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. 

Production

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." 

Post-Production

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.

OVERALL!

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.