Mental Illness: You Are Not Alone

“You are not alone.” Mental illness among today’s youth is the focus of a film from three young filmmakers from Maine. College students Becca Hurd, Kate Doherty and Daniel Sinclair just wrapped on production for their film Invisible Things. They’ll spend the next year editing, targeting the film festival circuit in the summer of 2017.

Poster
Poster

“Mental illness is something that we’ve seen affect a lot of people close to us,” says Daniel Sinclair, “and a lot of young people in general as they are trying to find their place in the world.” Sinclair believes mental illness is also something that merely talking about can help. “We can help people know how to talk about it, help people know they’re not alone.”

Giving a Voice to the Issues

Becca Hurd first crafted the story as a one-act play, which she produced and directed for the college stage. The production was so well received, the three friends decided to develop the original story into a screenplay. In the process the story evolved as they worked to give the audience a greater opportunity to identify with the characters.

Sinclair says, “From a story standpoint, Becca has crafted these characters who feel real to us. They are more than their issues, and that makes them the perfect characters to raise awareness of the issues. They are believable and identifiable. Changing mediums from stage to film has only given us more opportunity to expand upon these characters.”

In the film, the main character accompanies her OCD-afflicted sister on a visit to her therapist. Suffering with depression herself, she tries with limited success to relate to her sister. But she meets and bonds with another patient who struggles with alcoholism and depression.

The filmmakers offer first a broad message of “You are not alone.” When drilling down to specific mental illnesses and conditions, they feel, “If we get too specific, we risk audience members feeling like it does not apply to them.”

Co-directing the Film

On set
On set

“Becca and I (Daniel) are co-directing, while Kate is handling property and set dressing during production. During pre-production, Kate aided with scheduling.”

Sinclair says, “When I had mentioned the c-word (co-directing) to people more experienced, the responses were about the same: Staring at me for a while, then ‘oh boy.’ And I get it, there’s a lot that can go wrong if the two people in charge of the direction of a project have different visions. For us though, we had taken time to ensure that the finished films in our minds’ eye were quite similar.

“Also, Becca has more directing experience from stage, and I had the knowledge of the film world. So knowing what each of us brought to the table helped us with our roles on set.”

The three attend different schools, so each will be reviewing the footage for the edit process. “I will assemble rough cuts of each scene,” Sinclair says, “and Becca will be able to let me know if she noticed moments from other takes that work better. I am using Premiere and building out a timeline for each scene. This keeps me focused on only the world of that scene until I move on to the next.”

Challenges

Invisible Things
Invisible Things

On set, working with a small crew, an overlap of responsibility among crew is inevitable. “We had a core crew,” Sinclair says, “with some others swinging by from day to day based on work schedules: A necessary compromise when you can’t pay your crew.

“Everyone is volunteering, which means they have other things going on in their lives. There was one late night, about two weeks before production, when due to new scheduling information, Kate and I printed out the stripboard and cut it up and rearranged it all so we could wrap two actors before a certain date.”

Sinclair says, “Estimating how much time it will take to film something vs. how much time it actually takes is still something I’m trying to be more accurate about. It will come with more experience.

“We had some slow days where we were all exhausted, but also some days which even now, I’m not certain how we managed to get as much done as we did. (Ten pages in one day.) Our cast and crew were fantastic throughout this entire endeavor. The amount of dedication shown is reflected in our ability to undertake something of this magnitude.”

Gear

Filming
Filming

“I am a student at the New England School of Communications of Husson up in Bangor, Maine,” says Sinclair. “We have equipment used for school projects, and they were very kind, allowing me to take some out for the duration of the project, as myself and several of the crew were students. The result was a mashup of professional and ultra low budget gear that many of us had. One scene could have both an HMI and a cheap can light. The camera we used was our 1st AD’s (Sony) A7s that our DP had experience with.

“Our budget is very small. It pays for the costs of feeding our crew and film festival entry once we reach that point. People have been very supportive of our efforts with donations and locations. Our local fire department even gave us use of an ambulance one night.”

You Are Not Alone

“It is very humbling,” Sinclair says, “to see how much people have dedicated to this project and to this message, and at the end of it all, we are all here trying to create something.”

READ MORE: INVISIBLE THINGS