TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - David Schwimmer made his name as a hapless romantic in the hit TV comedy series "Friends", but takes on a much darker topic in his second stint behind the camera with the movie "Trust."
A heart-rending drama about how online predators groom child victims and the impact it has on a family, "Trust" was inspired by Schwimmer's work with rape victims.
"Trust", which is being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as parents who live out a nightmare when their teenage daughter is sexually assaulted by a man who gained her trust in an online chat relationship.
The movie deals with the fallout for the family from the fateful day when daughter Annie comes face to face with her online predator.
The ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter is a stark turn from Schwimmer's high-spirited 2007 directorial debut "Run Fatboy Run".
"I've never seen in film the portrayal of the father and daughter, that relationship, that has to survive this kind of trauma," Schwimmer told Reuters on Friday.
Schwimmer said he was inspired by his work with the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, California, which offers treatment and education for victims of sexual abuse. The deeply personal movie project was seven years in development.
He started working with the organization when its director reached out to him while he was working on "Friends".
"There was kind of a gap in creating awareness for men. So (the Rape Foundation director) thought that I, as a relatively young man at the time, and with some celebrity, that I can maybe get more men aware of the issue," explained Schwimmer, who is now 43.
As one father at the organization described his conflicting feelings of guilt, rage, and pain after his daughter was lured by an Internet predator, Schwimmer decided that the story needed to be told -- and in a way that men can relate to.
"I was just so struck by this obviously educated, well-informed, healthy, present-parent situation. I was just amazed that in spite of all that, it still happened to them, their teenager," he said.
Schwimmer said he had considered briefly about casting himself as the predator, who is played by theater veteran Chris Henry Coffey.
But with only a 29-day shooting schedule, Schwimmer decided to put his entire focus on directing.
"I was intrigued by the idea but ultimately I thought it would be distracting," he said, adding that he was now more comfortable with the idea of giving himself a small role in a future film of his with two features now under his belt.
The film is so far without a U.S. distributor.
Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Janet Guttsman and Jill Serjeant