What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?
Michal Hall Bravo Ramírez. I studied screenwriting as part of my M.A. in Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There I took public screenwriting course. It encouraged critical dialogue concerning representations of sexual violence in narrative film. Since graduating, I have continued to write to direct my first short, “Keys.”
Where did you come up with the concept that just placed you as a Finalist in the screenplay contest?
The screenplay holds personal significance for me. My experience inspired me as a music composition student. The years in Mexico City and an instance of sexual assault in my early twenties became the narrative’s central event. The story’s theme is reconciliation, specifically between a mother and daughter.
How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?
In the initial stages of writing the script, the following question is at the center. What would cause a mother to not support her daughter in light of such a significant experience? I was intrigued by the idea that family, and even other women, are not always supportive in this situation. Myths and widely-held cultural beliefs significantly affect our definitions of and attitudes toward survivors and perpetrators. In terms of the story’s emotional logic, Michal considers the refusal or inability of a mother to support her daughter in this context. Moreover, the resulting estrangement and grief, an enormous loss. This loss is the pain that the protagonist feels.
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
Ultimately, it is a story about a mother and daughter held in conflict by a man who seeks to control them both. Furthermore, it focuses on the opportunity for the mother to reconcile her actions with her daughter. Through story outline and character development, we show that the protagonist wishes to clarify. Along with clarity, the lead also wants the confidence to pursue her goal. Likewise, I wanted the mother to choose a connection with her daughter after what constitutes a severing of their relationship. We also see the antagonist’s ego to be severely damaged due to his loss of control.
Sexual violence affects families. It is not a contained act without exterior effects. Even when not spoken of, the resulting shame and/or isolation that survivors tend to experience affects their relationships. While it could have, the film’s ending does not show legal justice for the antagonist/perpetrator. As the writer, I chose to center the conflict in close relationships instead of judicial processes. The resolution resides in the mother bringing dark aspects of herself into the light. Resulting in the antagonist failing to wield power over her and her daughter. By showing characters whose attitudes and actions rationalize and normalize sexual violence toward women. The film asks the audience to consider how, at large, the culture in which we live devalues women by questioning their power to make significant decisions.
In addition to searching for a producer(s) for “Keys,” I am currently writing a feature-length drama. It’s about a professional artist who joins her assistant’s religious community in order to save her from an abusive fiancé.