brains of the organization, moves to Paris to monitor events, and Gert accepts the job of being her private secretary there.
Eventually funds are low and even Gert must be let go. With recommendation from the Pankhursts, now the Government’s allies, Gert is hired on at the huge Gretna Munitions Factory as a Welfare Supervisor to the women workers. She proves exceptional at this job, the precursor to our modern Social Worker. When War ends, the British Government finally grants women a partial vote in 1918, in response not only to their war effort but also to the Pankhursts’ threat that if the vote is not granted, militancy will resume.
Activist: Social Work Years and Retirement, New Jersey (1920-1977)
In 1920, Gert moves back home to the new Harding farm in Hammond River, New Brunswick. After a year, she lands a position as Welfare Supervisor in Plainfield, New Jersey, a job she keeps for 13 years.
Gert Harding’s biography, published under the author’s married name.
In her middle years, Gert continues to volunteer with many organizations, fighting for peace, women’s rights, animal rights and the poor. She keeps in touch with her nieces and nephews in New Brunswick and returns there to live in 1976, where she dies of cancer a year later, aged 88.
I was so taken with Gert’s story that I immediately found a Canadian publisher, Goose Lane Editions, and began to write her biography. Researching in London, my Irish assistant, Emily Cargan, and I visited her haunts. We found the glass houses with rare orchids at Kew Gardens and imagined where she and Lilian might have hidden at closing time to await their midnight attack. In museums, we read other firsthand accounts of militants, most of them young, scared and fiercely committed to gender equality. They use the word ‘feminist’, by times, and felt the injustice of being denied the vote as strongly as we would today, were we to suddenly lose that right. If I had been with them, I might have hammered some windows, too.
Here is the single fact that drove home how recent is this history: The WSPU formed in 1903 — the year my father was born. Wow. So Dad was in fourth grade in Maryland when Gert was being mobbed in Hyde Park. He was picking peaches on the family farm when she attended the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison, the renegade suffragette who died trying to tie a WSPU flag to the King’s horse on Derby Day. In fact, on the day of Emily’s funeral, when 6000 suffragists were following the hearse, Gert was in hiding with Mrs. Pankhust. The parade suddenly stopped at Westminster Mansions. “Mrs. P” emerged, gave Gert her handwritten press release and was quickly nabbed by police. This incident triggered the formation of the bodyguard.
As I researched Gert’s militant days, I kept seeing her and her colleagues committing their acts of daring on a big screen in my mind. Where are the movies about women heroines, women with a political story to tell? Women who, rather than being girlfriend to the hero, helped change the world themselves? I crave such movies, such stories.
So the day I mailed off my manuscript to Goose Lane, I began to write a screenplay called Hardie (Gert’s nickname), based on her most exciting 18 months in London. Hardie went on to win an Atlantic Canadian script competition.
In 2018, it will be the centenary of British and Canadian women getting the vote (2020 in the USA). Before then I hope to find producers for Hardie. This farm girl from New Brunswick happened to be in the right place and time to seize an opportunity to join the most radical group of women the world has ever known. Viewers will relate to her, shake their fists with her at those who oppose political equality. We’ll feel the humiliation of having rotten eggs thrown at us and we’ll laugh with the bodyguard at the blundering of Scotland Yard.
In August I was thrilled to find a New Brunswick producer who loves Gert’s story and wants to make a documentary about her. Now I need to find producers for my screenplay Hardie. I would appreciate any help with this.
Gert’s tale has it all: comedy, drama, action, heroes and villains, disguises and subterfuge — even government torture. This fascinating chapter in history is rarely told; this spirited heroine is little-known. Hardie will change all that.
Gretchen Kelbaugh has won regional and national screenwriting competitions. Her teleplay “106 Fire Hydrants” was produced for CBC-TV in 1999. Since then, Gretchen has produced independent documentaries and dramas that have screened around the world.
Gretchen’s screenplay Margaret and Deirdre won the CBC Producers’ Showcase. She then directed this as an ultra-low budget movie, which won Best Screenplay at the Trail Dance Film Festival in 2008.
Piece o’ Cake won Best No Budget Short at the Broad Humor Film Festival. Menocracy (featuring Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell) on women, politics and electoral reform, was recently picked up by Moving Images Distribution.