I don’t know any women who would trip over their own feet while running away from ghosts and bad guys. I don’t know any women who spend 90 percent of their time talking about men. And every woman I’ve ever called friend knows how to swing a hammer, or saw through a 2-by-4. Most women are everyday badass, taking care of business just as competently as men do.
Alas, that’s usually not how they are portrayed in movies in general, and the supernatural genre in particular, where they/we are helpless, man-obsessed harpies or virgins who can’t put one foot in front of the other. And when a strong female character does show up – like Aliens’ Ripley – it’s such a novelty that all anyone can talk about is how fierce she is, like it’s some unheard-of state of being.
One of the things I am most proud of about The Wasting is its authentic portrayal of women. Grace is everyday badass. We may not always like Valerie but that’s because she is a woman of great complexity, not just a “perfect mom.” She clearly had a life before she became a wife and mother, and it bleeds realistically into her life today.
Sophie may be troubled and confused, but when the going gets tough she knows how to run without tripping.
Check her out beside you. That's not a girl who will fall over her own feet. That's a girl who will brandish a sharp-edged shovel and tell somebody (not saying who!) to back off or risk brain trauma by blunt instrument.
The Wasting manages to have all these great women characters without taking anything away from its male characters, who are also complex, realistic human beings. It’s not a competition. It’s a story about humanity. We’re all part of it.
Today I ran a little Bechdel Test on The Wasting. You know what the Bechdel Test is, right? It asks if two women – with NAMES – have a conversation about something other than men. Here are examples of just some of the scenes I found:
• Valerie and Sophie talk about Val’s childhood
• Sophie and Grace talk about how skinny Sophie is
• Valerie tells Sophie she shouldn’t be in such a hurry to grow up
• Sophie and her dance teacher talk about her dizzy spells
• Valerie comforts Sophie after a bad day
• Valerie and Sophie talk about freedom
• Grace repairs a window. With a screwdriver! And she's not wearing a sexy carpenter belt and short shorts.
Okay technically that last one isn’t Bechdel, but I like it because I had a choice in that scene, in which Grace is home alone, to have her doing anything. A lot of writers would have had her washing dishes or talking to her cat. I chose to have her competently repairing a window frame. Just like a real woman in real life would.
And that, folks, is what happens when a woman writes and directs a movie. And why I hope you will support not only The Wasting, but other films made by women, for all people.
I’m an impossibly proud mother. I have three wildly talented, kind, thoughtful, creative, interesting, funny and intelligent sons. Two of them are actors, and I have the privilege of directing them in The Wasting.
I always say this project is close to my heart. And it is, for many reasons: the complex story, the relatable characters, the scary parts, the understanding of the difficulties of the passage from childhood into adulthood, and the idea that it might start a conversation about anorexia that makes the world a better place, in some small way.
But of all those compelling reasons to care, it’s my boys that are the driving force that kept me writing countless unpaid drafts, shooting trailers out of my own pocket, and giving up paying TV work to focus on making The Wasting a reality.
My boys are Brendan Flynn, who plays Kai, and Sean Stevenson, who plays Liam. (Curious about the three different last names? Stevenson is their dad’s name, and Flynn is a stage name that Brendan picked up from our ancestral Flynns who came over in the potato famine)
Three years ago, on draft number eight bazillion, I realized the film needed a character like Kai, so I wrote it for Brendan. Why not? If your own mother won’t help you get a break in the cut-throat world of film, then she’s not much of a mother, if you ask me. He has all the skills I need for Kai – the ability to play a young man whose emotions control him, a gift with the fiddle and mandolin, and it doesn’t hurt that he looks like a movie star. Said the proud mom.
A year later, on draft number nine bazillion, I realized the rivalry between Kai and his friend Liam worked better as sibling rivalry. And in my house there happened to be a young actor who was a perfect physical match for playing his brother. Sean was in his last year at Toronto’s Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, tearing it up on his way to winning the school’s drama prize. He’s now at London’s Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, a drama school that’s insanely hard to get into (out of 4000 applicants, they chose 28) He’s gifted, intuitive and perfect.
My sons are more than actors in this film. They are its inspiration. Their lives, their own coming-of-age, and that of their friends, was played out before my eyes in the living room of our tiny house, where all the kids hung out and where we couldn’t get away from each other. I watched them, fed them cookies, listened to the way they talk and the things they talk about. By example and instruction, they helped me develop the characters of the four young leads, and to find their voices. That’s why there’s so much truth in the story and the characters of The Wasting.
We’ve been on this journey together for a long time. We’ve encouraged each other through the darkest of times. We’ve shared the excitement when good things happen and the film takes another step forward. Our family is part of The Wasting’s DNA, and you will see that love and chemistry in the finished film.
We posted a new video on the Indiegogo campaign site last night, in which Brendan talks about ghosts, goblins and six-legged creatures. Midway through, he tells us why The Wasting is so important to him. He says “Because it’s a family project.”
That was my favourite thing he said.
I'm the writer-director and more or less the mother of this film.