“There is no such thing as a perfect victim, or a big monster”

Producer Imogen Banks says SBS drama Safe Home will drive home the point that we may know both victims and perpetrators of family violence.

It’s certainly not easy to make a TV drama about family violence and expect people to watch it as executive producer Imogen Banks explains.

“It’s difficult to craft a story that is… I hate to say, ‘entertaining’, because that sounds that sounds flippant…” she says.

“But obviously, if you’re making television for an audience you have to consider what the experience is for them.”

She’s hoping new SBS drama Safe Home, starring Aisha Dee, has struck the right balance of keeping viewers hooked while still tackling a confronting, socially important subject.

Safe Home is the first project of her recently founded Kindling Pictures, which has a company philosophy of ‘sparking ideas and igniting careers.’ When emerging writer Anna Barnes brought her the concept it proved to be a perfect launch project.

“Anna had just found his way in, because she’d worked in the sector she knows it. I think what she was wanting to do with it was to really explode myths and talk about the way that we tell stories about it. That just seemed a fantastic angle to me,” she explains.

“I mean you get pitched projects in these areas, but it’s really difficult to make a show with family violence at the centre, that people want to watch.

“It’s got a thriller element”

“It’s got a thriller element that is an attractive component to it, … but again, we didn’t want to be hyperbolic about that either. You’re talking about lives. But that does sort of pull you through.

“The fact that the lead character is an outsider who, for want of a better word is an analyst. She’s there to craft stories for the media, and to look at the subjects with a slightly removed glance.”

The series stars Aisha Dee (The Bold Type) as Phoebe, a twenty-something professional who leaves her job at a prominent law firm to work at a struggling family violence legal centre. As interconnecting stories unfold, relationships are tested and the pressure mounts to save the centre.

“We have a lot of lived experience in the writers’ room, which was fantastic, just in terms of keeping us on track with the complexities of stories, and the reality of it all. So much of this also was about the people who work in that sector, who show up day after day, and deal with these issues in the long run.”

“Family violence is an issue that strikes everybody”

The series was filmed in Melbourne and sticks to legal language pertinent to Victoria, which refers to family violence while other states opt for the term ‘domestic violence.’

“Family violence is an issue that strikes everybody. It’s not just a binary, gendered male / female thing. It is primarily though. So overwhelmingly, we decided to focus on male / females gendered violence, but also we wanted to be clear that it’s across all communities. Primarily men killing women,” Banks states.

Episodes also feature a B-plot, which in Episode One sees Janet Andrewartha (Neighbours) as Diana, a rural grandmother terrified by her controlling husband. This is part of the show’s intent to debunk myths that all victims and perpetrators are so visible to us all.

“So many of these incidents are quiet. Just disruptions of somebody’s agency,” she continues.

“Obviously, every situation is complex and different, but there are similarities across the board. In a situation like the one that we show with Diana , she’s been chipped away at over the years and just lost her sense of self and agency.

“These are people that we know and we live with”

“What I want people to take away is the understanding, that there is no such thing as, you know, a perfect victim, or a big monster. These are people that we know and we live with, who are in our lives and people that we love -both victims and perpetrators.

“We need to, as a culture, be looking at the reality of this. It’s such an epidemic, and we need to start allowing ourselves to recognise these people in our lives, or in ourselves, and understand the complexity and the subtlety of what these things mean. When we’re talking about systems abuse, or coercive control, love bombing… when we’re talking about any of these things that chip away at somebody’s autonomy, we know what they are. We can recognise them when they happen to us or when we do that to other people.”

Safe Home which also features Mabel Li, Virginia Gay and Thomas Cocquerel, sees Stevie Cruz-Martin (The Tailings, Pulse) directing her first major TV series, is the first series for Director of Photography Kieran Fowler and editor Melanie Annan, and the first commission for SBS Head of Scripted, Julie Eckersley.

For Banks, whose credits include Tangle, Offspring, Puberty Blues, RFDS, Safe Home represents a strong statement that Kindling Pictures has arrived.

“It was a beautifully, focussed creative team and a great experience.”

Safe Home double episode screens 8:30pm Thursday on SBS.

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