Sperryville Corner Store, Griffin Tavern among filming locations
Filmmakers are in Rappahannock County shooting a fictional drama on how a sexual assault victim continues to be traumatized well after her attack until a community of family and friends rallies around the young woman.
“We’ve finished our first week of production — the first week was great — and we’re currently in our second week,” explained Amy Northup, director of “What She Said,” a feature length 90-minute film. “Today is our first off-site day.”
Meaning a cast and crew numbering around 30 took over the Sperryville Corner Store on Monday, where one scene showed two actors shopping in an aisle while actual unknowing customers passed through the doors to buy groceries, finding themselves suddenly in the middle of a movie set.
The filmmakers spent their first week in Riley Hollow, where Northup’s family has long had a home (her father, Jim Northup, most recently was superintendent of Shenandoah National Park until retiring; her mother, Phyllis Northup, is a Flint Hill watercolorist specializing in landscapes).
“We were at the farm — we were literally making a movie in the mud in the woods — so that’s fun!” quipped Amy, who is associate artistic director of the Animus Theatre Company in New York. “We will be filming at the Warren County Courthouse tomorrow [Tuesday], and then next Tuesday at [Flint Hill’s] Griffin Tavern.”
Juliana Jurenas, Amy’s cousin who also has roots in Riley Hollow, is both producing and acting in the film. As lead producer for Shallow Graves films, her career has taken her from Virginia to Los Angeles and now to New York.
The full-scale professional production is being shot in the “ultra low budget” level of the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) labor union, Juliana had explained before the filming got underway. At least 75 percent of the film’s $115,000 budget is being poured into the Rappahannock community.
The film, according to the cousins, will strive to humanize the sexual assault process, not just how survivors are treated in law enforcement and court settings, but how a community, friends and family are also affected and respond.
The plot centers around a PhD candidate who should be wrapping up her dissertation, except she’s spent the last year in and out of court pursuing charges against her rapist. Frustrated when the trial gets postponed, she recedes to a remote Rappahannock cabin, effectively ghosting everybody in her life. Until Thanksgiving rolls around, when her brother barges in with her closest friends for a pseudo-intervention, trying to convince her to return to the city to bring down her assailant once and for all.
As Amy previously explained, the assault itself “is only one tiny fraction of a much larger and more complicated conversation. Yet, it’s where most on-screen stories about assault begin and end. We’re picking up that story a year later. A year into the life of a woman battling depression, trying to finish her PhD, and ultimately treading water.”