We see a young woman, innocent, lively, sheltered, very out of touch with her body, newly thin for the first time in her life and not accustomed to getting much attention from men and/or setting boundaries. She is on a date with a charismatic, quirky man 20 years her elder, who looks like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, but does reek of a little creapazoid. Not much experience with drinking, or dating for that matter, as she has only had one boyfriend in her life, who turned out to be gay. Finally, in her head, she has a date with a real man, attentive and nurturing. Is she looking for a father figure? Needing emotional support or just overtaken with the sweet nothings coming her way?
This backstory sets the stage for what is to follow, an incident that will affect the rest of her life. She allows her date to order her drink, the first margarita of her life, and then the second. Now with compromised mobility, his charm morphs into a manipulative anecdote for disaster. He takes her to his favorite “romantic” spot where trouble ensues in the form of sexual abuse. Overwhelmed and in denial, she allows the encounter to be extended to her apartment, disrupting the sanctity of her roommate, who confronts her the next day. Our main character denies she was harmed in any way, until her roommate points out the large mark on her neck. She quickly covers it with make-up, which doesn’t work. And then a scarf. “All better….” This intense drama, With Salt, is about sexual abuse (in this case date rape), the charismatic manipulation that precedes it and the dismissal of its long-term damage on the psyche of the injured party. This is a true story that happened to me. I want to give voice and vision to victims who have similar defining moments.
As the director, I am eagerly challenged with shooting this film in a way that keeps the facial and racial identity of the abuser unidentifiable to the audience, highlighting that these type of people are not visible in the light, or in public, but only to their casualties. It is important that I direct With Salt because it is deeply personal. With that, I know that I can bring a sense of depth, compassion and insight to both the abuser and the abused.
The biggest production challenge will be building trust with actors who have to take on the rape scene. I will use an intimacy coach to help block that in a safe way. Also, because I do not want to show the identity of the abuser, it’ll be a challenge to put together a plan with my creative team that will provide innovative alternatives to showing his face. I plan to use elements like heighted color, specific music/sound design that identifies the rapist, as well as unconventional lighting and camera angles that will hide/blur/disguise his face without it being initially obvious to the audience.