In our lives, we all need those things that distract us and those that call for us to focus. In that balance, there is growth.
In November, 2017, I joined a team of filmmakers collaborating on a documentary called Escaping Fed. While I consider my contribution to the project to be substantial, the impact that the film had on me ended up being much greater.
Having graduated from college in 2016, I spent well over a year tirelessly searching for career prospects. Stuck in a cycle of small editing jobs and my retail hell, I prayed every day for something important to come along, a project that could affect some real change. A good friend of mine who had also worked on Escaping Fed informed me that the film was in need of an editor. I quickly reached out to director Kimberly Toms, and after a long discussion, she offered me the job. Thus began one of the most unforgettable years of my life.
Shortly after beginning work on the project, my family suffered many back-to-back losses of life. I suddenly found myself surrounded by sadness on all sides. I learned quickly that in a time of such devastation, people often tend to cling on to the parts of their lives they feel they can control. Amidst the onslaught of goodbyes, the best way to cope seemed to be to focus as much of my attention on Escaping Fed as possible. I did my absolute best to be there for my loved ones, but when it came time to process grief on my end, I poured it all into the documentary. I was certainly no expert on how to healthily and effectively mourn, but diverting my attention to a project poised to do immense good really seemed to help me.
By November, 2018, I had watched every frame of Escaping Fed’s footage dozens of times. That meant witnessing the traumatic events featured in the documentary over and over again. With each viewing I felt worse for those who suffer from sexual crimes and are effectively silenced. Perhaps this increased sympathy came as my understanding of the crimes grew. Just when I thought my grasp of this trauma was as clear as it ever would be, Kimberly came to us with an idea.
An Idea Becomes a Personal Journey
In January of 2019, our small crew ventured to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the intent of gathering footage of the actual locations discussed in Escaping Fed, footage otherwise unobtainable before then due to the film’s budgetary restraints. When Kimberly informed me that we would be going to frigid Wisconsin in the middle of winter, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. “Do we need any footage from the Bahamas?” I wondered. While we weren’t thrilled at the prospect of single digit temperatures and heavy snow, we made the trek for the good of the documentary.
We were welcomed with 8°F days and more snow than I’d seen anywhere in years, snow that I had to trudge through to obtain specific location shots. During this trip, we were able to eat together, sightsee and spend time bonding as a team. We visited the places that Kimberly lived while trying to evade her stalker, the restaurant where they first met and even the courthouse where the trial will soon be held. With each shot it felt less like a film, less like a documentary; it felt like reality. I never once doubted Kim’s account of her interactions with Fed. However, as I stood beside her, supporting her as she revisited the places where she suffered so much trauma, I realized that this brought yet another layer of understanding and empathy to the situation. It made our film better and brought our group closer.
Working with the Escaping Fed team not only provided me a much needed distraction from one of the hardest years in my life, but also opened my eyes to the importance of making people feel heard and supported. This has never been an easy process, but it has changed me for the better, just like I believe the film will do for those who watch.
You can learn more about Escaping Fed and even participate in a private screening by visiting the film’s website and Facebook page. Private screenings will take place during select days of April and May 2019.