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Artist Profile Series: Melinda Raebyne

Erika Enomoto

Communications Manager

Melinda Raebyne, Asylum, video still, 2017. Photo: Rob J. Allen.

2017 GAP recipient Melinda Raebyne is a Tacoma-based filmmaker who recently received an award for her short film Asylum. Inspired by true events, Asylum was awarded Best Narrative Short Film at Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival held in Lafayette, Louisiana. I reached out to Melinda to congratulate her on her award and to learn more about her film and upcoming projects.

Could you tell me more about Asylum?
Asylum takes on a formerly taboo subject that has boiled to the surface of our society, sexual abuse and rape by men in power. However, Asylum was not created to shine the spotlight on these acts of unspeakable betrayal but to bring to the fore the traumatizing scars seared into the mental landscape of its victim. Asylum is a voice for those who are living within their own emotionally invisible walls of protection that have turned into their prisons. So many local business, organizations, and key donors throughout the Northwest donated their resources to bring this film to life including, Verizon, Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival, El Centro de la Raza, Consulado de México en Seattle, Robert Lang Studios, Champagne Sunday, Washington Filmworks, and SAG-AFTRA.

What do you hope to accomplish with your film?
My hope is that Asylum will give a voice to those who have invisible scars left behind from unthinkable trauma. To gage the accuracy and believability of the film, I worked closely with those in the mental health profession and conducted a very private screening of Asylum for a very small group of people who work with victims of sexual abuse and/or who are survivors.

Is there anyone that inspires your creativity?
The two directors that really inspire me in cinematic storytelling are Leon Ichaso and Wong Kar-wai. Leon Ichaso doesn’t shy away from the rare, gritty hardness of life in his stories but through it you see the beauty of the human spirit. Wong Kar-wai invites you into the private lives of his characters as if you were really there while using the surrounding environment to help tell his stories. This enhances the emotional element in his stories. But as for my art in general, it’s the people I meet who inspire me. The resilience of the human spirit and my desire to bring their stories alive. Giving them a voice when maybe at one time they didn’t feel as though they had one. With understanding comes compassion and with compassion great change is possible. I once read that “great art doesn’t just capture the moment but allows you to feel it,” and this is my foundation for storytelling.

How has funding from the 2017 GAP impacted your career as an artist?
The GAP award has allowed me to explore other area of the arts, including photography as an art director. I’m in partnerships with street photographer Rob J. Allen and several human trafficking prevention organizations to bring more awareness of human trafficking in our region through an art exhibit.

What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on two projects in partnership with Raise Expectations, For Sale and Stories Of Us. As creative director on For Sale, I’m collaborating with Washington Trafficking Prevention and possibly several other organizations that combat human trafficking in Pierce County to depict the reality of how trafficking is a threat to every child in local communities. Washington Lawyers for the Arts is providing legal support with this project as well. I’m excited to be collaborating with street photographer Rob J. Allen, who has the creative talent to capture emotion with a click of a button.

Using a variety of compelling images, I will invite people into a world that they may assume they already understand, while allowing the viewer to come to a deeper compassion and comprehension of the “face of victimization.” I will explore how a typical night plays out for this young girl. Putting a face to human trafficking while revealing the harsh realities of this exploitation of human life creates an emotionally powerful impact on the audience while at the same time educating them about this public health issue that occurs “in plain sight.”

As director and producer on Stories Of Us, I will look at trying to answer the question, “is there a common thread that connects all of us?” My hope from this is if we understand who we are, where we come from, and how our strife resembles that of others, then we can see that common thread more clearly. Seeing that common thread can give us a deeper compassion for those we didn’t think we knew. The path to a more united society begins with understanding how we are all connected.

In Stories Of Us, I will show the beauty of this country and the world via its landscape and people. We will film various places of beauty and importance and focus on places where we can capture the stories of individual lives juxtaposed with the landscape. Through interviews and imagery, we will invite viewers into the lives of people and allow them a platform to tell their stories. These stories will cover a broad range of humanity so we won’t limit our focus. Our power lies in our diversity. Showing this common thread through people and places will provide a more accurate picture of why our world is more than a sum of our parts.

What advice do you have for artists applying for grants and awards?
DO IT!!!! It may seem intimidating but you will never know if you will receive the grant unless you apply for it. It’s allowed me to expand my art discipline into another medium of storytelling which will hopefully open more doors for me.

View the official trailer for Asylum here.