The “Jenn” in Tracy Schott’s documentary is Jennifer Snyder. In 2011, she was murdered by the father of her unborn child. When Jenn’s aunt Trina called Tracy to ask her to make a movie about Jenn, Tracy shook her head. As a commercial film producer she is too often requested to make a movie about someone’s life story.
But Jenn’s story is different. It’s not so much about the brutal murder of Jennifer Snyder, as it is about an alarming statistic: the number one cause of death among pregnant women is murder.
After Trina contacted her, Tracy did a little research. Although she was dubious about the story’s importance, she Googled “homicide and pregnancy” and was shocked to learn the above statistic. How could that be true, she wondered. And more importantly: what could she do about it.
Before becoming a film producer, Tracy was a Social Worker. She left that field because she knew she could make a bigger impact elsewhere. Her training though, the fortuitous call from a friend, and her subsequent quick research on the subject led Tracy to a logical conclusion. Finding Jenn’s Voice is the film that was waiting for her.
She started doing deeper research and learned how preventable intimate partner violence (IPV) is if we are educated about it. She knew that Finding Jenn’s Voice would be the perfect vehicle for education. She’s been passionately working on it since then.
I spoke to Tracy a year ago about the project. Now that’s she’s in the midst of a fundraising campaign to finish the film, I thought it’d be good to check in on her. I stopped by her office in the Goggleworks of Reading, Pennsylvania for a chat.
Sue Lange: The last time we talked you had interviewed Jenn’s family, a number of the law enforcement officers who had dealt with the case, and a few experts in the field of IPV. Where are you at in the process now?
Tracy Schott: We’re about half done with shooting. Then, of course we’ll have about 100 hours of footage to edit.
SL: Wow, that’s a lot. I remember you were trying to talk to David Rapoport’s ex-wife (David Rapoport is the murderer.). Were you able to do that?
TS: No, she has not responded to our requests. And frankly, she too, was a victim of her husband’s coercion and control, and I feel that it’s important to respect her desire for privacy.
SL: I agree. So let’s talk about your process. The new trailer you’ve put together is fantastic. And I noticed you added interviews with more experts on IPV. Now you’ve been reaching out to survivors. What have their stories been like?
TS: I’ve talked to over 30 survivors of attempted murder, many of whom were pregnant at the time. These were all women who contacted me after the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence posted information about my project. These women have had unbelievably harrowing experiences. And they are all incredibly strong. They want to tell their stories. They want to help other people that may find themselves in similar situations.
SL: How will their stories help?
TS: Each one of these women is unique—their scenarios are all different in terms of specific events, murder weapon, location and such—but there are strong commonalities.
SL: Such as?
TS: Each of the survivors I spoke with described the perpetrators as charming and likeable. One woman felt like she’d “hit the lottery” because he was so perfect. But eventually, these men became intensely jealous many resorting to stalking and monitoring the women’s activities. They were very controlling, financially, about what the women could wear, who they could see, and their communication with friends and family. All described how they became isolated so that when the abuse escalated or they realized that the relationship was dangerous, they had nowhere to turn. If we can educate women about these red flags in relationships, I do believe we change the outcomes.
SL: So how will this film do that? How will it have an impact?
TS: In addition to the normal distribution channels—film festivals, online distribution, and possibly television—we plan to directly distribute to college campuses. I hope to travel and do talks along with the film. We want to educate women, especially when they’re young. And men. One in four women, and one in six men, will find themselves in an abusive relationship. It’s important for people to start talking about this. It’s surprising and disconcerting how uncomfortable people are with this topic. That needs to change.
SL: Yes. You need to get this film out there. It will be a starting point for the conversation. So how is the fundraising at Seed & Spark going?
TS: Seed & Spark is an amazing crowdfunding platform. There are a lot of platforms out there, but Seed & Spark is the best for our purposes.
SL: Why’s that?
TS: They only do film and it is curated.
SL: I saw that at their website. In fact I posted about that at my blog. I think curation is so important these days with anything, but it’s especially helpful here. We may want to support a project that we know nothing about. If the project makes it to Seed & Spark, at least it’s been vetted.
TS: Also Seed & Spark is woman-run. And they are extremely supportive.
SL: Those two things might go hand in hand.
TS: Maybe. All I know is that within an hour of my launch, I had three donations from Seed & Spark staff. The first one was from the executive director. They know how important it is to have something in the pot right away. They also tweet my project every day. Crowdfunding is about getting the word out on the Internet. Facebook and Twitter are key.
SL: I know you’re looking for funds mostly because you’ve still got shooting to do. Why is that so expensive?
TS: We’ve still got to fly to where the interviews are going to take place. We’re scheduled to be finished on October 10th, but I’ve got about a dozen survivors to shoot yet. They’re located all over the country. One is in the U.K. We might not be able to get to that one. The final shoot is going to be a group interview with as many of the survivors as we can get together.
SL: Where are you going to do that?
TS: I think right here in my office.
SL: Perfect. It’s so comfortable here and conducive to conversation. I look forward to seeing that on the screen. Good luck with all of it especially the crowdfunding. With the funds, you can make all the rest of that happen. Thanks for talking to me about this crucial project.
TS: Thank you for your support and getting the word out about the film!
Tracy Schott is in the process of raising funds to complete Finding Jenn’s Voice. She needs $50,000 to conduct the final interviews and get through post-production. Please help.