Why Didn't I Leave?

Created by a crew of 19 womxn, "Why Didn't I Leave?" challenges the stigma behind that very question - one which places blame on victims of abuse, rather than holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

This short documentary explores some of the less recognizable forms of abuse (also known as intimate partner violence), along with the overwhelming barriers many survivors face when trying to escape.

And, as the statistics show, COVID has made escaping abuse even more difficult for survivors, and has put them in increased danger.

As the inaugural project from Hamilton LOFT, "Why Didn't I Leave?" also highlights the work of SACHA - a local organization in Hamilton, ON - who works to support survivors in the local community.

  • Emily Schooley
    Director
  • Emily Schooley
    Writer
  • Laura Ellis
    Writer
  • Jennifer Walton
    Writer
  • Paula Grove
    Writer
  • Laura Ellis
    Producer
  • Alysha Main
    Producer
  • Marianne Daly
    Key Cast
    "as herself"
  • Jessica Wilson
    Key Cast
    "as herself"
  • Jessica Bonilla-Damptey
    Key Cast
    "as herself"
  • Miranda Jurilj
    Key Cast
    "as herself"
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Factual, Documentary, Canadian Film, Women, Women Filmmakers, Made by Women
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 36 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 7, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    Canada
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada
  • Language:
    English
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Hamilton Film Festival
    Hamilton
    Canada
    November 14, 2021
    Hamilton Premiere
Director Biography - Emily Schooley

Emily Schooley is an award-winning actor, emerging filmmaker, and badass creative changemaker working to build a kinder and more inclusive world.

Emily's previous short films as writer/director/producer - Psyche, and Life and the Art of Lying - have both been recognized with festival awards, the latter also being included on CFMDC’s 2019 Queer Compilation. Her work has screened internationally, including festivals in the US, UK, Europe, Africa, and China.

Emily has also been invited to lead guest workshops and lectures within North America, on the practices of independent filmmaking and performance. She has appeared as an on-camera expert in several documentaries, including A Big Set of Lungs (examining the horror genre) and MeAfterToo (discussing the MeToo movement). In 2020, Emily was selected as one of just 100 women from across Canada to be part of the Banff World Media Festival's inaugural cohort for Banff Spark - a development accelerator for women in media.

Emily is also the founder of Laughing Cat Productions, a Toronto-based production company that focuses on telling bold, intelligent, and entertaining women-led stories.

Outside of her creative projects, Emily is an activist and animal enthusiast. She strongly supports gender equality and women escaping abusive situations, is an avid watchdog against police misconduct, and frequently speaks out for LGBTQ rights and equity-focused representation in media. She also fosters rescue cats with Team Cat Rescue, an organization that focuses on saving animals from high-kill shelters.

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Director Statement

"Why Didn't I Leave?" is a singular film for so many reasons.

As a director, this project was my first foray into creating documentary work. As a survivor of abuse, this is also a project about subject matter that has deep personal relevance to me, especially as I continue on my own healing journey.

And while it is not my place (nor anyone's) to tell someone else's stories in detail without their consent... I will acknowledge that I was not the only person involved in creating this film who has lived experiences of abuse, and of surviving abusive partners.

Notably, making "Why Didn't I Leave?" marks the first time I have ever been blessed to work with an all-female crew. It also happens to be the first project I've EVER worked on where I was asked by producers and crew members if I "needed any support", and "what could others to do help share the workload or make my job easier". With the overall budget we had for the project, everyone was paid as fairly as they could be for their labour. We had reasonable working hours on filming days, and we were able to accommodate schedules for things like childcare needs. On set, we worked hard to create a culture of communication and consent, and intentionally fostered a safe and supportive space where the emerging talent on the crew could also learn new skills. Despite filming during the pandemic, we were also supported with healthy meals and sets that were safe overall.

It's no coincidence that this 'culture of care' happened on a project that was created by an all-women crew.

Gushing about my crew members aside, our technical and creative processes similarly reflected our ability to work together well: due to several factors, we had a block of just five filming days over two concurrent weeks in September/October 2021, wherein we conducted all of our in-person interviews as well as needing to anticipate AND shoot all of our b-roll footage at the same time as filming the interviews. (Honestly, we shot enough interview content that this film could have potentially become a full feature...)

To be frank, we could have interviewed hundreds if not thousands of survivors for this project, each one with a haunting story to tell. Discussions of abusive cycles and how to break them easily could be an entire Netflix series, too. (Maybe some day it will be.)

Now, as you go to watch the film - or if you're back down here after watching - what I will say is this:

In making this film, myself and all of LOFT are infinitely grateful to Marianne Daly, who was brave and generous enough to be able to share her own story on camera.

Sadly, her own life experiences reflect the reality of many other survivors, some of whom won't recognize or acknowledge the more subtle signs of abuse until others affirm their reality. It really is the first step in getting away from abuse and moving toward healing.

Or, as Marianne so gracefully puts it: "I believe in the power of story... and sharing our stories [in order to create positive change]."

Also, in making this film, we are deeply grateful to Jessica and Miranda from SACHA, and Jess Wilson, for sharing their time, expertise and important missions and milestones with us. (We also hope you all work yourselves out of jobs one day!). And, for the same, thank you to Amy and Paula. We're also grateful to the talent who stepped in to support with creating b-roll content, and we're grateful to the film's sponsors and supporters for their assistance in getting this production made smoothly.

Even though the subject matter itself is heavy, I will also share that from the creative side, this has hands-down been my favourite "group project" I've ever worked on, with so much love and support going in to making this.