Matthew Fifer Reveals 'Scariest Part' of Reliving Past Sexual Abuse to Make New Film 'Cicada'

Writer/director Matthew Fifer tells PEOPLE about starring in Cicada and why it was "cathartic" to put his own past trauma surrounding molestation into film

Cicada matthew fifer
Photo: courtesy matthew fifer

Difficult as it can be, sharing his personal story of trauma on the big screen is something Matthew Fifer finds "very rewarding."

The 31-year-old stars in Cicada, a romantic drama that he wrote and co-directed with Kieran Mulcare. In it he plays Ben, who struggles with intimacy until he meets Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) and connects on a new level, eventually tackling his childhood sexual abuse in a meaningful way. The narrative isn't unlike Fifer's real-life experience, as the semi-autobiographical story explores much of his own journey as a survivor of molestation.

Fifer tells PEOPLE he was "absolutely" nervous about conveying his own story with the world. Still, he found ways to feel "safe" on set while filming the indie flick.

"Some days it was incredibly difficult," he says. "I remember towards the end I really couldn't get through a scene. I had done so much work healing, building myself up, I couldn't take those walls down, especially in front of 20 other people who I was still getting to know. Kieran and Sheldon were my rocks. They are how I pushed through."

He explains that it was "cathartic" to write the screenplay, as was acting out certain scenes. He does, however, find it is most meaningful when he hears from audiences who recount their own history with abuse and the impact Cicada had on their struggle.

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"Being able to talk about it so openly, I've found so many of my friends have come out about their own past abuse and it's brought us closer and made me feel less alone," says Fifer. "Speaking about it out loud is the first step. It doesn't have to be to a therapist; it can be to a total stranger. It can be just writing it down and getting it out for yourself."

"Having it out there and speaking the words out loud makes it real — which is the scariest part — but otherwise it just lives in your head," Fifer adds.


The filmmaker explains that healing from his past trauma is an ongoing process.

"It's definitely a lifelong thing, I've realized, and it comes back in different ways. It continues to molt and evolve," he says. "I'm nowhere near where I was. Ten years ago, I could go days without talking to anybody and I was in a very dark place. But I'm definitely in a place of being able to help others now."

Cicada is now playing in select theaters and available to rent on demand.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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