Wombat | A Short Film About Miscarriage

Writing Wombat

I wrote Wombat one evening, sitting in bed, after making a decision to try and tackle a serious subject by playing with humour. I'd never tried it before and I wanted to see if I could swing from very sad emotions to the dark humour we use to deal with situations. I wrote a very simple, dialogue-based script, planning to film it very simply, so as to concentrate on performance. 

'Edward' played by Chris Iddon and 'Emily' played by Amy Telford

'Edward' played by Chris Iddon and 'Emily' played by Amy Telford

It was a few weeks later that I though about giving it to someone else to direct. I'd never really done that before either, but it was something I'd always wanted to try. 

Director: Emily Grew from Little Betty Films

Director: Emily Grew from Little Betty Films

Rob (DoP) and Sel (1st AC)

Rob (DoP) and Sel (1st AC)

Of course, to hand over a script you love to another director you have to trust their work and style. I'd worked with Emily Grew from Little Betty Films before and seen her writing and directing style and knew she was right. I knew she wouldn't massacre it and I knew she was sensitive enough to appreciate the content. So over coffee in Durham I asked her if would like to direct Wombat and she agreed. 

My friend and writer/director Emily

My friend and writer/director Emily

I made a conscious decision and effort to not get involved with the production although Emily kindly invited me to the auditions and rehearsals, where I gave my thoughts. I really wanted to 'hand it over' to step back and not interfere.

Emily is a wonderful director and writer. It's rare in the indie world to find someone who likes to direct character pieces and directs them with such delicacy. I love the tone and subtlety she brought to the film.   

Shooting in progress

Shooting in progress

I got invited to the shoot, which was lovely and Emily even asked me to film Behind-The-Scenes footage - something I love to do. 

Emily (Writer/Director) and Rob (DoP) make up Little Betty Films, and Wombat was to be part of their 'Moments' series, a collection of beautifully shot and performed short films they wrote and produced. I felt very honoured that they had chosen one of my scripts to be a part of it. Rob, the cinematographer had created a beautiful lighting setup. A lot of preparation and work had gone into the set and it really added to the whole production.  

Chris Iddon played Edward and Amy Telford played Emily. I always think it's amazing how vulnerable actors become. There were moments where I felt like I wanted to squirm at just how raw and uncomfortable the emotions were. It reminded me of being a child and watching a film with my parents and when a romantic scene came on I would run out of the room because I was so embarrassed. I say that as a sincere compliment to the actors and director.

Chris asked me at one point how I felt as the writer watching the filming. It felt very strange. I felt oddly detached from the whole process. I was listening to words I had written but they didn't feel like my words. There was just the occasional line where I sat up and thought, "Oh. I wrote that!'

"Wombat" is a very intimate script. It came out of reading countless accounts of women who have had early (and late) miscarriages and the silence they seem to have to carry around with them. They want to acknowledge a life they were carrying, society wants them to move on; husbands hold that life at arm's length, as if by naming it, the weight of the woman's pain they are already carrying will tip and sink them. 

Chris and Amy looking over the script

Chris and Amy looking over the script

Why Wombat?

The film's name comes from a line in the script. I read a little piece about an Aborigine tribe who name their children by calling out relatives names during the birth. The name called out at the point the placenta comes out is the chosen name. I couldn't push the thought away - what if someone accidentally shouted out the wrong name? What if they said Wombat? Then I watched some videos of wombats running on YouTube and I knew a wombat was the right emblem. It was cute and had a softness I felt reflected the story, as well as being a creature that held some fascination. 

Betty applying for the role of Wombat :)

Betty applying for the role of Wombat :)

A wombat by Louis Jones - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ljcjones/ 

A wombat by Louis Jones - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ljcjones/ 

I wanted this film to highlight a topic that I feel is too often ignored and trivialised. I won't forget one woman's account that I read - that she felt doctors and friends were treating her miscarriage as nothing more than medical event, when to her it was another baby and in her mind she had another child she never got to meet. I wanted to validate that for the women who felt and still feel that way.

I hope that this film gives a voice to all those who ever felt silenced.