Reflecting on '(rough cut)' / by Sidney Leeder

-By Sidney Leeder

Last year I wrote, produced and acted in the experimental short film '(rough cut)', which explores sexual politics in the film industry. It premiered at TIFF 2016 and although I was thrilled to be granted such a grand stage, I was also a little (ok, a lot!) terrified to be shedding light on a subject that is most often kept secret. Ironically, while my presence could not have been larger (literally), I had never felt so small. It was my voice on the screen yet I was reluctant to own it. I found myself unable to stand confidently behind the very story I had willingly exposed.  

In fact if it weren't for my cousin prying me out of bed I wouldn't have gone to the screening at all. Once in the theatre I dodged my reserved seat and bolted to the back row, wishing I'd melt into the wall. When given the opportunity to join a post-screening filmmaker Q&A I remained seated, paralyzed by the notion that my opinions & actions would be judged; that my family, friends & colleagues would know the manipulation I'd encountered as a female in the film industry. I wish I'd had the courage then to stand behind my work but couldn't overcome the fear I felt in being associated with the subject. Like so many for so long, I stayed silent. 

By sharing this film now, I hope to communicate a portion of the female perspective. For many, the film's message may be unclear. Aptly named, '(rough cut)' is an imperfect and uncomfortable exposé, exploring one of many potential scenarios of sexual pressure: that of an actress and a director negotiating the filming of a sex scene. 

It's been incredibly inspiring to see so many women step forward and share their stories as of late. Sexual harassment and exploitation in the film industry is a complex topic that warrants exposure & discussion. It's a fact of life that will never change as long as we collectively continue to ignore it. 

As a female filmmaker, I'm compelled to support an open dialogue that leads to understanding and mutual respect between men and women while collaborating.