Gina is a writer and director from Wisconsin who tells partly true stories about troublesome women.
Her screenplay, A Bridge Between Us, received SFFILM’s 2019 Sloan Filmmaker Fellowship and was a finalist for TFI’s Sloan Grand Jury Prize, amongst other accolades. Her work has screened at Palm Springs ShortFest, New Orleans Film Festival, and Provincetown Film Festival.
Gina earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard before completing her MFA in Screenwriting and Directing at Columbia, where she received the Alex Sichel Memorial Fellowship and the Lisa Rubin Teleplay Award. She manages the Print Traffic department at Telluride Film Festival each summer and is based in Los Angeles. ginahackett.com
With Beauty Marks, I sought to texturize a formative day in the life of a young girl just learning to see the ways in which men leave marks on women, both literally and metaphorically. When I was about twelve, I met a girl my age in a summer school babysitting class. As we practiced burping baby dolls, I noticed that this girl had small, round burn marks up and down her arms. When I asked how she got them, she told me that her father regularly burned her with cigarettes.
What sticks with me to this day is the way this girl seemed to wear these burns as badges of honor, to be proud of them, even a little defensive of the father that had abused her. As a sheltered young girl with no relationship to violence or sexuality, I was shocked and bewildered. Should I believe this girl? Or could this be an elaborate story to explain a flaw that made her feel ugly?
Now, imagine I had just left my mother with this girl’s father. This is the situation in which our protagonist, Ritchie, finds herself halfway through the film. Her dilemma is not merely whether to believe this girl, but also whether to see her own mother’s vulnerability.
A common theme in my work is the loss of innocence. I can recall the moment I met the strange girl with burns on her arms with clarity from which few other moments in my childhood benefit, and I believe this is because it marked the day I became aware of the ways in which women and girls suffer at the hands of men. Owing to this important theme, I chose to construct the story over the course of a single afternoon at a roadside motel where fleeting interactions between men and women are commonplace. The conflicting textures of skin on skin, burn marks, smoldering cigarettes, wet hair, and stained bedsheets were all ones that crystallized that loss of innocence for me, and which lent themselves to impressionistic closeups and surreal, imagined moments constructed in the edit. They also demanded 16mm film, which I believe enhanced these textures and dreamy cuts.
I don’t know what happened to that girl I met in the summer of my twelfth year. Perhaps she was indeed lying. But I’m inclined now to believe that she was telling me the truth, and not simply because I can’t understand where else those burns could’ve come from. No, unfortunately I believe her because after fifteen more years of living, I don’t find her story all that surprising anymore.