Positive Celebrity Exclusive: Dezi Barr raising awareness with her film VAL!
The short film, VAL, is a powerful inside look into the life of a young, essentially single-mother, during incredibly trying times. The film, written and produced by Dezi Barr, is easy to get sucked into. It’s raw and brutally honest, as it explores difficult topics that are not discussed nearly enough. Based on her own experiences, Dezi hopes for the film to raise awareness of the reality of rape, abuse, and mental illness.
It takes a lot of courage and creativity to broach these sensitive topics well, but VAL does an excellent job of addressing them. We asked Dezi what drove her to write VAL.
“Good question. Being somebody that always talks about self-expression and being courageous, I knew that when it came time to write VAL, it had better be a film dedicated to using film as means to rip some band-aids off old wounds, in exchange, to hopefully encourage others to do the same. It doesn’t matter whether you are as raw and unfiltered as VAL is. What’s important is you tell your story, in your own way, for others to hear. Because your story will resonate with someone, and to be understood and heard is a catalyst for healing.”
Beautifully put. Many face some or all of the struggles VAL touches on. Even I can connect in a way with my past. Writing a script, and especially a script covering such tough subjects can be intense. We asked how Dezi approached writing VAL.
“Whenever (for me) I am writing something emotionally taxing, it takes a lot out of me. How was the writing process for me on such an intense and meaningful film? It was a unique experience that probably won’t happen again. Being honest, open and vulnerable with all eyes on you is scary. It felt like everyone who’s been a victim was watching me type – delete – retype. It was both energizing and exhausting. Everything written needed to speak my truth and honor victims as well as the cast and crew involved. The pressure I put on myself and the project was taxing, but worth it. 100%.”
After the screening we were invited to participate in, during a short panel with Dezi, someone in the audience brought up the question of what happened in the life of the abuser in the story that made him who he was, and influenced his vicious and abusive behavior. What in his past drove him into rape and violence?! This explores another side of the film. We were curious about Dezi’s thoughts.
“Mmmmm. Yeah. The man who asked that question was a scary man to me until that moment. It took everything I had not to cry and go hug him. It was very important to validate that, and openly so. He is right, and I think I’ve always had some sympathy for the perpetrator. That sympathy never excuses the behavior. They’re humans who were maybe once a victim themselves. Studies have shown that victims most likely victimize in some way (not always, and not always in the same way). The answer is: What Happens To A Person To Make Them Abusive, In Anyway? We need to start there. Entitlement? Environment? Privilege? Anger? Revenge? Victimization? What??? YES! Let’s ask these questions AND meet them head-on with an open heart and mind while not forgetting the victims. My hat is off to that man who asked. He shed a wound that evening. Proud of you, B.”
We also asked what Dezi hopes viewers are learning from watching VAL.
“As to your second question, understanding. People need to be heard and understood. The ONLY way that happens is if WE are listening to understand.”
Listening is such an important part of good communication. It’s vital. It’s all too common for people to pour their heart out, only for it to fall on seemingly deaf, or unempathetic ears. This makes healing difficult, if not impossible. By starting a conversation and spreading awareness of the suffering and abuse many silently face, we can help share the burden, and begin healing as a society and as victims.
Many women (and men) who are in abusive relationships stay with their abuser because of their fear of the unknown, and because they don’t realize that help and a better life exist beyond their abuse. We asked Dezi her thoughts and feelings on this subject.
“Boy. That hits me hard, as I’m sure it does others. How does that make me feel? Honestly? Sick. It’s a vicious cycle until the victim decides to no longer participate. I get it though. I would have, in the past, rather been with an asshole and KNOW his demons, than have been with someone who seems nice, but turns on you without notice. As for now, I would rather be alone than be with the devil. I know where he lurks, I know his signs. That is all I need to know.”
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, it’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship.
“Leaving is often the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse, because abuse is about power and control. When a victim leaves, they are taking control and threatening the abusive partner’s power, which could cause the abusive partner to retaliate in very destructive ways.”
And there are plenty of reasons people don’t leave, That may include a belief that abuse is normal, fear of being outed, embarrassment or shamed, cultural or religious reasons, lack of money or even disability.
Dezi shared with us a little about the success and goals of VAL.
“At first, it was to be seen by as many people as possible. I submitted to many, many festivals, but it hasn’t been accepted into any but two. I didn’t care about winning an award. The goal was to get eyes on it. So, now the goal is to get eyes on it 😉 Once the festival run is through, I’ll submit the script and trailer to other fests to hopefully gain interest and get feedback. Someone mentioned that I should tour with VAL, to ignite conversations. Not sure what I think about that idea yet in terms of timing.”
We think that’s a great goal. Getting eyes on such an important film matters. It will help spark a conversation that will bring about change.
During the Q&A for the screening, one member of the audience mentioned how, even having never been in such a situation, VAL helped him better understand and feel “very empathetic and open to people’s hearts.” Dezi shared how it made her feel to hear that.
“Relieved. Validated. Cathartic. Moved. It’s working.”
Actors and actresses have to translate what they see on the script into an emotional and grabbing performance. There are times an actor or actress has a hard time going through with emotional scenes because when you act, you commit. You become that character for a short period of time. We wanted to know how the cast did on VAL during emotional and difficult scenes.
“The actors were phenomenal! It was far from easy on anyone that was on set. It took a lot out of everyone emotionally and physically. I had two child welfare crew members on set, one for the actress playing VAL and one for the baby, and another on standby for Avery (VAL). I set aside funds to pay for therapy to ensure everyone stayed intact during and afterwards. The offer will remain indefinitely.”
That’s great! It’s not easy to assume those roles, even for a moment. Right now, in the world, there are many people struggling with similar situations. Whether it be emotional abuse, physical abuse or mental illness, it’s happening. We wanted to know what Dezi would tell someone going through these struggles.
“Talk. Talk to anyone who will listen. Leave. The scariest thing to a perpetrator is someone who won’t back down, because that means they have no control over you. Try to put the protections you can in place and leave without delay. Lastly, get. It. OUT! Express it in ANY healthy way possible. Therapists work! The more you hold it in, the harder life is.”
We then asked if there are any specific charities Dezi would recommend for those dealing with rape, abuse or mental health struggles.
“Several. UCASA, RAIIN, Joyful Heart, PAVE and SO many more. There’s a Women’s Conference in Dallas in April each year. You can get sponsored to participate, and it would be of great benefit. If you are local to Utah, UCASA has active events around the clock.”
The film was very powerful and brilliantly shot. We asked what camera was used.
We asked what Dezi thought was the most “cathartic” moment in VAL.
“Someone asked me that once, and it isn’t a simple answer. It comes in waves. It was cathartic while writing, then producing, then dicerting and now while screening it with Q&A. The most? Mmm. Q&A sessions when I get others’ perspectives, and when people ‘get it’.”
We then asked if Dezi felt any degree of healing from her past while writing VAL.
“I feel like when I write, it’s pretty therapeutic. Especially when you turn your past struggles into art. Not sure? It felt like I held my breath until after the cast and crew screening. It’s triggering to me, and find I giggle at little mistakes. It helps to keep the river of emotions at bay, because if I’m not together, others won’t feel like they can talk about it and ask questions. Everyone needs to feel comfortable and be able to share.”
We followed that up by asking if Dezi is working on other projects we can look forward to.
“What a nice transitional question!! YES! Just finished producing and directing a cooking show. Packaging a few features, one of which is mine. Producing/directing a documentary, and we just opened up a small film studio for our local community. Lots of schtuff is cooking. We’ll see what begins to smoke first ;)”
To conclude, we asked what Dezi would like to share with you, our readers.
“It’s ok to not be ok. Tell your story. Don’t let anyone determine your future, especially if one of those people is you, getting in your own way. Don’t stop learning and growing. Love, because you deserve the absence of bitterness.”
Meet Dezi Barr:
Dezi Barr is a producer in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. She is motivated to help talented filmmakers give voice to their stories. She has worked on several films, most of which went on to win awards. Dezi was born and raised in Missouri, family brought her to Salt Lake and that is when she became interested in Film.