What Happened To Stephanie?
Meet Stephanie and Liz and the rock band they both love, Strictly Elizabeth. Liz is a middle aged woman reflecting on her life and what she has lost. Stephanie is a young, seemingly carefree woman who’s the life of the party. She reminds Liz of her younger self. Secretly, though, Stephanie carries the weight of an abusive and controlling family she is desperate to get away from and Liz wrestles from survivors guilt and painful memories that keep her frozen and isolated. We meet them with their male companions, Zee and Hayden at Happy Hour at a bar called , “Oscillation Friday”. Hayden follows Stephanie into a dark club, where we see strangers in elation from love found on the dance floor but Stephanie finds violence in the face of rejection. In the final scene of “Seduction Trash” at a Strictly Elizabeth show, Liz and Stephanie are both haunted by their memories and the human tendancy to re-enact unresolved traumas.
The short film is dedicated to Bessel van der Kolk, MD and survivors everywhere. Stay brave.
Written by Jessica Elizabeth Davenport
Praise for the film has been staggering. As of July, 2021 it has garnered its ninth festival selection/win. The festivals include the Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Music Video), Los Angeles Film & Script Festival (Best Animation), Los Angeles Rocks Film Festival (Best Animation & Best Editing), the San Francisco Indie Short Festival (Semi-finalist), Onyko Film Awards (Best Animation Finalist), Venice Shorts Film Awards (selection), Hollywood New Directors (Honorable Mention). The latest honor is from L.A.’s prestigious Dances With Films. Celebrating it’s 24th year, Dances With Films has named What Happened to Stephanie? a Downbeat selection and was screened at the Festival on August 27, 2021 at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
I was inspired to create this film, What Happened to Stephanie?, while undergoing EMDR therapy so I could heal from my husband’s suicide. During this process, I discovered trauma that was rooted much deeper in my childhood, and learned that I was in fact suffering from complex PTSD.
As I was reprocessing the traumatic experiences of my life, I began to create the world of Strictly Elizabeth. This is where we meet the main characters of the film Stephanie, Liz and the rock band they both love, Strictly Elizabeth. Stephanie and Liz live in the same neighborhood, their paths begin to cross and they start to observe each other’s life. Stephanie finds herself in a dangerous situation alone, and is raped by a stranger. Liz sees her the next night, she’s drunk and high and out of control. The audience sees that she’s reenacting the scenes of her traumatic rape. While writing this film, I read the book “The Body Keeps the Score”. In this book Dr.Bessel van der Kolk writes about many women who were able to overcome the painful confusion and shame of their traumatic abuse. This book gave me the courage to create Stephanie’s character arc in this short film. The character’s reenactment is self destructive and yet so human. Liz only sees the aftermath and not the cause, but asks the simple and important question – “What Happened to Stephanie?” Liz wrestles with her own painful memories. Her survivor’s guilt keeps her frozen, isolated and unable to connect. She longs for communication and love but can barely speak to the friend standing next to her. I was so lucky to have found Ciro and Provoke Films, the director and animation production team. Ciro effortlessly took the script and storyboards I had created and brought this world to life. This film will always be special to me, it has been the spark of life for the World of Strictly Elizabeth and now the light just continues to grow.”