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The Ninth Girl

Project Overview

A short film about a woman's struggle with whether to suffer in silence after being sexually assaulted.

Identifying the Problem

As a supporter of women's rights with friends and family members who have been directly affected by rape culture, Joel wanted to positively contribute to the current discourse about rape culture. He wanted to use his skills as a filmmaker to provide a visceral perspective on rape culture by telling a visual story about the struggles rape victims may face in the immediate aftermath of assault. He was particularly interested in creating a visual supplement to the ongoing cultural conversation regarding sexual assault against women on university campuses throughout the United States and Europe.

Creating A Solution

Joel began by spending a great deal of time conducting research, interviews and conversations with women and victims of sexual assault, in order to learn more about the rape culture faced by women. He was especially interested in learning more about sexual assault in a university setting, and the struggles faced by the victims in the immediate aftermath of such assault. 

After researching the topic, Joel consulted fellow filmmakers to discuss the cinematic approach that should be taken in the making of a short film about this issue. He already believed that a short film would be accessible to mass numbers of viewers, which would increase its potential to influence passive supporters to mobilize. Joel wanted viewers to connect with the protagonist on a level that inspired them to advocate on “her” behalf, particularly against the institutional and cultural structures that allow such offenses to occur. During his discussions with other filmmakers, Joel decided that creating a silent film would broaden the accessibility of its content. It would also mirror the protagonist’s inner conflict – whether to suffer in silence. 

Joel then teamed up with a passionate group of film practitioners, actors and producers (namely Cosima Cabrera, who both starred in and produced the film) in Los Angeles. He worked with the team to bring the idea to life, which took about a month from script to screen. In addition to serving as the director of the piece, Joel also shot and edited the film. The music was composed by film composer Chris Zabrieski. Joel and his team negotiated filming permits with the city of Los Angeles, and predominately shot the film in central Los Angeles.

The main objective was to create a film that was balanced in its depiction of the situation and its critique. “We wanted to portray a multifaceted situation and characters while attempting to exclude impartial viewpoints in order to illuminate the overwhelming complexity of the issue,” says Joel. Yet, the ultimate intent of the piece was to encourage thought on rape culture and victim shaming, and how the issue transcends victim and perpetrator. Joel wanted the major takeaway for viewers to be that rape culture is a sociocultural issue, and if we want it to end, we must challenge hegemonic or mainstream notions of what it means to be a man or woman in contemporary society.

The Ninth Girl is currently touring and being exhibited at numerous international film festivals. Moreover, the film opened a screening of Kirby Dick's award-winning film, The Hunting Ground, at Lafayette College in spring 2015. The Ninth Girl was well received by audience members and by Kirby Dick himself. Joel and his team are currently in discussion with university administrators at Lafayette College about incorporating the film in a discussion about rape culture in the first-year orientation for the incoming college students.

Watch The Ninth Girl here.

Lessons Learned

Production was as anticipated - a rollercoaster of different emotions, from extreme stress to pure joy. In addition to openness and creativity, organization and planning were important aspects in successfully creating this film. The foremost advice Joel would give anyone trying to undertake a similar project is to be passionate about the subject you're trying to make a film about. “If you're not connecting with the subject matter, you might as well be making a film about something else,” he says.


The film itself was produced on a micro-budget and was self-funded. However, additional resources were granted by the University of Southern California, which provided meeting and rehearsal spaces and post-production facilities. Joel and his team raised $895 through a Kickstarter campaign, which helped them pay distribution and submissions costs to submit the film to a dozen film festivals.

Awards & Recognition

The Ninth Girl received an award at IndieFEST for Notable Female Performance in a Leading Role. The film was also selected to screen at the Johns Hopkins Film Festival in Baltimore.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2014

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