Hannibal native Gretl Claggett of New York has made a prize-winning film, Happy Hour, based on her poem about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
Happy Hour was among nearly 70 short films shown Oct. 24 to 27 in the International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. On Sunday, Nov. 10, Claggett learned that Happy Hour, directed by herself, had won the award for Excellence in Cinematography.
“It was the first festival we have been shown in, so in our very first festival we won an award,” Claggett said during a phone interview on Sunday. She had attended the premier of the festival in Los Angeles, then returned to New York prior to the awards being announced.
The public also has an opportunity to view Happy Hour, which is narrated by award-winning actress Julianne Moore. It will be screened at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17,  at the Tivoli Theater, 6350 Delmar in The Loop, St. Louis, Mo. It will be in the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) Women Directors Spotlight. Tickets are offered on the web site happyhourfilm.com.
“I wrote the poem Happy Hour — on which the film is based — more than a decade ago when I was deep in the labyrinth of recovery, after one of my parents’ best friends, whom I called ‘Uncle,’ sexually abused me from before I could speak until I was 16,” Claggett said.
Claggett reported that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before turning 18. This translates into roughly 40 million adult survivors in the U.S. alone. “I’m a statistic,” she continued. “But I’m also a human being. And it’s through the very human ability to tell a story — to go beyond statistics and show just how these cycles of abuse play out — that transformation becomes possible. With its potential to reach millions, film can play a powerful role.”
Claggett said she made Happy Hour “to help in some small way to dispel fear and shame; forge a better understanding of complicity plus the psychological aftermath most survivors face even in adulthood; give those who have suffered abuse hope that they can create fulfilling lives; and inspire people to learn about prevention so that more children can grow up safe.”
Making the film was challenging, she said. “The hardest and most rewarding part of crafting any poem is successfully capturing a whole world in a handful of words. So when I decided to turn my nine-line lyric into a film, I gave myself a similar challenge: to convey the depth and nuances of a feature-length script in less than 15 minutes.
“People have been very moved by the film,” Claggett said. “We are right at the beginning of getting it out, but it is getting incredible response. People say they feel like they have watched a feature film.
“I got some emails today (Nov. 10),” and people have described it as harrowing, riveting, spare, elegant, tasteful, shocking, redemptive, brave and important.”
The poem, Happy Hour, is published in her book, Monsoon Solo: Voices Once Submerged (WordTech Editions, 2012). The book won a National Forward Literature Award and was named a Winning Finalist for an International Book Award plus a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award.

Acting heritage
Claggett, who was known as Gretchen in Hannibal, has a theatrical family background. Her mother is Dorothy Claggett, a well-known character actor in Hannibal productions for many years. Her father, Dr. Hugh Claggett, died May 6 of this year.
Dorothy said Hugh “was a movie buff and his love of films certainly influenced her love of movies and film.”
Gretl Claggett dedicated her film, Happy Hour, to her farther. She said “that’s how we would bond, we would watch movies together. It felt very right to dedicate the film to him.”
Dorothy said she is “very excited and really looking forward to seeing Happy Hour on the big screen.”
Gretl Claggett began acting at age 7. Her first role was Rip Van Winkle’s daughter. She grew up performing with her mom at the Ice House Theater and Community Theater. “My first passion in the arts was acting, and at the same time I was growing up watching movies with my father, so both of them really were very influential in terms of my career choices, and encouraging my passion for the arts. I’ve been very blessed that both of my parents encouraged my passion for the arts and to follow my heart and dreams. Writing and directing film is the culmination, where I am able to use all of my talents and passions.”
During her first years in New York City she performed at theaters such as Playwrights Horizons, Circle in the Square, Soho Rep, La MaMa and HERE.
“After stepping away from acting, I worked as a producer and sales and marketing executive, before pursuing writing and filmmaking,” Claggett said. Now, through writing, speaking, leading workshops and consulting, she added, “my mission is to help others create powerful, free, authentic lives: personally and professionally.”
Claggett founded Culture Catalyst to create transmedia projects — films, public service announcements, books, workshops and “live” experiences. She teaches memoir writing and is currently working on a novel and a feature length script.

Happy Hour
By Gretl Claggett

When women laugh at jokes they don’t find funny
and men tell stories only half-true, I recall how,
at his house, my parents and their friends welcomed in the weekends.
How they’d sit by the fireplace wishing
the flame’s ribbons could tie up life’s loose ends. How they’d never
see him lead me from the room and up the stairs,
martini in hand. Olives bobbing like bloodshot eyes. After cleanup:
a monogrammed handkerchief, the quick zip of pants, he’d
slip a silver dollar into my pocket — Good girl.Some information for this article was from on web sites, gretlclaggett.com and happyhourfilm.com.