I plan on spending the rest of my life telling stories through the eye of the lens – stories about subjects that really matter in this world. I hope to shed light on difficult issues, to create dialogue, raise awareness, to inspire and to make a difference. I just can’t wait to tell the next story and the story after that, and the story after that.
Genna Chanelle Hayes wrote, directed and starred in Surviving Bug, a short film that follows a young teenager’s journey into homelessness after she is raped and left pregnant by her mother’s boyfriend. She is consequently kicked out of her home by her mother, with no option but to live on the streets. She eventually finds herself in a new relationship, with a partner who becomes increasingly violent, a common pattern for vulnerable individuals.
Genna is passionate about human rights and was inspired to make this film after learning about the ‘global feminisation of homelessness’. Her script highlights how sexual abuse and domestic violence are major factors contributing to homelessness in Australia, especially for women and children. Just ten minutes in length, the film explores how quickly unexpected events can escalate, causing a chain of actions and reactions, with the victim losing all sense of control. The film was backed and supported by Domestic Violence NSW and Homelessness NSW, and included local well-known actors, Zoe Carides and Martin Dingle Wall.
It was while travelling that Genna became alarmed by the pervasiveness of homelessness everywhere she went. It disturbed her to realise that globally there are over 100 million homeless people and that on any given night in Australia, 1 in every 200 people is homeless.[i] Research by Housing NSW indicates that domestic and family violence is a key cause of homelessness.
Through Surviving Bug, Genna’s aim was to create a likeable female character with whom the audience could identify, someone who became trapped in a dangerous situation: she could stay home and continue to suffer abuse at the hands of her partner or sleep rough on the streets. By creating this real and very raw film, Genna wants to raise awareness about the grim realities facing women who are in abusive relationships and the lack of options available to them. She hopes her audiences will come to understand the circumstances that can lead to homelessness and to empathise. She also wants to stimulate discussion on domestic violence and homelessness.
Genna is an American-trained actress, based in Sydney. She is best known for her work on Goodbye, Tiger, for which she received an Australian Screen Industry Network Best Actress Nomination, and she recently finished shooting the Australian horror film, Charlie’s Farm.
Genna is currently working on her next two films. Wurinyan is a love story set in modern-day Australia which hopes to help bridge the racial divide in our society (‘wurinyan’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘to love’). Iniquity is a feature film set in Cambodia, telling the monstrous story of human trafficking and virginity sales.
[i] Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011.