Indie Film Spotlight – Trinity
Recently I got the chance to talk to filmmaker Skip Shea about his first feature-length film, Trinity. Trinity is a film based on a true story, and the synopsis describes it as follows: “Trinity is based on a true story about a moment in the life of a clergy abuse survivor. The moment when, as an adult, he bumps into his abuser in a coffee shop sending him on a wild surreal PTSD dissociative moment that brings him through his past and fears until he is once again face-to-face with his abuser. It is based on that moment in my life. I am that survivor of clergy sexual abuse.”
Trinity is a film into which Skip pours raw and visceral emotion in order to convey the real-life dissociation felt by anyone who has dealt with abuse. In fact, the whole film is an exercise in giving a voice to the abused and showing what it’s like to have the opportunity to confront your abuser. During the interview with Skip, I brought up the fact that in the scene where Michael (played incredibly well by the talented Sean Carmichael) confronts his abuser Father Tom (played masterfully by David Graziano) there was no physical violence. As someone watching this unfold, I wasn’t completely sure why Michael didn’t resort to violence, but Skip explained it to me.
When you’ve experienced abuse, you dissociate yourself from what’s happened and you may not even remember things completely correctly. So if you do come into a situation where you have the opportunity to confront your abuser, it may not even end up with an angry outburst because you dissociate yourself from the situation entirely so you may not even have emotions attached to the event. This wasn’t something I had even considered, because the first thing I would have done is lash out physically, but I haven’t experienced any situation that would result in dissociation so I couldn’t comprehend that mindset. It’s something that is deeply emotional and deeply poignant to survivors of abuse, and I think Skip really conveys this in this film.
There is some really great dialogue in this film, and Carmichael’s acting really lets you see into the depths of the human psyche and its ability to overcome trauma. The cinematography is brilliant and the storytelling is phenomenal. The combination of the visual and verbal exposition really allows you into the mind of our protagonist and get even more invested in his journey. There is a lot of strange imagery throughout the film, but it is explained afterward in a very satisfying way. There are several scenes that can be confusing, but I think this is done with the purpose of really getting you immersed in Michael’s state of mind.
I want to take a moment to compliment some of the actors who made this film really enjoyable. Aurora Grabill does a great job as the angel, essentially the existential spirit of suicide showing up to occasionally converse with Michael, asking “Do you need me now?” several times. The entire cast was great and nailed their roles, from Izzy Lee and Tiziana Guarini as the tarot card readers, to Diana Porter as Michael’s sister Sam, to Jennifer Gjulameti as the Spirit Guide.
I didn’t read the synopsis before watching the film, but I did afterward and it really put things into perspective for me. It became more real. It wasn’t just a movie anymore, it was real. Finding out that it was a real story and not just a well-crafted work of fiction made the emotional impact that much more forceful.
Skip Shea is an excellent filmmaker who refuses to compromise his visions for his films because of how important his message is, and the heart and soul he pours into his art. He’ll also be quick to tell you that his films benefit from the talented actors and crew who accompany him on his artistic forays and that he is eternally grateful to work with such amazing people.
You can follow Skip on Vimeo to see some of his other shorts, on Twitter @skipshea2, check out his appearance on the Throwdown Thursday Podcast Episode 153 and be sure to keep up to date with his work on his website for all the latest announcements for his projects, including the ever-growing Shauna Shea Memorial Film Festival, featuring films from all over the world making their debut. If you’re in the Boston area on June 1st, Trinity will be playing at the Coolidge Corner Theater’s “After Midnite” slot that evening, so it’s a great chance to check it out.