Rachel Meyrick first got into the film industry by working in commercials in 1995. Since then, she has worked on several feature films. Now, Rachel is tackling the issue of domestic abuse in a documentary that sheds some light on the injustice done to victims of abuse and their children in a film called WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME. She’s the producer, director, and editor of the documentary.
Can you sum up your film in two sentences?
A startling expose of how the US courts system endangers the children of domestic abuse victims by taking them from their protective mothers and placing them with the abuser.
What inspired you to be involved in this project?
This project began as a short film about a 86 year old lady in Oklahoma. Originally I was editing a short promotional film for Brave Woman and 86 year old Charlotta was a contributor. She spent 60 years in a violent marriage and it all ended when Fred, her husband, attacked her in a supermarket and a witness called the police. She divorced him and has since become an inspirational domestic violence advocate.
I was so taken with her and her story I wanted to make a short film about her. Once I’d met her and been introduced to the local domestic violence shelter I was told that they advise all their surviving moms to not mention their abuse in their custody court appearances – I thought that was insane and thus began a journey which took over 4 years and WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME is the result of this journey.
What has been one of the biggest challenges in making this film?
The biggest challenge has been making this film with no funding. All the major film funds rejected it so all I had was 3 fairly unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns. To keep costs down I did all roles myself which was pretty nuts. I am a single mother and live in the UK so the greatest expense was travel.
The next challenge was making sure all the contributors knew what being in the film meant to their personal situation and safety. All contributors were fiercely determined to tell their stories to benefit the other women and children beginning or about to begin the nightmare that they are still in.
They are amazing and inspirational people. I have some incredible experts involved in the film like Tony Porter (see his Ted Talk) , Dr Evan Stark (expert in coercive control) , Barry Goldstein (of the Stop Abuse Campaign) and the amazing Jennifer Collins who, as a former child survivor herself, now runs a network that helps children who are trapped in outrageous and dangerous custody decisions.
What has been your happiest/most rewarding moment in this journey?
My friendship with Charlotta is the most valuable and rewarding thing that I have gained in the last 4 years. She writes to me regularly and we have really great banter. She’s hilarious, ridiculous and has contagious positivity. Along with this precious lady the most wonderful thing on this journey has been the hope and tenacity of all the other women and children that I have met.
They have given of themselves in order to benefit those in the future which is truly humbling. Being alone in this film production I have constantly taken courage and energy from their support and hope. To be as positive and energetic as Charlotta should be a goal that all of us strive to.
What sort of change do you hope your film instigates?
I would like this film to change legislation so that children’s health and safety are put first in court custody battles where abuse is evident – this SHOULD be common sense but it isn’t. The movement to highlight the family court seems to be gathering momentum and as Kathleen Russell, one of the films contributors says “I always say it’s just like the Catholic Church scandal”.
I have the sense that this issue is bubbling up in it’s profile and support, so I like to think that WHAT DOESNT KILL ME will push it beyond it’s tipping point. Secondly, I hope that this film will change the way people across America see those who are in the midst of a violent relationship. Violence should not be tolerated and domestic violence is exactly the same. Battered mothers need to be protected and supported just as much as your next door neighbour who was mugged in the street. I would like people to understand coercive control and how you are left with few options when you are with a controlling partner who threatens your life.
Where do you take it from here? What’s next?
2017 will see the release of WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME in America. I am talking to distributors and entering film festivals. My hope is that this film is seen by as many people as possible and thus I hope it is picked up by a broadcaster but also then shown in colleges, law schools and shelters across the country. It needs to educate future lawyers, judges and police officers. Please visit our website to see the trailer and updates.
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