Director's Commentary - Illness

An illness may not always be apparent, but that doesn't mean it is non-existent.

Illness explores three individuals as they try to carry out their lives with disorders that inflict a toll on their well-being, whether it may be physically or mentally. The mental health conditions that can be observed within these characters include: depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia.

Hello everyone! "Illness" was a concept brought to us when our friend, Sofia ( a member of Social Justice Club) asked us if we could create a film about mental illnesses. This short was to be screened at our school's annual, "Day of Silence" assembly. We were given complete creative freedom on how  to approach this project.  I started to write a script that included three characters, each having a different mental illness. Social Justice Club asked us to include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia. Research was done prior to executing the shoot as we wanted to closely capture these disorders. 

Three Different Stories!

Each different story was meant to focus on a particular mental illness while also capturing other aspects of the mental illness stigma. 

Moving forward, for Shivam's scenes we focused on the aspect of feeling sad, without knowing why. At the start of the film we showed Shivam looking at a picture where he is happy and with friends. This former self strongly contrasts with how he is displayed in the short. Another issue I wanted to touch on was the culture clash that immigrant children face. When brainstorming with Social Justice Club members, I asked everyone what their parents thought about mental illnesses. As expected, many parents don't see mental illnesses as a problem, most likely because they are unable to understand it. When they were growing up,  they were forced to grow up early due to financial and family reasons. They don't see how problems such as school and stress can lead to depression for our generation because of their own hardships. HOWEVER, I still believe that telling your parents is needed. Regardless of what your parents think about mental illnesses, they are your parents and ultimately they care for your well-being, so talking to them is essential.

For Naresh and Calvin's scenes we showed a case of OCD. The scene starts off with Naresh organizing his workspace in a particular manner. Calvin comes in and completely messes everything up, unaware of how much it bothers Naresh. Calvin represents us. Individuals that don't realize what other people might be going through. We are ultimately ignorant about people that have mental illnesses, solely because of the stigma behind it. We also tend to casually throw around the phrases, "that's so OCD", "you look depressed" and use them as adjectives. That's definitely something that needs to change, as it simply undermines the significance of these illnesses.  At the end of Naresh's storyline, he is also unaware of his mental illness- which is common for many high-school students.

I crafted the story with the gender of each actor involved, and while some say it was stereotypical that the role of bulimia was given to a girl, I feel that it is more relatable. I strongly believe that girls have to struggle in a society which constantly enforces  that you have to be skinny to look nice. Our society is built so that girls don't feel comfortable in their own bodies.  I related this to Alura's case of anorexia. The empty gum packets indicate the number of times Alura has purged herself. Anorexia is EXTREMELY dangerous meaning that it kills people! I wanted to end Alura's storyline on a positive note, which was getting help. 


This short was a no-budget short, BUT we managed to buy a new mic (YAY!). From now on, audio quality of our shorts will be improved! You'll notice our two incredible It's Not Us members, Calvin and Naresh acting, as well as some new faces! We have our friends Shivam, Alura (featured in Golden Pages) and Holly that did absolutely amazing! These guys were super easy to work with and we definitely had a fun time working with them! 

You'll notice throughout the short there are a lot of pauses. This is meant to give feelings of uneasiness and awkwardness. This style is strongly inspired by Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave." 


With this short being our longest yet, editing took A LOT longer than normal. Editing was done after each shoot finished. This way, by the end of production, we had a rough cut of the film completed. We had a deadline of May 1st, so I rushed to get a complete version of the film. With the help of Aryll 'Artificial Music', the score turned out beautifully. Aryl worked hard, despite the time restraint and provided several different compositions that we could have used. Most of the short was left intentionally without music to give a sense of realism and focus on the long pauses. In terms of colour, we tried to give a sense of sadness early in the short and by the end we focused on the light, emphasizing better things to come.


I'm super glad we were approached to make this short. I would definitely say this is our best short yet! The ending narration was meant to resonate with the audience and I really wanted people to realize that mental illnesses are huge! They definitely aren't something that people can shake off and just "get better." I STRONGLY STRONGLY STRONGLY believe that if you have a mental illness, get help from others! It shouldn't be dealt with alone and it isn't something that'll just disappear! We hope that you enjoyed our short film and that it brought some new thoughts to your mind.



Director's Commentary - Reminiscence

Reminiscence: A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. This short film explores the nostalgia of two old friends that meet unexpectedly in a coffee shop after several years of distance.

This latest It's Not Us Films short, "Reminiscence", is definitely a very personal short for myself. The inspiration behind this film came from a close-knit friendship I had back in middle school that slowly faded away when transitioning into high school. I believe that this experience is universal, it occurs to everyone at one point in their life. Some of the closest friendships you've had will dwindle away and they'll just become a memory. There is a strong nostalgic feeling that comes with meeting an old friend which leads to conversations about the past. I sometimes still see my old friends that I had a brotherly bond with, but as expected the conversation doesn't last long. These short-lived conversations are just a recollection of all the bitter-sweet memories we experienced as children. On the side note, "Reminscence" shows that you must move on from these old moments- it's a bittersweet feeling.


The short was done on a low budget, with just myself behind the camera and Naresh and Calvin acting.  The script took several days to complete  with the help of a friend, Deshawn Totaram. The short called for a few different locations just for the flash back scenes. We tried to create a strong contrast between the present and the past by having a different filming style. You'll notice that the present scenes are all one continuous take while in the past there's multiple angles. Audio was definitely a problem in the present scenes but we opted not to do voice-overs to create a realistic feel. For future shorts we are DEFINITELY upgrading audio equipment! 


Editing this short proved to be challenging in terms of the audio problems we had. I created long pauses in between the flash back to show the awkwardness of when the conversation ends. Deshawn Totaram created the first piece when Calvin and Naresh meet and tracks from Elyon Beats were used throughout the short. As always, I'm definitely pleased with the music Elyon provides us with!


Why is the number left on the table at the end?

At the ending of the film, I really wanted to show that meeting with old friends rarely restores the strong friendship that once existed. The number being left behind symbolizes that their friendship was left behind years ago and that reminiscing about the past doesn't bring it back. Their friendship was only brought back for a brief conversation, nothing more. HOWEVER, you are free to assume that Naresh just remembered Calvin's number like how he remembers Calvin's coffee preference. 


Why does Naresh have the Golden Pages book?! Is he the next holder of it?

We'll leave that to you to think about, BUT as we showed at the end of the Golden Pages, no one gets the chance to finish the book. SO does that mean Naresh knew that Calvin would come and was waiting for that opportunity? :O

Director's Commentary - Golden Pages


Our latest It's Not Us Films short film, "Golden Pages", comes from the idea of foreseeing your future. This project developed from that small idea and we kept fleshing it out  until we were satisfied. With this being our first short film EVER, we are extremely satisfied with the end product!

The short started with our STAR, Calvin, finding a crazy, cosmic looking book after someone drops it. Calvin then picks up the book and the short really begins from there. The short continued with Calvin continuously reading the book, living in complete nostalgia of his early years. We decided to use narrations to portray each segment of the book. As the director, I wanted the book to contain events of Calvin's life that many could relate to, so that people are able to connect their life experiences with the short. I didn't want there to be a significant connection between the character and the audience, but rather the events. 



This short was created over the span of a few weeks. We weren't able to shoot consecutively, however, each day of shooting took approximately 2-3 hours.  The script called for a TON of locations so it took time to shoot.  Each narration required a different location so you can notice the time passing as Calvin continues to read his life's book.  We worked with a small crew, (just the It's Not Us Team) but we did have the help of a few friends. My ALL time favourite shot in the entire film is the romance scene on the bridge (if you've talked about this short with me in person, you probably already know that).


Post- Production

When editing this short, I was EXTREMELY worried about how the entire short would look put together. We had a ton of footage from our shoots, so it was just a matter of picking through the best looking shots and making it flow. Adding the music was CRITICAL to the short, and with the help of Elyon Beats we were able find fitting original music to go with our narrations.