Rose Truelove's debut short film, Blood Warriors, is a statement against the silence and shame that surrounds menstruation.
1st January 2021 saw the UK finally remove tax from sanitary products. In celebration of this moment, we joyfully share with you Rose Truelove's "period drama", Blood Warriors (available to view on Sassy here). This short film brings to light those moments of teenage anxiety related to menstruation that too often travel with us into adulthood. Through her narrative, Truelove offers a rebellious cry of liberated female confidence; exploring the power of sisterly friendship within male-dominated environments. We asked Truelove to talk us through the motivations behind this project, learning how her feminist mindset fuels a determination to change the industry for the better.
What was your introduction to creativity growing up?
My mother was my first and constant force of inspiration. Creativity and self-expression were truly celebrated in our home and I was always encouraged to draw, paint, dance, or sing.
I’m amazed at how any mother manages to do it; to maintain even a shred of themselves whilst living completely for their children. My mother was a single parent, working as a cleaner and a nanny, studying for a Masters alongside bringing me up. It was tough but she was strong and never gave up on what she believed in.
My fondest memory of my mum was when she'd put music on in the front room and then dance, really big dancing with leg kicks and spins, and I would watch in awe. We would take regular trips to art galleries and museums, we weren't there just to spectate, we would discuss everything. I was taught to think critically and relate emotionally to the work or exhibit.
My mum introduced me to feminism, and feminist thinking very early on... it has always been a driving force in her work and naturally, mine has followed suit
My mum introduced me to feminism, and feminist thinking very early on. She is a true artist, published author, photographer, painter, and designer, and feminism has always been a driving force in her work and naturally, mine has followed suit. I would always have the honour of being the first to hear her short stories and poetry. My opinion was then encouraged, listened to, and most of all valued. More than anything my mum has taught me to be passionate. Passionate about art, love, politics, freedom, equality, and life.
I also must thank her for having such a great sense of humour because, on top of all that, she’s also very funny. If you want to read and see her work her name is Jo Mazelis aka Wonder Woman!
Could you tell us about your journey into filmmaking and the arts?
School was never really good for me and university didn’t seem to do it either. Being dyslexic, a bit weird and just wanting to be creative all day doesn't seem to fit these worlds.
I had a pretty wild time throughout my twenties having given up on the conventions of education and career opportunities, or maybe they gave up on me, who’s to know. At times life could resemble a scene from one of those super cool hedonistic films from the 90’s, hitchhiking through Spain and Portugal with a pet kitten, looking for the next party, or traveling from town to town with a makeshift circus busking along the way.
Arriving in Bristol, it felt like a hotbed for rebellion and creativity and I felt at the heart of it. Over the years I have lived in incredible all-female squats, putting on gigs, parties, film screenings, and feasts. We started an all-inclusive wonderfully queer performance art collective called The Red Rash Inn. It’s been ten years and we’re still performing together, breaking down taboos about sexuality and celebrating body positivity. Even though these were incredible times they could also be really tough. We lost friends along the way, never really had money or lived in one place for long, but we were doing what we loved.
I wouldn’t say I lost my way but I certainly took the long way round
I had got to a point where I wanted to become a full-time artist or filmmaker and needed to take myself seriously. It’s hard to know where to look when you’ve been living on the fringes for so long, you can’t just apply for a job in film. I was working as a carer, sometimes as a cleaner, and my confidence as an artist was pretty low. One day, I was in the loo of a cafe and I found myself staring at the poster that became the catalyst for my journey. It was about a short course for women trying to break into the film industry, ‘From Her POV’ - designed by women for women.
The course and the women behind it have completely changed my life and continue to do so. It was such a supportive learning environment. I think the difference was having that nurturing voice again. Working with a small group of supportive and talented women was exactly what I needed. The course was designed so that we could learn all the practical skills we needed while making a short film. None of it was theoretical or abstract or about writing dry academic essays and passing exams. Instead, it was inspiring and enabling. I left feeling confident and capable with new connections and a network of fellow female filmmakers. If you want to learn more about the amazing woman behind ‘From Her POV’ lookup Noomi Spook. Another woman with a great sense of humour.
What led you to create Blood Warriors and what did you learn from the experience?
My initial concept for the film was a faux documentary about an all female pre-teen BMX gang who wore these elaborate punk Elizabethan costumes. They rode around looking amazing and being badass! I wanted it to be about coming of age, the struggles that can come with that but then finding strength in friendship and female camaraderie. I hadn’t really developed a narrative to begin with. I was just transfixed by this vision. BMX was my bike of choice at the time and we were making all these mad costumes for our Red Rash shows, so it felt close to home. I would sometimes ride in costume to a show and it felt so amazing, incredibly empowering. You're doing something fun and dangerous and not dressing to fit anyone's conventions but your own.
I wanted us to be bold and daring, not afraid of taking on hard hitting subjects
We (From Her POV) worked collaboratively when writing the story, talking about our own experiences as women growing up and what that meant. I wanted to use the opportunity to address topics that would otherwise be overlooked in the mainstream media. I wanted us to be bold and daring, not afraid of taking on hard hitting subjects. Menstruation is something we shared, we all had our own story and different feelings about our bodies but this was something we could all relate to.
The trails and errors of bleeding on a monthly basis lends itself to comedy, drama, romance and horror. We put a call out on FB asking for funny, sad or embarrassing stories and compromising situations women have found themselves in because they were on their period; first day at work, coming on your blob with no trusty tampons in your bag.
My experience of working in an all female crew has never been matched. It was so freeing. We all listened to each other, made space, and encouraged one another. We were also predominantly taught by women so our role models understood our plight. There was no hierarchy or patriarchy, just pure creative flow! The film went on to be screened at The Encounters film festival and many others which is very impressive for first time filmmakers.
Why is it important to tell stories that challenge the stigma attached to menstruation?
It just has to be normalised… celebrated even. It’s not fair to feel shame for something that is completely natural and ultimately necessary for human life to continue. We each spent our early lives enveloped by a warm and cosy period. I’m so fed up of women having to feel ugly and vile while their beautiful natural bodies just do their thing.
It’s ridiculous that unless we go through the rigmarole of plucking, pinching, squeezing and shaving our bodies we’re never good enough.
Even if we managed to lift the stigma attached to menstruation it would still be tough, it can always get messy and be painful. So why make it even harder? Young women and girls have enough on their plate without having to feel shame. Shame is a feeling that should be reserved for when you have done something wrong, not for when you are experiencing something perfectly natural. Apart from anything else we need to decide how we feel about it free of judgement. If we want to feel embarrassed we can, if we want to celebrate it we can, if we want to sing about it from the rooftops, paint pictures with our blood... we can! We should not be punished or made to feel shame or guilt. It’s our story to tell and we get to decide how to tell it!
How have you responded to the events of this year in regards to your creative flow and the BLM uprising?
I had been fortunate enough to be working throughout the year going from one film to the next. I now predominantly work in the art dept which has its pros and cons. Still underpaid and overworked, but at least I’m being challenged creatively every day.
The BLM movement has been incredibly influential in my practice and my sense of self. It was a massive wake up call. I realised how complacent and comfortable I had become, satisfied with myself, feeling it was enough to ‘not be racist’ This year I have realised that is not enough, I must be actively anti-racist if I am to be part of the change. I'm reading books about race and white privilege. I scrutinise and deconstruct how and why I may think in certain ways. I look at what I may take for granted and I am constantly learning and unlearning.
Even with a liberal upbringing and an open mind, there is still so much to be learned.
The protagonists in Blood Warriors are three white girls and therefore it is a predominantly white narrative and the main bully is played by a Black actor which does have heavy implications, historically, but my intentions or motivations were never to imply that narrative. Originally, in the early days of making the film, I had always wanted diversity and better representation. We cast our nets very wide when looking for the three main actors and supporting actors. We looked in unconventional places, after-school clubs and football squads, and had one day for auditions. I was looking for untrained actors that had a real spark. The cast were incredible considering they had little to no training. On reflection maybe we could have tried harder to reach out further.
I now put diversity and representation at the forefront of my practice and my way of thinking. I’ve always wanted to tell the stories that would otherwise go unheard but I'm also aware that the Black experience isn’t my story to tell. This year I have learned when to be quiet and when to listen.
What does the future look like for you?
There are still massive disparities when it comes to representation in the film industry. We have seen dramatic and beautiful change but there’s still so much more to be done. I may have broken the ceiling but there are still too many dinosaurs and cobwebs in the attic.
The world of film is still dominated by white men and its boring. Diversity is imperative to the art of cinema staying alive. I want to make this my mission to be part of the change.
I’d love to create a platform/ production company or collective especially for filmmakers who don’t fit the current status quo and strive to tell the alternative narrative. A supportive and inclusive space where talented people can share their skills and make amazing cinema! I’ve got more films up my sleeves… queer sci-fi mainly. And I know there are so many stories out there that need to be told. Despite everything, I’m feeling really enthusiastic about the future.I know it's been incredibly tough and didn't resemble anything we could call normal. But I feel like this year could be the year of the underdog!!
If you like what you hear and are interested in collaborating on a project, get in touch with Rosa via email at email@example.com
Check out more of Rosa Truelove's work on her website