Right now, in America, we’re in the midst of a crucial cultural conversation about sexual assault, and about how best to end the it. Within his discussion, we’re having an equally important debate about how sexual violence is portrayed in film and television. Are we really using the medium to explore the problem, or are we exploiting characters who are victimized by this type of violence? How can we ensure that filmmakers understand the full extent of their responsibilities when dealing with this weighty material, and how do we ensure that these stories are told in a way in which survivors feel as though their experiences are accurately portrayed, rather than feeling like their stories are being sensationalized and they themselves are being exploited?
It can take an out-of-the-box approach to get to the heart of a slippery subject, and, in the case of sexual violence, Felt is that film. Felt tells the story of Amy (played by artist Amy Everson) who is struggling to cope with past sexual trauma, a recovery process that is complicated by the daily micro-aggressions she experiences in a society that is hostile to both women and survivors. Amy uses her art to deal, crafting elaborate costumes in which felt is often a key material, wearing her creations both out on the streets and in the woods near her home.
When Amy finally meets a seemingly nice dude Kenny (Kentucky Audley), the relationship seems like it will be a positive change in her life. But, Kenny is not all that he seems, and, for that matter, neither is Amy. What begins as a film that feels so real one would not be remiss for mistaking the first several minutes as documentary slowly but surely becomes a thriller so dark, twisty, and timely, it would make Hitchcock proud. HelloGiggles spoke with Amy Everson, the co-writer and star of Felt, about the process of making this deeply original and affecting film.
“I kind of randomly met Jason Banker, the director, at a club I go to every week,” Everson explained. “I started up a conversation with him, as I do at the club, and we struck up a friendship. I showed him around San Francisco and I showed him the costumes I had made and my room and he was intrigued by it all. We shot some footage and had fun. A year later, he came back and said he wanted to do a feature film with me and asked what story I wanted to tell. I was not happy with my life at time and just wanted to do anything. We explored my life and I thought what stories I wanted to tell. He really wanted to work in my costumes and why I made my costumes. A lot of my costumes and behavior was deeply rooted in my experiences, it was rooted in this area. This film became a way to take control of feeling sexually exploited throughout my life and make something true to that.”
Over the course of the next eight months, Banker would visit San Francisco and film Everson and her life, a process Everson refers to as “our strange mix of documentary and narrative filmmaking.”
“It really started with Banker’s openness to capture moments of my life and to explore what my life was like and that really informed the film,” she explained. “He basically came in with the camera and said ‘Do your thing.’ We started without any script and any idea of what the film was going to be. Through exploring past and present and my life we saw the through line and found the story.”
Everson is committed, with Felt and her other work, to disrupting the Hollywood model of how sexual assault is presented onscreen “It’s important to have a conversation about sexual violence and a lot of the Hollywood model is not a conversation starter but is exploitative, designed to intrigue and titilate and just to disturb or excite people and it’s harmful to the conversation about sexual violence, it undermines the seriousness of it and the lives that are destroyed by it,” Everson said.
“I think this film can hopefully speak to what kind of climate are we creating for women in general and women who have experience trauma and this environment is hostile to women and trauma survivors, ” She continued. “Talking about sexual violence is important but we don’t have to see it, we don’t have to see the terrible act, it’s about processing trauma and living through the climate which is hostile and harmful.”
Felt is a brave, if sometimes off-putting movie, and one that’s well worth your time. It’ll will receive a limited release beginning June 26th, and will be available to the masses on VOD on July 21st.
[Image courtesy Felt]