Say My Name has an inspiring message at its core. It includes some very strong ideas, along with excellent creative visualisation, and the camerawork and editing are of a high standard. The bridge shot in particular is very unique. The flash sequence – involving the father’s drinking – is very engaging. The sense of sadness is distinct, and we can really relate to how the little girl is feeling.

The script…paints an emotional picture of society seen through the eyes of a survivor of abuse. Say My Name is certainly worthy of serious consideration, not least for the quality of its visuals and sound.

London Global Film Awards (2023) where Say My Name was Nominee for Best Short Film

Captivates, challenges and inspires change

“Say My Name” is a profoundly moving and unflinchingly honest short film that dares to delve into the darkest corners of human experience while shining a light on the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Directed with unparalleled passion by Rhoyce Nova, this film is a testament to the power of storytelling to captivate, challenge, and inspire change.

The film immerses you in the harrowing world of Mel, a young woman who has endured unspeakable horrors at the hands of her own family and society. Her resilience, her unwavering determination to find hope in the face of unimaginable adversity, is both heart-wrenching and inspirational.

The lead performance, delivered with raw emotion and vulnerability, is a tour de force. The portrayal of Mel is fantastic, capturing the depths of her trauma, her resilience, and her relentless pursuit of a better life. It’s a performance that will leave you breathless and in awe of Quinn Alice’s talent.

Best Damn Film Awards (2023) where Say My Name has been named top 5 films in Season 3, and won Best International Film and Best Drama

“leaves a lasting impression”

“Say My Name” is a short film that packs a powerful punch in its brief duration, leaving a profound and lasting impact on its audience. Directed by Rhoyce Nova and driven by an outstanding performance from lead actress Quinn, this film is an intense and emotionally charged exploration of identity.

From the very first frame, it’s clear that “Say My Name” is a cinematic journey into the depths of raw emotion and provocative storytelling. Rhoyce Nova’s direction skillfully combines edgy with a fearless exploration of intense themes.

The screenplay, crafted by Rhoyce Nova and Mel Baker, is wonderful. It weaves a narrative that not only captivates but challenges the audience to think deeply.

Quinn’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. Her ability to convey a wide range of emotions, from vulnerability to fierce determination, is nothing less than mesmerizing.

“Say My Name” excels in its unapologetic authenticity. It fearlessly explores taboo subjects, challenges societal norms, and inspires change by simply telling a story that is honest, raw, and profoundly moving.

In its short runtime, “Say My Name” accomplishes what many feature-length films struggle to achieve—it ignites powerful conversations and leaves a lasting impression on its viewers. The power of the short films!

Robinson Film Awards (2023) where we won Best Screenplay

“Say My Name” is another necessary film on a multitude of levels

First, the Recap:

Humiliation, self-adjudged guilt, and the burden of lingering inner torment. Having to confront the demons of our past, especially when these specters were due to circumstances we were an indisputably involuntary victim of, there is still that sense of fault we tend to assign to ourselves as a means to either cope or NOT cope with the aftermath of it all. But, how much more does this get compounded when further choices we’ve made since also put us in the crosshairs of forced scrutiny, relentless ridicule, and pure unsympathetic hate? Mel (Quinn) may now be a beautiful young woman, but her life is anything but settled. Immeasurably haunted by an excruciating, horrifying reality she experienced as a child at the hands of her apathetic, emotionally derelict father (James Ryan) and his friends, Mel’s only true joy is her partner Liz (Jarrah Webster). Struggling to actually contend with the overwhelming weight of everything, it isn’t clear whether Mel can find the means to overcome her agony and find that elusive angel she desperately seeks–hope.

Next, my Mind:

Let’s be candid. Having to admit that ANY form of malicious machinations or actions involving abuse of children even EXISTS is a hard enough actuality to entertain, much less that not only ARE such incidents all too real, but they seem to be happening with more and more impunity as time passes, making it MORE gut-wrenching to swallow. Combine this now with the ever-present controversy that surrounds how people choose to view the LGBTQIA+ community, and it sounds like a recipe for massive social conflict and subsequent cries for CHANGE in order that the former be utterly eliminated from the Earth and the latter be better understood through eyes of GENUINE love and acceptance, no matter WHAT you believe about it. This might sound quite drastic, but for this critic, these are precisely the baseline concepts being explored through this keenly affecting, eerily jarring, yet beautifully, impactfully orchestrated, awareness-raising 13-minute short film from writer/director Rhoyce Nova and writer/producer Mel Baker.

Decidedly not a trip through the proverbial rose garden, the narrative sees a young woman wholly broken and mostly abandoned trying to survive on the streets of Sydney, Australia while fleeing from the demons chasing her from a past of violation and the dogged monster of shame which now clings mercilessly to her soul. Yet, in defiance of this, she’s actually attempting to do GOOD and discover HOPE in life, making it both a blatantly tragic yet undeniably inspiring tale. Told in present tense and through creatively executed, visually subtle, but overtly disturbing flashbacks that cement, no BURN, into your mind the traumatic terrors of this character’s childhood, the sheer ugliness, remorseless, immorality, and damaging effects of what’s alluded to and addressed just shakes you as the viewer to the core. However, the total authenticity of what we see only increases the depth of compelling influence this effort conveys, basically forcing you to SEE the darkness portrayed and realize how much more we NEED to be better able to combat these atrocities and aid those who’ve experienced it.

BUT, what I then appreciate and admire about the film even more is that there’s this wonderfully written, but intentionally underlying LGBTQIA+ -based layer that isn’t remotely conspicuous, yet still manages to make itself strongly known through the story while maintaining its more subdued presence. And it DOES play a KEY role here, but I don’t wish to enter any possibility of spoilers in revealing HOW. I just know it’s yet another example of this particular thematic foray is taken on boldly yet in a manner that isn’t weighted down by an agenda-laden purpose. It’s really its own supporting player behind the primary specter of abuse and the mind-numbing, ongoing consequences psychologically and physically it has on someone. Emotional wounds that fester, lingering inner and outer scars, being cast aside and out by someone who was supposed to love and cherish you, harrowing abuse, suicide, and fighting for ANY semblance of hope in spite of everything seemingly being against you are all given time to be pondered here.

The imagery is starkly vibrant, if that’s possible, and encompasses you fully in the world of such anguish tempered with acts of compassion which keeps you engaged throughout and assuredly makes you THINK about both central themes mentioned above. Quinn (whose full name is Quinn Alice Campbell), steps away from her composing duties for this effort and takes on the lead role with an exemplary magnitude of energetic volatility that breaches the heart, mind, and soul through her portrayal of Mel, a lively yet acutely afflicted woman trying to find refuge, peace, and any modicum of aspiration and sincere love while battling a severely fractured past. Cast out of her home by a cruel and abusive father due to her more recent choice of orientation, Mel resides in the streets while still striving to show mercy and kindness to others even as she cannot seem to forgive herself for things she had no control over as a child.

Pressing into the one relationship that has any meaning to her, Mel continues to experience constant hardship and hopelessness begins to take over. Whether Mel can find her way OUT of this becomes the question, and to witness the degree and expansive range of misery welling up in her is SO well acted by Quinn, who just infuses the character with an overwhelming aura of yearning to be free of the pain even as things don’t appear to be turning around. The final sequence of the film is tear-jerking drama at its most potent, at least it was for me, and made me appreciate Quinn’s talent and ability to “go there” so adeptly and realistically, which couldn’t have necessarily been easy to embody. Primary supporting turns arrive from Webster as Mel’s steadfast partner Liz who’s desperate to save her friend and sole love from choosing the wrong “out” of the events she’s being consumed by, and Ryan as a true “character you COMPLETELY love to hate” in SPADES as Mel’s father, a man with no regrets or conscious, whose abuse of his own daughter when she was a child (a literal party favor for him and his friends!!) has now escalated to shunning her for another choice she’s made.

Additional turns come from Nuno FilipeJohn SterickerKate OliviaWinnie GriggDarrell Jones, and Tarni Sneddon. So, in total, “Say My Name” is another necessary film on a multitude of levels, a lesson in the glaring evils which continue to invade and infiltrate the shadowy corners of our world while also tackling the equally prevalent perceptions of the LBGTQIA+ community as well. Folks, these are both current hotbed topics in different ways, but I first feel the film should act as a catalyst for us to not only be reminded of how hate-filled and soulless abuse in ANY form towards another human being is, but spur us to ACTION against it, to be a part in whatever way we’re able to see it CEASED and to be there for those in need of earnest help and healing from the trauma its brought about. Secondly, the prejudice towards those of gay orientation also needs to STOP, for what will it take for us to know we CAN believe as we choose about it WITHOUT it resorting to malice and misguided opinion, but instead come from what we need SO desperately in this age–REAL, abiding love for one another.

Film Critic, Kirk S Fernwood, OneFilmFan, on Say My Name (2023) short film

Intelligent, harrowing & bold

After being traumatized as a child, a woman describes her descent into homelessness in this memoir.

“My life deteriorated the day Becky died,” remarks Baker, commenting on the death of her childhood dog, her only confidant. The author recounts that she was abused by her father from the age of 4 and was passed among his friends at 6. Consequently, Baker was taught to hide the truth. Her silent pain led to misbehavior in school, property damage, and brushes with the Australian police. By 16, a friend, concerned that she was slipping into alcoholism, convinced the author to start counseling. The sessions began to help, but being fired from her first job—instigated by a co-worker who, she asserts, sexually abused her—compounded her feelings of mistrust. In this first installment of a trilogy, Baker recalls how she grew addicted to drugs and alcohol and became homeless for two years, finding shelter under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In her darkest moment on the street, the author aimed a knife at her own stomach. Baker’s writing courageously and lucidly excavates deep emotional recesses: “If you asked me then or today where my safe place was, it was in my mind. I had no other place that I could call safe.” Stylistically explosive at times, as when the book relates her response to disapproving passersby—“I would always yell back at the cowardly judges, ‘You give me a fuckin’ shower then!’ I stuck my middle finger in the air”—the memoir is meditative as well. At one point, the author ruminates about the Harbour Bridge: “To me, it was a connection in time, a fortification that holds secrets. It has history, though worlds apart, from the sixteen men who died building the Sydney Harbour Bridge to sixty years later, a place that gave me refuge.” But the work has a few flaws. Baker’s use of a nonlinear timeline can prove confusing, although the revisiting of her past accentuates how her childhood trauma lived on in adulthood. This approach also leads to the repetition of details (“Bridge builders left scraps of metal, chemical waste”; “metal scraps, empty beer cans, chemical waste”). Still, Baker is a talented, versatile writer whose frank book will resonate strongly with those facing similar issues.

An intelligent, harrowing, and boldly confessional account of a survivor.

KIRKUS REVIEW, Sleeping Under the Bridge (2022)

A brave story

This is brave and frank telling of a life lived hard but with thoughtful lessons for all of us. Don’t shy away from reading this story, Mel Baker’s courage and optimism will make you want to do better and be better – for others and for yourself. It’s a story of hope and love for humanity.

Marnie Cooper, Sleeping Under the Bridge, 2022

A lesson to us all

Sleeping Under the Bridge is a very powerful story; it should be read by all of us who are concerned about the future of our society. This story is about an incredibly courageous, strong, intelligent and optimistic young girl who believes in herself and survives the horrors of her childhood and early adult life. She survives against the odds stacked against her by the cowardice of her family (her father especially), schools, the police, her colleagues, her friends and a society all too eager to blame the victim. This is a story that is more than just the strength of the human spirit. This story is really about the strength of one person who never gave in, who had the intelligence to recognize what the odds against her were, and who worked out the best way to survive in the hostile world around her. Many others, caught up in this unbalanced society, have not survived. Those who do survive and go on to be accepted into the mainstream, deserve recognition.

With the telling of her story, Mel deserves recognition as one of Australia’s great and courageous citizens. She has shown equal courage in telling this story in later life, and she has done so with a clear perspective and with startling frankness.

Her story is a lesson to us all. When good people do nothing against those who do bad, we are in an uncivil society. Too many people did nothing to end the violence against her when she was a child. The outrageous truth – that the Primary Schools she went to failed to investigate her abnormal behaviour and the physical evidence of abuse – is unacceptable in a civil society.

In reading this story I am horrified to find that the Australia I was born in has produced people – men and women (Mrs Mac included) – whose behavior with children and young women is totally despicable. Mel doesn’t tell us of the fate of the perpetrators, but if there is any justice in this country, each of them should be brought to trial.

The problem that Mel confronts us with, brought to our attention by her fatalistic and blameless outlook of her circumstances, is the awful truth that the perpetrators may have a similar story in their own upbringing.

Therefore, from this perspective, Australia has a serious problem with the raising of our children, and, judging from the increase in domestic violence we hear about on the news, there is little evidence to show that we are getting better at providing a decent environment for young people in this and our next generation.

We owe the author of this story a huge debt. She has brought home with great force the truth that we Australians aren’t so great after all. We can win gold in the Olympics, produce world-class sports men and women, invent great machines and gadgets, and pride ourselves of the great heroism and sacrifice we gave in world conflict, but we can’t put a stop to some of our adult citizens doing outrageous and inexplicable things to our children; things that have very serious and far-reaching affect on their lives.

Mel’s story should not be put aside and forgotten. It should be read by everyone and discussed by everyone. This story could be the springboard for putting an end to the outrages perpetrated against the vulnerable people in our society. 

Dr Rick Williams, Old Douro Yass on Sleeping Under the Bridge, 2022

A powerful read

Sleeping Under the Bridge, by Dr Mel Baker, is a confronting book on many levels. For me, a middle-class man who has never gone hungry, never slept cold or on hard ground (except in a scout tent), never been beaten nor ever been fearful for my physical safety or bodily autonomy, I struggle to know how to review a book that describes experiences vastly alien to mine. And when one realises that the appalling experiences that Mel Baker describes so courageously commenced when she was just a toddler and continued into her adult life I can only marvel at her strength, resilience and determination to survive.

Any child brought up in an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive household will be scarred, and Mel Baker reveals these scars in an intense and personal autobiography. The writing could have been self-pitying, but it never is. Indeed, throughout the narrative there is a strong voice explaining stuff being just ‘as it is’. As I read this book (in just three sessions) I found myself desperate for Mel to find a way out. People wanted to help her but so many had previously betrayed her trust whenever she had given it, that it was logical for her not to seek or accept help. I so admired those few people who recognised a lost soul and gave so much for their time trying to assist this neglected child find her way. Their persistence provides comfort in an otherwise bleak narrative.

At times I found Mel’s account confusing both in time and space, but this literary technique gives an insight into the confusion that a young Mel Baker felt when cold, hungry, drug and alcohol addled, emotionally and physically beaten and broken. She was just a teenager, barely sixteen, when she started living on the streets. This autobiography is being written many years later by a woman a lightyear away from the young Mel. Is it any wonder that some parts of the story are unclear?

There are many questions that remain unanswered in the book. What happened to the perpetrators, if anything or if known? Have they continued through their lives making an appalling hash of things and destroying others’ lives as well as their own? How can a mother stand by and watch her daughter be so horribly abused and not do anything – what is her story? Why are some men so ready to abuse vulnerable women? Are the police, protectors of civilised order, really so blind to the needs of a young child?

While this book confronts us on a personal level, it requires us to wonder if anything has changed? This book is set in the 1980s, forty years ago but do we have decent safety nets in place to protect our young people now? The author, L.P. Hartley once said “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” As I read the ABC news, I don’t see that Mel Baker’s 1980s have gone forever. The past is still with us. Young, neglected people are still hurting. Our homeless problem in Australia is still appalling. Between 2006 and 2016 the homeless rate increased from 45 to over 50 per 10,000 people, at the same time that Australia’s GDP and national wealth have continued to grow. Such economic and social disparity does Australia’s governments no credit, nor those who never have to confront these issues. Mel Baker’s book forces us to look at ourselves and wonder are we part of the problem or part of the solution?

I said initially that this is a bleak book. Bit it isn’t. It is a book about hope and how the human spirit holds onto life and deep down knows that with love and compassion, a life worth living can be found. This book is a powerful read.

David Vernon, Stringybark Publishing, 2022 on Sleeping Under the Bridge

There is a lot to be learnt about equine therapy. I’m terrified of horses but healing an ex-racehorse of it’s demons and vice versa was a very powerful read. Amazing. And helping our veterans and first responders with trauma. Wow.

Jen, 2021, Conflict to Hope

Mel I just want to say just how proud of you I am. You are and have set some very clear and amazing goals achievements and outcomes under very difficult and complex circumstances. You an inspiration to me and I’m sure others. You have proven you can do anything you want against all odds.

Darrell, 2019, launch of Painting Beauty with the Ashes
Winning best short film at Cause Film Festival, Sydney 2019
Nick Barkla, Scott Brodie and Mel Baker win BEST SHORT FILM at Cause Film Festival

Would you like to add a review of one of Dr Mel Baker’s books?