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Five Thousand Stars

Directed by Paul Holbrook
Narrative Short
United Kingdom | 16 min | 2023

Once renowned food critic, now homeless and battling alcoholism, campaigns to save her local soup kitchen, despite her complaint shutting it down.

“Highlights at the 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival”Roger Ebert

“Emerging filmmakers empower audiences at Heartland’s 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival” Cinema Femme

As a male survivor of domestic abuse I’ve always felt isolated from the wider social conversation about abusive relationships. Even the narrative in my own head always was: men are abusers… they’re never the abused.

It’s been difficult to find the space to speak my truth, feeling like a freak, an outlying data point discarded because it doesn’t fit into the necessary social conversation about male violence against women… but what happened to me did happen, and my abuser didn’t look like person you’d expect.

In writing and directing Everything Is Out To Get Me, I wanted to challenge audience’s perceptions of what an abusive relationship could look like. It was my goal to have audiences start off empathising with Erin, believing she’s a victim, but then as she tells her side of the story I wanted to expose her lies as the audience starts to notice that her words don’t align with her actions. She’s the very definition of the “unreliable narrator” and indeed she is the abuser in the situation.

When you’ve been abused by someone there are often very few answers, so you’re always left with the question: why? Why did this happen to me? What happened to my abuser to make them treat me this way?

The loss of an abusive relationship is confusing to process. You find yourself mourning the person you thought you were in love with, while also shedding coping mechanisms that blinded you and kept you bound to the relationship. Empathy is often a reason someone remains in a toxic relationship and just because someone abused you doesn’t mean you stop loving them. It’s heartbreaking to see your abusers inability to improve their life and the consequences they live with. Indeed with the character of Erin, I never wanted her institutionalisation to be seen as justice – there truly is no justice. The consequences she faces are of the time period that the film is set and represent the inner turmoil of living with demons.

The post-traumatic stress of being with an abusive partner can leave you with a lot of lingering fear, hence the thriller slant to my short film. Everything Is Out To Get Me is my most personal work to date, and a key catalyst for me to make the film was after I returned to the small town where I was in the relationship almost a decade prior. I found even after all this time, my body had a chemical memory to the traumas I’d experienced there and it triggered a lot of fear and feelings of paranoia.

Facing my fears by making this short film has helped me to understand and process the trauma I’ve experienced and move on from it without it being a dark cloud following me around. It’s the not the happiest film, but I think there’s a silver lining in the resolution at the end, and I’d rather leave that darkness contained in a film than continue to carry it with me.

Five Thousand Stars - Poster

Five Thousand Stars - Paul HolbrookPaul Holbrook

Paul Holbrook is a writer and self-taught director from Bristol, proudly working-class. His work has been selected for numerous BAFTA, BIFA, and Oscar-qualifying film festivals, winning many awards along the way including best cinematography at Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Film Information

Director: Paul Holbrook
Country:  United Kingdom
Year: 2023
Language: English
Runtime: 16 min
Rated:  PG


Writer: Oneikeh Campbell
Producer: Jackie Sheppard, Luke Walton
Cinematography: James Oldham
Editor: Andy Toovey
Composer: Dan Baboulene

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Principal Cast

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival