Do Not Listen to Shame

You know what they say about “magic” happening outside of your comfort zone? I used to sneer at those motivational pictures. Now, I’m humbled to accept it’s absolutely true.

Right now, I’m so far outside of my comfort zone, I can’t even see it from here. It’s terrifying. It’s cold-terror-inducing. But it’s also incredibly exciting and I’ve never been happier and more grateful.

Having just completed the second successful crowdfunding campaign within one year, the biggest lesson I learned is: do not listen to shame.

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Crowdfunding is an extreme sport. It makes you feel like like want to take a shower all the time. It’s soliciting strangers (awkward) and friends (even more awkward) for money. It ruffles feathers. People will ask you not to contact them again, or give out you didn’t help them enough to deserve their support. (Yup, that happened.) It will make you feel awful. When the campaign goes quiet for days or weeks at a time, you will feel like the loneliest person in the world, and a total loser at that.

But then you will come across people who will tell you:

The glimpse into the film touched a part of me only I know and I look forward to seeing the product of your passion and effort.

I am so proud of your art and your cause!

Hiya, I’ve donated €20. It’s all I can afford unfortunately at the moment but I hope you reach your goal.

I just want to say that meeting you changed something for me. (…) Thank you for being in my life.

Words like these take all the pain and stress away in an instant. They will give you the energy to crawl out of the dark hole and start again. It’s thanks to people like these you will have the energy to keep going.

I remember asking myself “What would Richard Branson do?” in moments of doubt or fear. No joke. It helped! I imagined he wouldn’t be stopped just because it felt difficult, or exhausting and embarrassing at that.

And while I have no plans to crowdfund again (time to start applying for those grants…), I’m so grateful to all of you who supported me and the campaign. Can’t wait to share The Betrayal with you when it’s ready.

Photo credit: Rafal Kostrzewa
Photo credit: Rafal Kostrzewa

 

Thanks for reading! You can follow The Betrayal’s journey through post-production and the global festival circuit on our Facebook Page or Twitter.

Irish LGBT Thriller Filming in Dublin This Weekend

Where do the borders of our sexual identities begin and end? What constitutes “reportable” domestic violence?

 

These are some of the questions raised by my new LGBT thriller, The Betrayal, filming in Dublin this weekend. It’s a female-driven, dark drama, aiming to provide a new perspective on issues such as sexual identity, domestic and digital abuse.

Having attended a conference on digital abuse by Women’s Aid Ireland last year, I realised how small the awareness and understanding of digital abuse is. It’s an issue I feel very strongly about, especially when I hear infuriating public reactions where the victims are blamed and shamed. For this and many other reasons, I wrote The Betrayal, hoping to provide insight into how and why violence in relationships starts and the impact it has on both the victims and the perps.

The cast of The Betrayal: Kamila Dydyna (yours truly), Mark McAuley and Miriam Devitt

 

I’m incredibly lucky and grateful for my collaborators on this project: Producers Eilís Abbott and Michael O’Dwyer (Driftwood Doll Films), my co-director Natasha Waugh, cinematographer Gosia Zur (who learned her craft on productions such as Being AP, Penny Dreadful and Vikings), and my fantastic cast: Miriam Devitt and Mark McAuley, to name but a few.

I’m also delighted to have composer Conor Walsh join our team with his beautiful debut EP piece The Front, named one of the best Irish songs of 2015by Nialler9. The Front will be featured in one of the key scenes in The Betrayal..

The Betrayal incorporates ballet into its world and some of the key scenes take place at a dance-themed exhibition in an art gallery. For these scenes we received truly breathtaking photographs (one of which is featured above). Our photography collaborators include Donal Moloney (known for his Intrudersexhibition, his urbex photography and the cover of the latest Sinéad O’Connor album), Ewa Krasucka (the official photographer of the Polish National Ballet whose works have been published in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Guardian) and Andrea Paolini Merlo (a photographer, dancer and choreographer with the Hungarian National Ballet Company) and more.

Some of these evocative prints are available for purchase through the film’s crowdfunding campaign. Check them out here and help us spread the word!

As we’re starting filming this Friday, with our production team of over 30 people, follow our Facebook and Twitter for updates from the set.

Thank you for reading and your support,

Kamila Dydyna

Learned Behaviour is Preventable Behaviour: Digital Abuse Of Women

I have 365 friends on Facebook. If all of them were women based in Ireland, statistically, 73 of my friends would be victims of some form of domestic abuse.

It’s so easy to reduce issues like these to numbers. I used to think I’m sensitive to  and highly aware of those matters, particularly given that people close to me have been affected by domestic abuse (some of them still are, on a daily basis, and I can’t force them to protect themselves). I was wrong.

Women’s Aid Ireland organised a conference today in Dublin, focusing on the relatively new issue of digital abuse of women. I was listening to every word – learning, getting inspired and horrified at the same time. I hadn’t realised the scale of the problem. I didn’t know how helpless the victims are, how inadequate the current Irish legislation is, how ill-equipped we all are as a society in addressing this problem. At the same time, I was deeply inspired by the amount of work already done – by An Garda Síochána, represented by Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, by members of the Irish Bar, represented by Pauline Walley, SC, and by Women’s Aid itself.

I was particularly affected by Ann Moulds, the founder of Action Scotland Against Stalking. Ann shared her personal, harrowing story as a victim of an extensive stalking campaign during a time when stalking wasn’t even recognised as a crime in Scotland. I still can’t comprehend just how she was able to tell her story to our audience while maintaining her composure. It wasn’t even the explicit, sickening photos her anonymous stalker sent her, including one with his erected penis, that were the worst part. It was the hand-written letter she showed us, the letter she received from her stalker, describing in detail what he was going to do to her when he would get his hands on her.

Photo by Women’s Aid Ireland

 

Seeing this letter nearly made my heart stop. Suddenly, the concept of stalking – online or offline – wasn’t just bringing to mind Glenn Close and the rabbit in Fatal Attraction. You know when they say “sh*t just got real”? Well, in that moment, I realised just how real the problem of stalking and online abuse is. And I want to thank Ann Moulds and convey my great respect to her for having the incredible strength and courage to not only share her story with dignity, but to turn it into a source of inspired action (Ann’s case and her subsequent campaign is determined to be the reason why stalking was recognised as a criminal offence within Scottish Law).

As I was processing this after the conference was over, another thought struck me: why is it that the victims of online abuse (often including sharing explicit images or lies without the victim’s knowledge or consent) are the ones struggling with shame? Why are they the ones embarassed to come forward, to report the crime and deal with the additional attention it brings? What the hell is wrong with this picture?

I can’t even begin to comprehend the cruelty, the malice, the inhuman viciousness that lies behind crimes like revenge porn or online stalking. This is one of the reasons why I write stories and direct films where violence is present. It’s my own way of coping with its existence, trying to understand and tame it. But what I am certain of is that it’s the stalkers, the perpetrators of the cyber-abuse who need to be ashamed. It infuriates me that it’s so often the other way round.

Photo by Women’s Aid Ireland

 

Just a few days ago I happened to be talking to someone I thought I knew about my new screenplay and the fact that it addressed revenge porn. To my utter surprise and then disgust and shock, the person instantly dismissed the problem by ridiculing the women who are victims of revenge porn. “Just how stupid was she to let herself be filmed / photographed?!” was the question, asked with contempt.

No wonder victims are afraid to come forward. No wonder as a society we’re adding to their isolation, terror and helplessness by mocking, diminishing, blaming and misunderstanding the issue. I was trying to think of the reasons for this, and the incessant stream of sensationalist reality shows came to mind. Then there are the tastes of a generation whose “only ambition is to go viral,” as Michael Keaton’s character says to his daugther in Birdman. But violence against women is learned behaviour. I don’t want to get into the nature vs. nurture discussion here. However, I strongly believe a boy who sees men in his environment criticising rape victims for wearing shorts in a dark alley will have a harder time respecting his female partner than a boy who observes respect towards women when he’s growing up. And if behaviour is learned, it can also be prevented.

I left the conference today with that single thought. Learned behaviour is preventable behaviour. I’m holding on to it for dear life. And as today starts a global campaign of “16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women,” I’m also thrilled that my short film Testimony, addressing the topic of domestic abuse against children, airs on ShortsHD in the U.S. to an audience of millions of homes. What better day for this than today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

#16days #OneInFiveWomen #orangetheworld

Photo by Women’s Aid Ireland

*All photos by Women’s Aid Ireland

I Speak English Proper: An Appeal To Irish Writers

With the public opinion turning up the heat under issues such as gender equality and representation in media, I feel compelled to voice my feelings about the representation of foreign nationals living in Ireland in TV, film & theatre.

First things things first: what gives me the right to address this subject? I have been living in Dublin for 8.5 years now (I would’ve applied for citizenship a long time ago if it wasn’t so expensive…) Since day one, I’ve been a productive member of the Irish society, paid my taxes, and not once abused (or even used!) social welfare or similar benefits. I’m aware of the stereotypes surrounding immigrants abusing the state-provided protection of their new country. I even heard my fellow countrymen state openly, when asked for the reason they chose Ireland as their country of immigration, answering: “Ireland has better benefits than Poland.” For the record, I not only don’t subscribe to this approach, but also deeply resent it.

I’ve spent the past 5 years pursuing an acting career. In the roles I’ve been offered, and in my auditions, if the role was that of a Polish person or a foreigner, majority of the characters were based on the stereotype of a foreigner with broken English. I assure you, I’m not alone in this.

Every time I get new audition material, and hold the script in my hand, my heart flutters with excitement. And then every time I start reading and find broken English, I want to punch my fist through the wall. It infuriates me and it breaks my heart at the same time. Once again, I assure you, I’m not alone in this.

I’m not even going to mention the roles of prostitutes and cleaning ladies.

OK, I need to take a breath here. Counting from 10…9…

Where was I… Oh, right, on behalf of all my Polish and other non-Irish actor friends, I urge Irish writers for film, TV and theatre to consider letting go of those stereotypes next time they write a foreigner into their stories. Where are the foreigners in your stories who speak flawless English? Where are the ones who have degress and successful careers in, God forbid, other sectors than the cleaning and sex industries? I know many of them in real life. Surely, they could make their way into our fiction?

I appeal to your creativity, fellow writers. Why not make things more interesting for all of us. Are there Irish prostitutes and cleaning ladies out there? I imagine there are. I would personally deliver a bottle of champagne to the Irish writer whose story – if it does have prostitutes and cleaning ladies – features Irish ones. Or perhaps – if their story does feature foreigners – that they’re not minimum wage workers with broken English. At least not Every.Single.Time.

Rant over, thank you for reading.

If you’d like to prove me wrong, I beg you, please do. Twitter: @kamiladydyna 🙂

My Short Film Screenings At Five Festivals In October

It was a fantastic month for my debut short film Testimony which screened in 5 festivals in 3 countries. October was a Domestic Violence Awareness Month (#DVAM) so being able to share my film with so many audiences globally was an even more incredible experience. Thank you to IndieCork Film Festival, The Richard Harris International Film Festival, Dublin International Short Film And Music Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival and British & Irish Film Season in Luxembourg for screening Testimony!

NYC Indie FF Awards Night: With Florencia Iriondo, Exec Producer, NYC, and Cara Bamford, Producer, Foxrock Productions, UK. Photo by Carlos Otero
NYC Indie FF Awards Night: With Florencia Iriondo, Exec Producer, NYC, and Cara Bamford, Producer, Foxrock Productions, UK. Photo by Carlos Otero

 

Lovely audience at IndieCork Film Festival before the screening of Testimony
Lovely audience at IndieCork Film Festival before the screening of Testimony

Next week, Testimony is screened at the Waterford Film Festival (Nov 7th, 4.30pm), and the week after it will be screened in Rome at the AS Film Festival (14th November, 11.00am). AS Film Festival is the first festival in the world managed entirely by a team of people with Asperger Syndrome (AS, high functioning autistic condition). This year, the festival’s official patron is the European Parliament.

On Saturday 7th November I’ll be attending the Underground Cinema Awards in Dublin. Testimony was nominated in 4 categories, including Best Screenplay. Really looking forward to this one.

Exciting times ahead, stay tuned!

 

 

Testimony at Indie Cork Film Festival

 

Testimony is screening at the wonderful IndieCork Film Festival tomorrow! Absolutely thrilled to have my film shown in this festival. Testimony is showing at the Gate Cinema in Irish Shorts Programe #4, Saturday 10th October 16.30.

It’s impossible to mention my favourite film of the festival, but I can’t not mention Just Like A Bitch, Today, Little Bear, Dad In Mum (Papa Dans Mama), Ghost Cell, Daewit and Love is Blind. Wonderful shorts, check them out if you can. Congrats to all the filmmakers!

If you’re in Cork, make sure to check out Testimony at 16.30 in the Gate Cinema!

 

 

VIP Centre Sponsors Testimony in NYC!

Katarzyna Sudak, Tomasz Wybranowski, Kamila Dydyna & Katarzyna Ruszel

I’m delighted to announce that VIP Centre is the official sponsor of Testimony’s visit to New York City in October! Testimony is being screened on October 16th as part of the 6th NYC Independent Film Festival, and thanks to the generosity of the VIP Centre, I can attend the screening!

VIP Centre is run by CEO Katarzyna Ruszel. The company operates in 17 countries, providing services in multiple industries (medical, legal, beaty, and more) though its network of partner companies.

Check out VIP Beauty Centre and VIP Medical Centre on Facebook!

Within the partnership with VIP Centre, Testimony is also supported by Polish journalist and author Tomasz Wybranowski, who runs a brilliant Polish radio program Polish Weekly (“Polska Tygodniowka”) every Wednesday. Tomasz and the radio program has been supporting the film since January 2015, before we even started production! We’re deeply grateful for his support. Check out the program’s Facebook page here.

Polska Tygodniówk

More updates from NYC coming soon!

Four Nominations for Testimony at the Underground Cinema Awards!

Underground Cinema is one of the most diverse and innovative businesses in the Irish entertainment and film industry. Their annual Independent Film Awards celebrate the very best in independently funded Irish feature films.

We are thrilled to have received four nominations at yesterday’s nomination night in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

  • Best Supporting Actress for Hilary Cotter
  • Best Costume Design for Gwen Jeffares-Hourie
  • Best Screenplay for Kamila Dydyna
  • Rising Star Award for Kamila Dydyna

Complete list of nominees can be found here.

The awards ceremony will take place on Saturday November 7th.

Testimony Secures a Broadcast License With US ShortsHD™

Following its selection to New York City Independent Film Festival, Irish short “Testimony” was picked up by US Channel ShortsHD™ for a 3-year broadcast license deal. Testimony is a debut film from writer/ director Kamila Dydyna, produced by Eamonn Tutty of Reckoner Productions (Ireland) and Cara Bamford of Foxrock Productions (U.K.)

The film addresses the subject of domestic violence through the eyes of a child put in a witness stand. It features all-Irish cast, including 11-year-old Olivia Daly, Clodagh Downing (Patsy Dick, Darkness On The Edge Of Town), Neill Fleming (The Hit Producer, Game of Thrones) and Hilary Cotter (The Tudors). The film was shot by Alan Rogers and edited by Daragh Murphy (November Seven Films). Executive Producers team includes Florencia Iriondo (U.S.), Niall Murphy (Ireland) and Brandon Smith (Australia, Chien Noir Films).

“Testimony” already picked up an Award of Merit in the U.S. IndieFEST Film Awards. The film will have its Irish festival premiere on September 12th during the Underground Cinema Film Festival. It will also be screened during Australian Speak Up Film Festival on August 31st, with the NYC premiere following on 16th October.

“Testimony” will be available on ShortsHD™ for 3 years, starting in November 2015. ShortsHD is a world-leading short movie media group, available to 40 million homes, with over 11 million subscribers in 54 countries. The channel is owned and operated by Shorts International Ltd, headquartered in London with its US head office in Los Angeles. Since 2006, Shorts International has produced the OSCAR® Nominated Short Film theatrical release, distributing it to theaters across North America and Europe with its global media partners. In 2008, Shorts International became one of the earliest iTunes movie partners, bringing hundreds of the world’s best independent shorts to the iTunes audience, years before the iTunes Movie Store launched.