Director Hannah Hughes and producer Nico Sanchez reflected the subject’s experiences through the structure of the film
For her documentary capstone project, media arts student Hannah Hughes highlighted an issue close to home. Before selecting her topic, she began working on Utah County’s Rape Crisis Team, and during training met rape survivor and fellow advocacy worker Cassidy Jensen Combs.
“We became friends, and she asked if I’d be interested in helping her and her husband Tanner put together some resources for survivors,” said Hughes. “I did it the way that I know how — through documentary.”
The result was “Cassidy: Surviving in Nine Short Films,” a collaboration of student filmmakers advised by faculty Brad Barber and Amy Jensen. In addition to support from the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, the film team received funds from the college’s Film and Digital Media Fund (FDMF).
Cassidy, a BYU Law School graduate, was raped while she was a student. The documentary explores different aspects of her life post-rape, including her life at home, alone, at school and in her advocacy work as her case is going to trial. Director of photography Leesie Clegg came up with the idea to present the documentary in the form of nine short films — a mosaic to show the depth of Cassidy’s character and the fragmented nature of life after sexual assault.
“Dealing with rape or trauma is really nonlinear,” said Hughes. “There are times when Cassidy is feeling peaceful, and then an hour later, she’ll be crying for hours. We wanted the documentary to feel as jarring as her life feels.”
Making the film was an emotional undertaking for the entire team, but they felt the importance of making Cassidy’s story heard.
“I want to be able to make films to help people better understand each other,” said producer Nico Sanchez. “One of the biggest benefits to documentary filmmaking is giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Read the full story at the Department of Theatre and Media Arts website.