Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Katrina Saville: I’m a Toronto-based screenwriter and director for narrative film and television.
Gurjeet Kaur Bassi: I’m a Toronto-based Producer currently focusing on film.
How did you both get into film production?
Katrina: I went to film school right out of high school. From there, I started PA-ing on music videos and then assisting directors/producers/cast on various films and television series. I was always writing my own material on the side, hoping eventually it would amount to something. And luckily a spec script I wrote landed me in a TV writing room, and from there I worked consistently as a TV writer while continuing to create my own content on the side, with my producing partner, Gurjeet.
Gurjeet: Following my undergrad, I began PA-ing and assisting on various films and television series, which is actually where Katrina and I met. After a few years of working in Toronto, I attended the AFI in Los Angeles and focused on honing my Producing skills. I moved back to Toronto and have worked on developing my own projects since then.
Talk to us a little bit about your new short, “I Beat Up My Rapist”. What prompted you to team up and tackle this story?
Katrina: I read the memoir essay that it was adapted from, online when it went viral three years ago. Leif’s (the author) writing is so vivid and compelling, I immediately began imaging it on the screen. It’s almost like I could see certain scenes pop off the page right away. I sent the essay to Gurjeet and asked her what she thought. She replied pretty quickly, saying — we have to make this.
Gurjeet: We started working on this in 2016, a few months after the Brock Turner case (a criminal case filed in a Californian Superior Court which convicted Brock Turner of three counts of felony sexual assault) was all over the news. We followed that case closely because we knew how hard it was/is for our culture to accept that a good person/student/son/friend/guy/swimmer was capable of rape. I Beat Up My Rapist was exactly this as well. More so, I wanted to tell this story because I appreciated the alternative ending it had. I liked that Leif decided to seek justice, in her own way. I wanted to show that.
What message do you want people to take away after seeing this short?
Katrina: I don’t know if there’s a particular message we’re trying to convey. I just hope that anyone who has ever felt unable to speak up after they’ve been violated in any way, watches this short film and feels heard, and likewise, I hope that anyone who has never been violated, watches this film and is able to empathize. I definitely made this film in honour of survivors of sexual assault, like Leif, who wrote the memoir that it was based on, but once the film was finished, I realized that the film was made for them -‐ the ones who have walked around their entire lives without fearing for the safety of their bodies. I made this for them, so they can empathize with the people who move through life constantly having to consider if their bodies -‐ and therefore, their minds and their souls -‐ will be safe. I hope to be able to make people feel things, rather than just think about this idea.
Gurjeet: I hope that after audiences watch this they will not only feel empathy for survivors but feel empowered to share their own stories of survival as well.
How difficult is it to direct a short based on a true story versus one of fiction?
Katrina: There was definitely the added pressure of wanted to do right by Leif and her story. We made sure to involve her in the development process and talked her through my vision. Thankfully when she watched the final film, she was very impressed and thanked us for letting her empathize with herself, which she had never been fully capable of doing, since she disassociated herself from her trauma.
What advice do you have for aspiring producers/directors?
Katrina: Cross-network — figure out who’s at your level, hustling and trying to make a go at it too, and make your own stuff. Level one another up. This obviously won’t happen overnight, so figure out how to support yourself financially outside of that, ideally in the industry. I started off PAing on music videos with some of my film school pals and then eventually landed assistant gigs on bigger movies and films. That’s how I met Gurjeet, actually. We were both assistants 10 years ago and ended up working on the pilot of Blue Bloods together, our desks side-by-side in the production office. If you want to direct and/or produce, you will figure out the best way for you to nuzzle your way into this circus. You have to trust that you will. Every director and producer friend I have, they each have such unique paths of how they ended up where they are. I know it’s scary, not having one specific way to break in that’s a sure shot, but put yourself out there with as much honesty, openness, and humour as possible, and you will inevitably find yourself sleep-deprived, and stressed over one project while anxious and procrastinating on another.
Gurjeet: Work with your friends! It’s so tough to make movies so it truly needs to be a labour of love (so cliche, but true). Katrina and I assisted a lot a few years ago and it was the best experience. I was able to observe productions from top down and really see how it all worked. I would say try and work in as many roles as you can so you can familiarize yourself with the process. Every little bit will make you a stronger storyteller.
What are your lives like outside of filming?
Katrina: It’s a real mixed bag. Sometimes I’m at home working on content, mostly from cafés. Trying to be physically active and involved in my local community. I volunteer at a group home for teen girls. And sometimes I’m abroad, exploring and adventuring – I recently went to volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Namibia, and then spent some time in Mexico on the South Pacific coast with my friends who live there.
Let the readers know where to find you online.
Katrina: instagram/vimeo/twitter @katrinasaville