TIFF: David Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’ Issues

Actor-turned-director brings tough rape drama to Toronto

“It’s a tough movie to get distributed,” said David Schwimmer on the eve of Toronto. “Fingers crossed.”

The actor, former “Friends” star and occasional director was talking about “Trust,” a tough, small-scale drama about rape and Internet predators starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and newcomer Liana Liberato.

The film screened at Toronto on Friday afternoon, a few hours before having its premiere at a TIFF gala that night – though gala is perhaps too bright a word for a film that deals with 14-year-old who is raped by a stranger she met online, and a father tortured by his inability to keep his family safe.

And if the casting of Clive Owen makes you think of an alpha male who’ll find a way to make things right, think again.

Clive Owen“What really happens is very different from movies, and that’s kind of the point of the film,” Schwimmer told theWrap. “It’s not about getting the guy, it’s about making sure your daughter recovers. This man misses the point: he gets so lost in finding the guy who did this that his relationship with his daughter is collapsing as she’s spiraling out of control.”

The film came out of work Schwimmer has done with the Rape Foundation in Los Angeles, where he’s currently on the board of directors.

 “At one event, a father got up and spoke about his experience when his 14-year-old daughter was brutally raped,” he said. “And it was so devastating to hear this regular guy talk about what he went though, and all the different feelings of disbelief and rage and guilt, and how it almost destroyed him and his family.”

With a modest directing career (10 episodes of “Friends,” a few TV movies and the 2007 feature “Run, Fatboy, Run”), Schwimmer didn’t expect to get the film off the ground – but as the founder of the Chicago-based Lookingglass Theatre Company, he also figured he’d have other avenues for the story.

“We thought, we’ll do the screenplay and it’ll never get made, but a least we’ll have it, and then we’ll adapt it for the stage,” he said. “But luckily I got a script to Clive, and he read it, and because he has two teenage daughters, he immediately responded to it.”

Owen’s participation brought in the financiers, and suddenly a project that looked a long way off was on the fast track. The only problem: Schwimmer had already committed to directing a stage production. So rather than doing the play and letting that influence the movie, he did it the other way around.

“I found myself directing the film, starting post production and then flying back and forth between Chicago and New York, editing the movie and directing the play,” he said. “It was quite strange.”

The film has its clunky moments, but it doesn’t take the easy way out – and toward the end, Owen and Liberato have some raw, lacerating scenes that give it an undeniable emotional power.

“I want to invite a conversation,” said Schwimmer. “There are still thousands of registered sex offenders on MySpace and Facebook, and thousands of unopened rape kits sitting in freezers in police departments and labs around the country. There are so many issues around this that need more awareness, and more public pressure.”

“Trust” is currently shopping for distribution.