Frida Farrell is an accomplished and fearless, actress, singer, writer, and activist who stopped by to talk with Samera Entertainment and the Chloe Chronicles about Apartment 407
Discussing music and songwriting, her own experience of sex-trafficking and her path to acceptance and activism, and what is next for this unstoppable “Survivor.”
Q & A by ~ Chloe Brown of Chloe Chronicles
Q ~ Frida, it is truly an honor to interview you. Over the years you have always been known as someone who gives and puts a lot of themselves into their work and characters. Is this the way you have always been or would you say this is a trait you have grown into or become more confident in with time? And why do you think that is?
A ~ Hi Chloe, it’s such a pleasure to be talking to you. I think I’ve always been that way, I give all of myself otherwise it’s not worth it. But yes it has absolutely been strengthened over the years as I’ve grown more confident in myself, my talent, and my story.
Q ~You cite being interested in the arts since you were six years old, in part due to your Grandmother who took you to the Opera, what was it about that experience that inspired you to follow that path of becoming a performer?
A ~ That’s a great question! I guess, there was just something about their gripping performances that made me, as a six-year-old, say “that’s what I want to do”. I wanted to make people feel all these strong, emotional feelings I was feeling. Happy, sad, angry whatever it was I just had that instinct to want to discover and to help people feel things. Looking back, it’s incredible to think I knew that so young, but I did, it was just instinctual I guess.
Q ~ Besides acting, you have been a singer and songwriter for many years but you didn’t start releasing or performing your own material until 2014, why is that? Why now?
A ~ I was never really confident in my singing and songwriting. I always wanted to do it but I wasn't sure if I was good enough. I’m sure most artists can relate to that struggle as well when you love something as much as I do singing/songwriting. The fear of people tainting that love by saying they don't like it or you’re not good is always a hard internal insecurity to allow yourself to overcome. It was when I met and teamed up with Isabel Latz and we started performing my songs live (under the name 2 Paper Dolls in bars that I started getting more confident, and feeling like, “Hey maybe I can do this.”
And then I met Frank Stone who is a music producer and he helped us record a few songs. Then we started working with me on my solo stuff and I really started feeling like - Wow I really CAN do this. And I started to actually enjoy sharing my music with people. So, it was definitely a journey for me to get here but I’m really excited about it. I’m actually dropping a single called “Barely Breathing” with 2 Paper Dolls on June 6. And I’m also releasing another solo single at the end of June or beginning of July called “Come Close”.
Which is all leading up to my first solo EP. So, I’m thrilled about that as well as secretly terrified.
Q ~ Frida, you recently co-wrote and starred in the film Apartment 407 a film based on your own experience with sex-trafficking in London, what was it like to write and relive that experience for this film and why was it so important for you to do so?
A ~ My one and only drive in making this film was, and still is, to try and help other women. Getting other women to come forward and share and talk about what they have been through and help them realize that they are not victims - they are survivors. It was very hard to write and relive my past but with that one goal and drive, I was able to do it. I tried really hard to make it about other women and not about me as an individual. I wanted to be the voice of all those women out there who don’t have a voice right now. Those women who are either still being sold or those who have managed to escape and are still struggling with getting past the horrific abuse they’ve been through. This is the most important film I’ve ever made and probably will ever make.
Q ~You co-wrote Apartment 407 with your close friend and co-owner of your entertainment company Development Hell Pictures, Glynn Turner, what was sharing your experience with him like and how did you conceptualize the film? Also, being such a personal experience what would you say was the hardest part of collaborating on this project, and what was the most rewarding?
A ~ Glynn and I sat for days and days and recorded me talking about what had happened with Glynn asking all the necessary and real difficult questions. That was very hard because it was the first time I actually talked about it to a friend. I’ve only talked about it to a therapist in such detail before. After our sessions, Glynn then went away for a few months and wrote the 1st draft. And then we took that draft and went back and forth 2000 times until we were both happy with the script. The hardest part was definitely answering Glynn’s difficult questions about the rapes. And how I felt before, during, and after. Not a fun conversation. But, the most rewarding part is now, when the film is out and I’m getting thousands of messages from women and men who've seen the film and who tell me how the film has changed their lives in some way, big or small. That’s when I think I did the right thing doing this film. It makes it all worth it.
Q ~ The character of Isobel is obviously based on yourself and your experiences during that time but what would you say is the biggest difference between Isobel and Frida? And, was it important for you that this character wasn’t a direct reflection of you and could be representative of all affected women and men survivors?
A ~When we created Isobel, based on real events that had taken place in my life, I was adamant she needed to be different to me, mainly so that I could cope with playing her. If she was too close to me it would be hard to separate the two, Isabel and I, in my head or onset. We gave Isobel a young child, I didn’t have a child at the time. We even went into details about the birth, we gave her a scar on her belly to indicate she’d had a C-section. We made her a pilates instructor, I wasn’t a Pilates instructor at the time. We made her more of a shy person than I am so a larger audience could connect with her easier. But here’s how art imitates life and life imitates art... I got pregnant a few years after we shot the film. I ended up having to have a C-section due to complications when I gave birth to my daughter Mia Rose a few years later. I became a Pilates instructor a few years after the film was wrapped. How crazy is that?
Q ~ How important was it for you to find the right director for Apartment 407 and how did you know you found that in Rudolf Buitendach?
A ~ It is extremely important to find the right director for each project you do, but especially for this one. Rudolf was the best director out of all the ones we communicated with about the project. He was kind, had a huge heart, he was easy to talk to, and had made two feature films already and just oozed confidence, in a good way, so we just felt confident that he was the right choice.
Q ~ You have been quoted saying the most “haunting” part of the scenes to relive was, “ the opening of the door and him locking the door,” because it is a moment you were still able to go back and think, “what if I didn’t go?” How has it been and what is the process like as survivor of sex-trafficking and assault to be able to learn how to go from being labeled a “victim” to knowing you are a “survivor” and not second-guessing or putting blame on yourself for what transpired?
A ~ For me that process has been long and hard. First off, I think you have to realize that it’s something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life. It’s not going away. It’s never going to be undone. Once you get your head around that you can start processing it and work through it. The first and hardest step is to try really hard to not blame yourself. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. EVER. And then you have to work hard at not letting it define you. You are not a victim because you are still alive. Therefore you are a survivor. Once you get your head around that fact things will start to feel a little easier. But it’s going to take a long time.
Q ~ What helped you heal from that horrific attack and what advice would offer anyone who is or has experienced a similar situation?
A ~ Open up. That’s when the real healing starts. I was silent for over 10 years, I was scared, ashamed, and embarrassed over what had happened and I blamed myself entirely. I desperately wanted to be “normal” like everyone else and not be branded by rape, I didn’t want to be a victim, so I thought that if I just didn’t talk about it would just go away. That’s of course not the case. So my advice is - talk about it. And if you don’t have the courage to talk to people you know, turn to a professional and talk to them, they will be able to guide you through it and help you work past it. And if you can’t afford professional help there are a few different hotlines you can call and get help. One of which is the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Q ~Your mother did an interview where she said that when you went to the police they didn’t take your claims seriously due to the area it took place in and you were repeatedly asked what you “did” and “what you were wearing?” how do you think this dismissal of survivors---women especially is detrimental and perpetuates the stigma of shaming and hiding attacks?
A ~ It’s one of the main reasons for women not coming forward. It’s frankly disgusting. People who don’t believe you when you come forward and share such a traumatic event in your life are gross. The fact that the cops didn’t believe me at the time was a major factor as to why I remained silent for so long. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed sitting in that cold police investigation room that I simply never wanted to feel that way again, so I decided I was never going to talk about it again. This happens to women, and men, all the time and it’s devastating for anyone coming forward who is wanting to share what they’ve been through.
Q ~ Your goal with this film was to screen it at universities around the country and create a space for open discussion of sex work slavery. Do you think this goal has been achieved? And what is next for you in your activist pursuits? How can others get involved and help?
A ~ I don’t feel that I’ve achieved that goal yet, to be honest. I’ve been trying to get into a speaking agency so they can help me organize a small university tour but I haven’t had any luck yet. I’m still working on it. As soon as COVID-19 stay at home curfew is lifted I’m going to start reaching out to schools and universities on my own. I’m not giving up. I never do and I never will. I’m talking to a few people at the moment about setting up a charity and an online platform where women can safely and anonymously share their stories and get the help they need.
Q ~ Your song, “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” is used at the end of Apartment 407, was this song written during the same time as “Every Time I Sleep” and do the songs have any correlation to each other? What differences do you find in expressing yourself through music than in film?
A ~ I wrote “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” a few months after “Every Time I Sleep”. They are both about either being abused or being in an abusive relationship, one that ultimately does not make you happy. I know, I know I write such happy songs, right?! But, honestly, when I write music and sing my songs I’m just myself, I’m not hiding behind a character. I’m raw and honest and I feel very naked. It’s much scarier to write my own songs and perform them then it is to play a character in a film, hence the lack of released material, but it’s also much more satisfying.
Q ~ You are also set to be in the new Maiia Gesner/Rick McLeod historical action film, The Rose in the Flame, what can you tell us about that and your character?
A ~ I don’t actually know too much about the project or my character yet. It is still in Pre-Production so I haven’t received any information yet. Otherwise, I’d love to talk about it! I am very excited to start production though.
Q ~ Frida, you have played many strong female characters from Jane in Contract Killers, Gretchen in Chrome Angels, and now Isobel in Apartment 407, how important is it for you to look for or write strong female characters in scripts, and what do you look for in a part?
A ~ I believe that all women are born strong. Therefore women should be portrayed as strong characters on screen. Women are unfortunately sometimes placed in situations, to no fault of their own, where their boundaries are snatched away from them. Whether it’s an abusive upbringing for example or abuse outside the home. So, their boundaries are blurry, and therefore their judgment later on in life could be slightly unbalanced. If you raise a woman with strong boundaries she will be a very strong woman in life. This is not to say that we can’t learn and implicate boundaries later on in life, it’ll just take more work to deprogram certain stigmas or treatments we may have accepted as our “normal” in the past. This is why, yes, it’s very important for me that I play strong female characters on screen. So, young girls can see those boundaries set, and behavior showcased.
Q ~ Besides all the projects discussed and your activism efforts, what can you tease our audience for what’s in store for you and Development Hell Pictures.
A ~ It’s hard to plan anything right now during COVID-19 but we’re hoping to produce a film in London later this year or perhaps early next year, depending on when productions open up again of course.
*** NOTE: If you or anyone you may know is in danger of sex-trafficking please call the
National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888 or visit: http:// humantraffickinghotline.org/