Last summer, Chloe Burns was looking for an outlet.
The Los Angeles-based actress and filmmaker had recently moved back to her hometown of Lawrence at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. She had also recently started trauma therapy, and without the busy routine she’d had on the west coast, it wasn’t as easy to cope during lockdown. She wanted something to channel the emotional work she was doing into, she said, and she was having a hard time understanding how her recovery would play out.
“I had these two pieces that were in conflict and I couldn’t get rid of one of them, but I couldn’t really understand how they fit together anymore,” said Burns, an alumna of the University of Kansas Department of Film and Media Studies. “It was kind of a way of coping with the open time that I had, but then also coping with the subject matter of the therapy as well.”
Those two parts of herself — who she was as a person and who she was after the effects of trauma — inspired the two main charactersin the project she began working on to pass the time. That project became Trauma Bonded, a six-episode comedy/drama web series about confronting the painful past.
After writing for the series was completed, a crowdfunding campaign launched on Sept. 26 to support the future filming of the project. Contributors to the campaign will be among the first to pre-screen the series before it makes its festival run and goes online for anyone to watch for free afterward. The campaign has 18 days left, with $4,365 out of its goal of $14,000 raised as of late Sunday.
The characters of Casey and her alter ego Kate face a lot throughout the series, including assassins, alter-egos and love triangles. But that’s not all they face.
As a domestic violence survivor herself, Burns knew there weren’t many ways for other survivors to see their stories represented in media without having to endure graphic portrayals of violence. She set out to create one with “Trauma Bonded,” letting the journeys of Casey and Kate and their healing be told with humor.
Domestic abusers are shielded by how difficult it is for survivors to talk about the abuse, Burns said, as well as how difficult it can be for others to understand that experience without having gone through it. Working on a project that approaches trauma and domestic abuse in an accessible way has lifted some of that weight for her.
“The process of creating that and being able to share it has been really empowering, in a way that I didn’t expect,” Burns said. “It really takes the narrative of survivors as being kind of passive and it helps to change that a little bit. And for me, getting to translate it in this way is really healing because it gives me a way to talk about it.”
Ultimately, Burns said she wants “Trauma Bonded” to feel natural, like the audience is witnessing private moments between the characters. She knows it’s not possible to create a piece of media that everyone simultaneously connects with, she said, but she hopes the audience it resonates with finds it accessible, and that those who haven’t been through trauma and domestic violence see a glimpse of what healing looks like beyond the way it’s normally depicted in film.
“What I hope is that it even if you don’t connect with it, I hope that at least people can broaden their understanding a little bit of what it means to be a survivor of something like this,” Burns said.
“I’ve never had the thing that I can point to and use it as a way of communicating my experience with people. If this can be that for someone else, I definitely want them to find it.”