“When Kids Grow Up”: Interviewing Writer/Actress Marissa Labog

I think we often underestimate how prominent media is in our lives. Growing up, and even as adults, we learn so many of our lessons not from home and school, but from the media that we’re consuming. And what’s truly fascinating about this is that we often don’t realize how much it’s affecting us. But when we’re bombarded with certain ideas or images frequently, especially when we lack context, all of a sudden things that are unacceptable become tolerable. Violence is a prime example of this. But an upcoming series, When Kids Grow Up, is taking a new stance on the subject. And let me tell you, it’s definitely a must-watch.

When Kids Grow Up follows a seemingly defenseless young woman named Mackenzie. But when she is brutally attacked, she reveals her true intent, something much darker than you might expect. The first episode of the series is available to stream now on Vimeo, and you can watch it for yourself down below. And honestly, I really encourage you to do so. It is without a doubt one of the most powerful shorts I have ever seen.

When Kids Grow Up from Marissa Labog on Vimeo.

Directed by Shahaub Roudbari
Written by and Starring Marissa Labog
Cinematography by Michael Street
Produced by Jennilyn Benedicto and Marissa Labog

This series has an ‘M’ or ‘Mature’ rating, and it’s there for a reason. The first episode is viciously violent, and quite frankly, it’s frightening. The first few shots set the tone for When Kids Grow Up. Every choice from the directing to the music, the acting to the script itself are all so powerful on their own, but combined together they create this suspense that has you both on the edge of your seat and looking over your shoulder within seconds.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this series before, and we’re only one episode in. In just ten short minutes, When Kids Grow Up conveys so much truth. I had the pleasure of interviewing writer/lead actress Marissa Labog about working on and creating this project, and a little about what we can expect to take away from the series. Her passion for the subject matter is inspiring, and she poses some excellent questions for audiences to think about.

Maggie Stancu: How did you discover the idea for the short?

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Cinematography & Still Imagery by Michael Street

Marissa Labog: “There was a story about a woman in Cuidad Juarez who was walking onto to buses and shooting the bus driver. In this particular town, bus drivers were taking lone women on their buses to an isolated location, raping, and killing them. According to the story, officials were not taking action to stop these heinous crimes, and at times, were alluding to the fact that perhaps it was the female’s fault for being there alone, wearing what she was wearing, etc… As a result, a woman dressed in a blond wig and a cap took it upon herself to take care of the situation. Some people saw her as a hero and others saw her as a monster. I was drawn to this narrative for a multitude of reasons: Who was she? What was her life like to make her take such measures? Is murder under certain situations justifiable? Why is there a debate and public uproar about her actions but not a discussion of why these men did what they did? Is that debate based social constructs and roles we perceive men and women to take? Would there be the same amount of debate if the vigilante was male? When Kids Grow Up is inspired by this story.”

M.S: When we see violence in film and television, it is so often against women. In many ways it’s become a norm, an expectation. Do you think it’s important for audiences to see the tables turn?

M.L: “The intention behind When Kids Grow Up is to open the conversation around all people’s relationship to violence. The short is not an answer to the norm, or the assumed norm, but rather provides a unique angle on violence within a specific group of characters. While race and gender are easily identifiable, other key labels such as sexual orientation and socio-economic status of these individuals are not clear in the first short. Lines are crossed — some identifiable, others to be explored in future episodes.”

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Cinematography & Still Imagery by Michael Street

“However, I do think it is important to acknowledge that violence is not arbitrary. Unfortunately, much of the violence against women in entertainment is to denote a typically male character’s personality or set a tone for a series or film. In these situations, the violence itself is not addressed and overlooked. Many of the women receiving violent action have no names, no character development. Scenes like this provide permission for audiences to forget that these bodies — or stunt doubles — represent actual human lives, actual people who are brutally attacked and promptly left behind. This imagery supports the stereotypical views around violence towards females, thus accepting these patterns as truths.”

M.S: Was this project something you knew immediately that you had to pursue, or something that evolved over time?

M.L: “I am drawn to the subject matter of violence, which unfortunately usually means sexual violence for women. It is such a complex impulse that I believe is a primal instinct housed within our DNA. However, what makes a monster? What drives individuals to the point of unspeakable violence? Does consistent exposure to violence create this frame of mind? How does the social construct of gender come into play? Is there a way to stop the cycle of violence? Is there a point where violence against violence is justified?”

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Cinematography & Still Imagery by Michael Street

“As a martial artist and a stuntwoman, I am trained in the study of combat. Based on my experience embodying violent characters, I have been forced to explore aggressive, human instinct. In some roles, I am directed to listen to these primal impulses, yet in other situations, I am required to forcefully hold back physical violence. These combined experiences have provided an opportunity for me to learn about individuals’ multi-dimensional relationship to violence. The more I explore the dynamic, distorted views of physical force, stories like When Kids Grow Up evolve.”

M.S: What would you say you would most like audiences to take away from this short?

M.L: “People ignite action. Therefore, violence comes from within us. Given a specific circumstance, everyone has the potential to be a monster.”

Marissa isn’t afraid to delve into quite controversial and frightening topics, going to the places emotionally and physically she needs to as both a writer and an actress. When Kids Grow Up forces us to look at our society and the way it often glamorizes violence. This makes us see it for what it is, as well as offering a level of introspection. By asking ourselves the questions that Marissa has posed, we can really start to expand and solidify our ideas of right and wrong. We become more attune to what the media shows us and what we choose to take away from it. We become less apathetic and more empathetic.

When Kids Grow Up not only opens up a conversation to an important topic but also is giving audiences an incredibly addictive new series to watch. I am truly blown away by every aspect of this series already, and am both intrigued and excited for the episodes to come. If you, like me, can’t wait to see what happens next, be sure to follow UP Productionz on social media as well as check out their website to be the first to hear about future episodes!

Website — www.upproductionz.com

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/upproductionz/

Twitter — https://twitter.com/UPproductionz

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/upproductionz

As always, thanks for reading, and a massive thank you to Marissa and UP Productionz for speaking with me!

Sincerely, Fiction’s Mistress

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