Phoebe Frear of Your Gal Friday Podcast sits down to talk with Gal’s Guide about what she calls, “the real starting point of my film career.” Remember to Forget Me is a short film about human sex trafficking. The process and subject material affected Phoebe in a deeply profound way.
“We knew that our target audience had no clue that this was in our backyard….Since they don’t know it’s a thing, they’re not going to do anything about it. Since they don’t do anything about it, this is what happens….The whole point is that this could end gracefully where you save them, but you can’t save them if you don’t know what’s happening.”
21 million people are trafficked around the world according to Unicef. The United States is not immune. Since 2007 the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received 162,660 reports and calls for help.
We asked her about the process as the co-director, co-writer, editor and producer on Remember to Forget Me.
Gal’s Guide: So first off, tell me about where Remember to Forget Me fits in relation to your other film work.
Phoebe Frear: The tricky thing is that this is my first major production. My other previous films before this were short, silly, You Tube films that were scripted, but didn’t mean a whole lot. They didn’t mean much to me, but they were made for experience. Remember to Forget Me was the real starting point for my film career. After Remember to Forget Me, I made a documentary about slave guides. I’m very passionate about raising awareness of slavery both in the past and the present. It hurts me when humans don’t treat other humans like humans. If we choose to ignore it, we can, so I want to make sure that we don’t ignore it.
G3: Now, you worked with a partner on this film. Who came up with the idea of making a film about sex trafficking?
PF: The idea was born with Tricia Lou. She actually came to me and said that she was passionate about raising awareness on human trafficking. I didn’t know much about the topic at the time, but I thought that it was really important to raise awareness of slavery. So, I really thought that people need to know about this. Even then, I was a baby filmmaker, but my gift is to make movies. So I said to her, “If you’re serious, we need to make a movie about this.” She said she was serious. She had all the background knowledge, and I had the film background.
G3: How well versed were you in the topic at the time?
PF: I knew nothing about it at the time. When she came to me, I had no idea of the broad scope of it. I wasn’t naive to all of it, but there’s so many different nuances to it. I had no idea of the broadness. The thing that shocked me the most is that it’s in my backyard. It’s not a “could be” it’s an is. That’s why I became passionate about it. I wanted to show that it’s not just overseas, 5,000 miles away. It’s happening right behind us.
Together we decided to write a screenplay. We started an outline, and we knew it had to be a short film, because we couldn’t afford a feature length. I didn’t write it solo. Me and her wrote it together.
G3: Did you find that there was a division of labor through the screenwriting process? In other words, were you tasked with dialogue while your partner focused on the action? Did you independently write different scenes? Or was it a completely collaborative process?
PF: Completely collaborative. We used Google Docs, and we picked times during the day where we would go back and forth and write. We’d discuss scenes we were doing, sometimes we would each take a character and write the dialogue, sometimes there was a scene that she was really passionate about and she’d write it then I’d critique it, but it was almost completely collaborative. I had previous experience using this exact method with a different writing partner, so this was the rhythm that I was in at this point.
G3: Since most of the actors and actresses were young, did any of them have any hesitations regarding the topic of the movie?
PF: They did a little bit, but Tricia was really good about talking to them and their parents about it. We were very careful.
G3: How much of the story did you actually tell the two young actresses? Were they kept in the dark about what was actually going on, or was it all out there?
PF: We kept them in the dark. We told the parents the whole story, then we told the parents, tell them as much or as little about the story as you want. We’re gonna tell them what they need to know. We did tell young Hope that she’s discovering that her dad just died. We got permission, but we never told them the broad scope of it. Young Martha did get told I think, but I don’t think that young Hope did. My direction was more…this is an uncomfortable thing, this person is bad and he’s going to move you here. This person is good in person really, but once I say action, this guy is creepy and you don’t like him and he’s moving you into this room.
G3: How did the town of Wellsboro, PA respond to having some of their locations in the film?
PF: [When] we finally talked to the manager at the hospital. It turned out that he has a daughter and he had no idea about this issue [of human trafficking]. So as Tricia and I talk with him about it, he starts breaking down in tears. He says, “you can film here whenever you want.” We told him that we just needed the outside. We don’t need to show the name. We just need to show the emergency room sign. He said, “don’t block the emergency room entrance, tell us when you’re filming and you can do whatever you want.” He was just really on board with the idea.
G3: Did you do anything to prep for shooting such as storyboarding?
PF: I’m a lot better if I can see the location and then plan out my shots. But I didn’t see any of these locations in person beforehand, so I would just show up, and figure it out on the fly.
G3: So this type of material had to take its toll on you. What was the most difficult part: the writing, the shooting or the editing?
PF: Writing was vastly more difficult than filming it. Filming it, I got into my director zone and I’m separated from the subject. There’s so many other things I have to worry about that I couldn’t worry about the emotion and the content while I was actually filming. I just had to make sure that the performance was good enough. Writing really sucked. It took us 3-4 months to write it. I just couldn’t….once I’m in that headspace, I can’t get out. So I was in this downward spiral for a couple of months. Once we filmed, I was fine, then the editing sucked more than the writing.
G3: It’s been over 4 years since the release of Remember to Forget Me. Looking back at it from your current perspective, how do you feel about the film?
PF: I’m still really proud of it. I’m not ashamed to say, this is a film I worked on and it’s a topic that’s important to me. I still tell people to watch it, with the preface that it was my first major project. It’s not a good film to base my talent on, because there’s a lot of things technically wrong with it, but I’m still proud of it because it’s a story that needs to be told, and we told it pretty well for a bunch of teenagers making a movie.
G3: Is there any interest in revisiting this topic? Either through a full length film, a documentary or another short film?
PF: Absolutely. This subject is always something heavy on my heart and every time I think about it, I go, well what am I doing now? I don’t think this topic will ever go away for me. If I’m not doing something about it, what am I doing? Making it a full length, doing a documentary, either of those would be cool. Anything really.
G3: Any words of advice that you would give to any young gals reading this that want to make their first film?
PF: Im gonna be like Nike and say, “Just Do It.” It doesn’t matter how old you are, how good you are, how much experience you have. All of that stuff, at the end of the day, is stuff that Hollywood talks about but it isn’t relevant to you today. What is relevant to you is that this is something that you’re passionate about and if there’s something that you’re passionate about and it matters to you and you do something about it and you make a film regardless of all the odds being stacked against you, people will notice. People still talk to me about this film today, and it’s four years later.
Even though something is hard to talk about and it makes you incredibly uncomfortable, if it’s what’s really heavy on your heart, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. You have to do something about it, and you won’t regret doing something, regardless of how it goes down.