5 Questions in 5 Minutes with LA Based Australian Film Maker Dan Balcaban

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women,” 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

To voice ones belief and experience of abuse takes enormous courage. It brings up old wounds, robbed childhoods, broken hearts and painful memories. However, we all deserve to live in peace, if we can’t end the global war on terror we can at least end the terror one in six Australian women experience in their own homes.

It has been said that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults. I once knew of a little girl who would tremble with fear as she prayed for peace every evening before her father would come home. Not knowing what mood he would walk in the door with. Like all little girls, she had dreams and the world at her feet. However, her innocence and childhood were stunted. Very quickly she grew up and whilst she decided to live her dreams in spite of her painful past not a day went by without the anxiety and depression that comes with an abusive childhood.

Time does indeed heal all wounds. Yet for the victims of domestic abuse these wounds are deep. They infect your soul and disturb your mind.  If time is the essence then awareness of the long-term effects of domestic violence is crucial.

LA based Australian Film Maker and Actor Dan Balcaban is passionate about educating people about these effects. He has dedicated much of his talent and time to creating a short film demonstrating the aftermath of domestic abuse within a family victimised by this crime. It has been a labour of love for Dan whose credits include “Underbelly- The Golden Mile,” “Neighbours,” “The 25th Reich” and “Shrove Tuesday.”

With Artists and Political leaders now recognising the need to end this abuse, the campaign to end Domestic violence is certainly an encouraging one.

What was your driving ambition in making “Distance to Now”?

As you have also stated, it’s about encouragement. To create a discussion and to be respectful when we speak about the trauma that someone is going through.

For the past seven or so years, I have been creating and experimenting with various styles and methods of filming, simply to showcase my work. To me, the whole filmmaking process is a collaborative medium. So the method of three directors, filming in three different countries connecting the one story is not a new one, but more so one that is rarely explored. Whether it’s a question of ego or rather logistics, it’s a method that was essential for this story.

The long-term effects of Domestic Violence can be a traumatic hindrance. It can prevent an individual from moving forward in their life and can also replay itself in other ways if the trauma has not been treated. That’s not to say that the individual will never be happy, but more so that it can be more challenging if the emotional wound is not treated as soon as possible. Just like a physical scar, we carry emotional and physiological scars also. Yes, I am also speaking from experience. So my driving ambition for this film was and has been to create a discussion of what people are going through on a daily basis. It can be a lonely battle, but having people discuss it makes you feel like something is being done about it.

My mother, my siblings and I faced emotional and psychological abuse on a daily basis. We were constantly watching over our shoulders and also spent a lot of time worrying about things that people shouldn’t spend time worrying about. Once we removed the source of the trauma and then started to treat the trauma, we moved on. There is still a visible scar, but now it’s a reminder of the strength and courage we had to muster to get through it. My mother especially, as she was the core strength, to motivate all of us and to keep us positive.

So my driving ambition was to create a story based on events that actually happened to my family and to loads of other people. To be a tribute to them and to also create that open forum. The collaboration with filmmakers across the globe was also a method I wanted to experiment with so that each country had a distinct feel to it.

As an artist is it important to you to keep creating stories about social issues?

It’s important to me to create content about social justice and political discussions. I learnt so much after filming the documentary about global homelessness www.careaboutus.net . That was more or less the motivation for me to utilize my knowledge with filmmaking to focus my energy on stories that would move, motivate, provoke and encourage people.

I really wouldn’t call myself an artist. That may sound ignorant but I am simply what I am. Although, I do think it’s important for all of us to not take this life for granted. We are born into this machine without proper instructions as to how to go about it. So creating stories about social issues gives everyone a good insight into experiences you may not be accustomed to.

What research was required in the making of this film?

There are moments in the film that are based on experiences that occurred in my family. Additional to that, the incredibly talented Kate McKee (Writer of “Distance to Now” and other projects we have worked on together) researched domestic violence in the countries that the film was created in; Australia, United Kingdom and United States.

Kate is a phenomenal writer and also was the genius in establishing how the three countries would connect with the one story. I really kept my instructions for her simple and also sent her scenarios from our experiences.  Kate then connected the family, the through line and the individual stories. This also made it so much easier in terms of filming for each director. Aside from the statistical research about domestic violence, then it was more so the logistical research involved for production,

Who would you like to see this film?

Most importantly I feel that the film should be shown at schools, colleges and any educational platform. I feel the sooner during the growth phase that we can get into people’s minds, then the better chance we have for prevention. People experiencing domestic violence may be affected emotionally when they see the film, but it also may encourage them to muster enough strength to at least speak to someone about their experiences. By just speaking to someone, anyone for that matter, it can make the world of difference.

Some schools actually responded to us saying that the young adults wouldn’t pay attention to this kind of subject matter and would not watch it. We found that to be an ignorant statement since many of these education systems use such old processes that they only consider training people for the work force and not real life issues. I feel that our society doesn’t consider long term effects and often uses band aid treatments to deal with social issues.

If you could give any advice to film makers inspired by social issues like yourself what would that be?

This may be a case by case advice panel. I say this only because it was a series of events that inspired me to start to create this kind of content.

However, if a filmmaker or anyone is inspired by social issues to make some kind of change or difference, I would say to get it started. Don’t be afraid to explore or experiment even if you feel it’s odd or not working straight away. That’s the beauty of it, you would be the only one really critical and you would be the only one that would take that criticism to heart.

You could write to your local political party and not hear a word back for months. You can complain about it and write on every public forum or social media platform, but let’s face it you are wasting your own time and also wasting the time of anyone that reads it. So do something more practical, take action and create something…anything!

Its not just about getting your creative work out there, its about creating work with meaning and substance. Its another reason why its important to collaborate as it opens the doors to meet other likeminded people. That is essentially how I met you Alixandra. You created this awesome Blog which is now connected with me. So we have both created something that also has the potential to grow even more simply by the process of collaboration.

To watch Distance to Now please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXmWI7YgosI&feature=youtu.be

Please feel free to share the video and this post. The more people informed about the long term effects of domestic violence the more likely we are to end it.

For more information about Dan Balcaban please visit http://www.danbalcaban.com

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