'Trying' short film offers a powerful glimpse of one woman's fertility journey
Over 180 million women experience fertility challenges around the world, and while each story is different, the struggles and emotions are often universal.
The new short film Trying tells the story of a woman determined to have a child in the face of infertility and captures the obsession to get the one thing that she can’t have. It's co-written and directed by Milwaukee native Emily Alpren, who's one of two women directors featured in the Milwaukee Film Festival program “Shorts: Stories We Tell.”
It's a story close to Alpren and her friend Abby Wathen, who not only stars in the film but wrote it alongside Alpren. "[Abby] shared with me her story of infertility and she said, 'I have a script can I send it to you?' And it was heartbreaking in part because it was Abby, and in part because I learned she was not alone ... and it just felt like a story that needed to be told," says Alpren.
While she admits a film about one person's struggle with fertility is a hard subject, Alpren says they wanted to make a "watchable but also honest film." It includes moments of humor, levity and even includes actual footage of Wathen's parents when she first told them she was pregnant, along with other moments recreated from her actual experiences.
"Part of this was healing for Abby, and I don't think she ever imagined it growing to the scope that it grew into. I think in part this was an exercise in moving through a traumatic experience," says Alpren.
Wathen originated the first act of the short with the theme and simple dialogue of: "Here I am trying to get pregnant," according to Alpren. Trying keeps this simple but powerful format of mainly visuals with only a few key phrases that indicate when the character knows something is wrong, and trying to convince themselves that things are alright.
"We don't need language here, we need the voice in your head that's comforting yourself ... It felt really important to me to keep it sparse," notes Alpren.
She hopes the film can connect with others who share similar experiences, and perhaps help them recognize the significance of struggling with infertility.
"I think there's a lot of processing that women don't go through. I think there's a lot of shame attached to the perceived failure to conceive," Alpren notes.
She says this film originally stared as Wathen's healing journey, but as it has turned into a collective healing for the audience.
"What's been really the most meaningful part of making this film and taking it on the road is the conversations that continue after the Q&A's," says Alpren. "Women approaching me in the bathroom saying that they saw their story told on film and that they never told anyone before, and now they want to talk about it. That's healing, and that just feels so important and really everything that we wanted," says Alpren.
Plus, as a Milwaukee native, she says "it means everything" to show the short at the Milwaukee Film Festival. "I grew up at the Oriental and at the Downer, the Old Prospect, and playing at the Oriental — the most beautiful theater in the world in my opinion — is a dream come true," says Alpren.
Trying premiered at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival and you can see it tonight at 7pm at the Oriental Theater as a part of the Shorts: Stories We Tell program. Director Emily Alpren will be at the screening for a Q&A afterwards.