Category Archives: Family

Eye-Opening `Frigid` Reveals Harsh Reality Of Postpartum Depression

Perhaps one of the most joyous occasions in a couple’s life is the birth of their baby son or daughter. Whether the child is the first or the latest in a succession of children to the family, both parents are happy and proud of their newest arrival. However, the stresses of taking care of a baby can emerge in the form of postpartum depression. This type of depression occurs in mothers during and after pregnancy and can occur in fathers as well. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether or not one is suffering from a mental illness. Feelings that are shrugged off as ‘having a bad day’ can eventually build up into hopelessness, worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide. When a mother is suffering from postpartum depression, what can she do to manage this illness? What can both the father and the mother do to cope?

Frigid is an intense 14-minute short film on the topic of postpartum depression written by Heli Kennedy and directed by Joe Kicak. Heli also stars as the mother, Leah, while Damon Runyan stars as the father, Vincent. Leah and Vincent have a newborn son, Jacob, in their family. While both Leah and Vincent raise their baby, they soon become at odds with one another over how to take care of him. While Leah struggles with her depression, Vincent’s life is mostly “business as usual”. Over time, Leah’s increasing stress and depression leads to an intense moment that almost cost the couple the life of their son.

Recently, Heli and Joe shared their thoughts with Short Film Fan about Frigid, including the real life background of the film and why it was important to discuss the issues of mental illness in general and postpartum depression in particular.

Short Film Fan: Why did you decide to produce Frigid?

Heli Kennedy: It was a bold story we couldn’t get off our minds. It’s based on a real woman’s dangerous struggle with postpartum depression. Mental illness and motherhood isn’t often talked about yet so many women struggle with it — that’s what drew me to this project, as a writer and actor. It’s an issue that calls for a voice and intimate character study. I come from a family background riddled with mental health issues: agoraphobia, addiction, schizophrenia, depression… I think that’s another reason I was drawn to this story. Delving into this particular character was eye-opening and cathartic. While writing and performing, I tried to keep an element of raw truth in the story. The screenplay, which I had worked on for a couple months, felt very close to being camera- ready and attracted amazing creative talent. So, that also gave us a cue that we were producing the right project!

Joe Kicak: During high school, I opened up to a teacher about my mother’s life-long battle with bi-polar disorder.  She then shared her struggle with post-partum psychosis, which the film is based on. Coming from an immigrant family that didn’t believe in (let alone speak about) mental illness, I find sharing stories of people’s struggles important. That way we can get through the isolated horror, and begin the hard discussions to heal together.

SFF: Frigid was quite scary to watch from the 10-minute mark onwards. Why did you decide to make Frigid as a drama/suspense film?

HK: The idea to make it a drama/suspense came from the desire to keep the audience along for the ride with the main character. We felt that if we told the audience she was struggling with postpartum in the beginning, some may not take the journey with her to see things from her side. The mother is also unaware that she has postpartum, which was pulled from the true story on which this film is based. Her paranoia, fear and hallucinatory visions unfold to her. Suspense felt like the right fit for this — it holds back answers and danger in the plot until specific points. In our case, it’s about holding back the realization of being mentally ill from our mother character. The fear/horror shift at the end is meant to build climax to this realization. It’s horrific to realize you’ve lost a grip on what’s real.

JK: Mental illness can be terrifying for the person experiencing it and the people around them. We treated it like a suspense because there are always little clues that something is wrong. When I was young my father tried to quit drinking cold turkey. His withdrawal process made him start hallucinating.  I remember being 11 years old and he would introduce me to friends that weren’t there. At first I thought it was funny and that he was just joking around with me. However, he started arguing with these imaginary people and became aggressive; slamming doors and punching through windows.  Mental illness turns scary very quickly. It can be like dealing with a ghost in a horror film – like there’s this sudden, invisible danger you don’t know how to handle.

SFF: In the film, the mother is suffering from postpartum depression. But after watching the father’s behaviour, were you trying to get the message across that men can also suffer from this illness?

HK: Our intent wasn’t to portray “postpartum” in men, but to show the struggle both sides of a relationship experiences when it undergoes a major life change, such as having a child. The father, as vilified as he appears from his wife’s perspective, also struggles to adjust to life with a baby. He tries to maintain a relationship with his wife, not aware of the postpartum depression she’s experiencing. He’s tired, confused, angry…his life seems to be deteriorating, and he’s not equipped to deal with it. Mental illness affects everyone around it. So, in a different way, he’s also a victim of it as well.

JK: I think that men can definitely suffer from mental illness when a major life change occurs, like having a baby. Vincent was dealing with his own emotions as a new father, inadvertently trying to hold on to the last bastions of his bachelor life, which added to Leah’s paranoia.

SFF: Frigid premiered at the Calgary Film Festival this year. What was the audience’s reaction to the film?

HK: Great! It really felt like the audience was lured into the story via initial suspense, and slowly realized the serious issue our protagonist faced. The programmer, Brennan Tilley, also told me that he has an infant at home and this film really shook him. If people relate, that’s an amazing reaction!

JK: I love sitting in the back of the theatre for my films because I can observe peoples reactions to specific moments and see what worked and what didn’t. I was happily surprised that there was some laughter in the beginning with the characters’ struggling relationship. It felt great to me because it signals a connection from the audience to the story, which only makes the journey more powerful.  During the climax you can hear gasps and see some hands shoot up to mouths, but at this particular screening two women literally wrapped their scarves around their eyes because they just couldn’t handle it.

SFF: What would you say is the main take-away from Frigid?

HK: I hope the main takeaway is awareness of postpartum depression and compassionate conversations about mental illness (and motherhood). I think one of the goals of film and art is to connect with people and foster understanding.

JK: For me, the film is about starting the discussion. As a child that grew up around mental illness that was never discussed, it’s about showing that many families struggle with issues and asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Frigid is an eye-opening and shocking short that will keep you on edge for the duration of the film. Both Heli and Damon did an excellent job in portraying their respective characters. One can feel the intensity between them as husband and wife, father and mother. One will also feel sympathy for Leah and Vincent, as they do their best to navigate through an extremely frustrating and confusing moment in their lives. For those who do not understand or know about postpartum depression, Frigid will definitely clarify how serious this mental illness can be. Perhaps the film could have ended with Vincent or Leah making a call to their family doctor or to the Canadian Mental Health Association to get more help. That may have given the audience a bit of relief after the roller-coaster ending scene. Otherwise, Frigid is a must-see film for any new parents or parents-to-be so that they can become prepared to deal with postpartum depression.

For more information about postpartum depression, go to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website at https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression/

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Emotional, Heartfelt ‘Alison’ Looks At Rough Side Of Relationships

At some point when a couple has been dating for a certain amount of time, both partners must decide whether or not to take things to the next level and enter into a committed relationship. Taking that next step gives both partners a sense of excitement and happiness, as they look forward to their life journey together. As the relationship continues, however, life is not always fun and games as each partner eventually reveals the not-so-good side of his or her personality. As a result, bad habits that were once accepted in the beginning become annoying and difficult behaviours that were at first shrugged-off become a worry. After building a life together, is it worth ending a long-term relationship when bad behaviours get to the point of serious intolerability?

The 13-minute dramatic short film Alison (2016) sets out to answer that question as it looks at one couple’s troubling and emotional evening. Written and produced by Jessica Rose and directed by David Lester, Alison stars Jessica Rose as Alison and Kristopher Turner (Saving Hope, This Life) as Jay. Alison and Jay are heading home from an evening out. With Alison under the influence, Jay does his utmost best to get her inside the house and put her to bed. Things don’t go so smoothly for Jay, as Alison’s behaviour becomes hard to manage. Through it all, Jay keeps his cool until he reaches a breaking point. For more on Alison and Jay’s eventful night together, watch the film below:

 Warning: mature content – viewer discretion is advised.

 

Short Film Fan recently got in touch with Jessica to learn more about Alison, including the difficulties faced by the crew in filming the street scene and whether or not the short was a commentary about addiction and mental health issues faced by couples in long-term relationships.

Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to make Alison?

Jessica Rose: David Lester (the director) and I have been together for eleven years, so long term relationships are something I think we understand very well. The film shows a kind of intimacy specific to long term relationships that we hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before in a way that felt authentic to us. When you live with someone you get to see all sides of them that the general public isn’t privy to: all the wonderful cute lovely things you fell in love with and, inevitably, all the baggage that reveals itself when you really trust each other or start to test each other. Sometimes it’s working at it and getting through the hard stuff that makes your love even deeper, but it can be hard to see that when you’re in the thick of it. Also, speaking to the character of Alison specifically, I was going through a challenging time personally and I was probably channeling some of those feelings when creating her.

SFF: What challenges did you face when it was time to film the tinkle scene in the street?

JR: Time! We shot the whole film in one day, and the pee scene was the last thing on the schedule. It was nearly 2 a.m. and getting very cold, all of us had worked hard all day and were exhausted, and we needed to wrap.  We used a “pee rig”, so there were definitely some technical adjustments we had to make to figure it out. David operated the rig, which was big syringe attached to a tube sewn into the pants, and on the first take he put too much pressure into the pump and it came out like a waterfall.  It took some practice to get it to look natural. Luckily it was the middle of the night so there weren’t too many people walking by ready to call the cops.

SFF: Was it a mental health or addiction issue that was behind Alison’s dysfunctional behaviour?

JR: We actually don’t want to say too much about what we intended because it’s been fascinating to learn how people interpret it and project their own relationship experiences onto the film. That being said, I didn’t intend it to be an addiction issue when I initially wrote it. I actually think Alison is a pretty normal girl, and that the situation reflected in the film is more common between young couples than people tend to admit. Relationships have the potential to be very beautiful things, but they do challenge us and teach us a great deal about ourselves. The process can be deeply rewarding, but it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.

SFF: Some people would say that what we witnessed in Jay was relationship co-dependency. Is the film an attempt to bring the issue of codependency out into the open for public discussion?

JR: I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate attempt because I didn’t have that kind of agenda when writing it, but it’s absolutely a conversation in the film and something I think about in my own life. Having been in a relationship for eleven years, David and I really grew up together in our twenties, and when you’re with someone for an extended period of time, unconsciously your needs start to bleed together and you end up making compromises or demands on each other that you don’t even realize you’re making. Developing true independence and self-sufficiency within the relationship was something we had to work extremely hard on. That being said, I wrote the ending the way it is because I really want to make the audience question whether Alison behaves this way all the time or if this is a more isolated event. In healthy relationships, even if both people work hard to be emotionally responsible for themselves, inevitably there are times where you take turns caring for one another. I like that Alison shows up for Jay the next day, and we finally get to see this other side to her that he really loves.

SFF: Alison was named a Vimeo Staff Pick awhile back. What was it like for you and your team when you got the news?

JR: So exciting! Putting it online was a lot of hard work, but seeing it take off and find an audience was the most gratifying, rewarding thing. I was really happy about the traction it was getting online even before we had the Vimeo news — we were amazed at how many people started to share it over social media. It’s vulnerable to put such a personal story on the Internet and it’s really difficult to give a film life online. We had no idea what the response would be, so ultimately the whole experience ended up being so moving to us. I was home alone in my pajamas when I got the Staff Pick e-mail and kind of just burst into tears (in a good way). David was working, so I called him with the news and we both kind of freaked out.

SFF: What lesson or lessons would you like the audience to take away from Alison?

JR: Honestly, I hope that if there are any lessons to be taken from the film that they are very unique to the person watching it. Our favourite thing about film is how it gets people talking, so what we love most is when people start to have dialogue about it after and reflect on what they’ve seen and how it connects to their own life. We’ve had people write to us and share the different ways they relate to the film or how it’s changed their perspective on their past or current relationships, and that part is really the most gratifying.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Alison was an emotional and heartfelt story about staying dedicated to your mate. While it is easy to run from a relationship at the first sign of trouble, Alison shows us that true love for a partner includes accepting the bad with the good.  The quick scene change from “oh yeah, peanut butter” to vomiting was funny, but you still feel for Alison’s suffering; especially when she broke down in tears in the tub. Jay’s calmness when confronting and coping with Alison’s behaviour showed an amazing strength of character, while his break down reminds us all that a person’s strength can only last for so long. If the film went on for a few minutes longer, perhaps Jay could have revealed his true thoughts, feelings and concerns about Alison and how it was affecting his place in the relationship.

Overall, Alison is an extremely well-written and well-acted serious film that would resonate with couples young or old; married or still in the dating phase. Singles could also benefit from watching Alison, as it would be a great teaching tool on how to manage the relationship stresses and challenges. As Jessica mentioned, Alison has the ability to get people thinking and talking about their own relationship experiences. After watching the film above, how did it affect the way you see relationships past and present? Have you been in a similar situation like Jay was? Have you walked in Alison’s shoes at one point? Let Jessica know how Alison moved you. You can send her a comment at the bottom of the film’s website at https://www.alisonshortfilm.com/ or you can Tweet her at @thejessrose

Trusted Values Connect, Contrast, Confront & Clash In ‘Static’ (2016)

Holding on or letting go. It can be a challenging decision that is usually influenced by the values we hold.  For example, if a device that you have cherished for years no longer worked properly, do you keep it and get it repaired or do you throw it away and get a new one? What about when a loved one dies? Do you live in the past or are you able to move on with your life? The decision to act one way or the other is sometimes not so easy to make, though. Memories, experiences and even our mental health can factor in heavily when making that next step.

The 2016 short film Static is a dramatic and intense look at this common life struggle, as it takes you into the eye of a family drama hurricane between an older man and his son as they clash over the fate of a broken TV set. Produced and written by Tanya Lemke and based on the short story of the same name by Robert Shearman, Static stars Eric Peterson as Ernest and Yannick Bisson as his son, Billy. Ernest is a widower living alone with an old TV set. It drips blood (in his mind) and wants it repaired. Billy, on the other hand, has different designs. He wants to replace his dad’s old TV set with a new one. With angry opposition, and with memories of his deceased wife, Ernest makes an attempt to save the one thing left in his life from its demise.

Click on CBC’s Canadian Reflections link below to watch the whole short:

http://watch.cbc.ca/canadian-reflections/season-2016/static/38e815a-00c1237ab0f

Short Film Fan spoke with Tanya to learn more about Static, including the many ways you could interpret Ernest’s behavior and mindset throughout the film:

Short Film Fan:  Why did you decide to write and produce Static?

Tanya Lemke: My first short film Happy Pills was about to be released. I was high on that experience and my newfound love of directing, and I wanted to get going on another film as soon as possible. I also make my living in production which cuts into a lot of development time. So, aside from my own writing I was looking around for something to adapt. I had the chance to meet my now good friend Robert Shearman around that time and read a bunch of his stuff, which I loved! His story ‘Static’ jumped out at me because it illustrated so clearly a theme that I’m still fascinated with: the things we don’t say and don’t say and don’t say, until the façade inevitably cracks and the corrosive truth starts to leak out. That’s powerful stuff. Fortunately Rob liked my work too, and when I asked him if I could adapt ‘Static’ I was thrilled when he said yes. The script I wrote from that story then won the Screenplay Giveaway from the last-ever CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and we were a go.

SFF: What was it like working with Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson, two powerhouse Canadian actors?

Yannick Bisson as ‘Billy’

TL: I’d been lucky enough to work with Yannick on Murdoch Mysteries for a while so I already knew him when I approached him with this script. But, I was still absolutely floored when he agreed to join in, especially considering his exhausting schedule on Murdoch. He’s an absolute megawatt star in every way and I’ll be forever grateful for his support. The search for our Ernest was tougher; I had never met Eric Peterson before and I admit I was a bit intimidated to send him the material. He’s a legend! But he loved the script and was so gracious and generous with his time and energy. He came to our set utterly prepared with reams of his own notes on his character and backstory despite also being in the middle of shooting a major Canadian production (Best Laid Plans for CBC). Really, working with both of these guys was the best experience I could hope for.

SFF:  We can see that Ernest strongly believes in the value of fixing and keeping things rather than throwing them out quickly. But, are we witnessing a much stronger feeling of survivor guilt or an inability to let go?

Eric Peterson as ‘Ernest’

TL:  Absolutely. All of those things and more – how they contrast and how they connect. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the story of Static’ was its layers upon layers of meaning under an almost placid façade. Ernest is old-fashioned. He subscribes to the idea that “they just don’t make things the way they used to”: electronics, wives…  There is love and grief and terrible guilt, but also denial. There’s resentment for being left behind, and resentment towards the ones who are left. There is the idea that by constantly replacing flawed things with new; we sanitize them, avoiding the messiness of death and decay. It speaks to our more and more obvious inability to deal.  Then there’s the external vs. the internal world; what’s real and what isn’t – is it grief, is it dementia, is it madness? I love the story’s contrasts; it’s a bit funny, painfully poignant and also horrifying in a way. It’s also hopeful despite being super dark. Even the title has multiple meanings:  “static” speaks to Ernest’s frozen emotional state and inability to move forward, as well as the static on the TV’s screen, which again indicates that nothing is black and white but many tones of grey (and red).

SFF:  What has the audience reaction been like to the film?

TLStatic has been so well received at all the festivals it’s played at so far, as well as its Canadian broadcast on CBC, and I can’t wait to bring it to more audiences worldwide. I was actually a bit surprised by how warmly the horror/genre community in particular embraced it. I guess it was because of all the blood (but what mainstream love story wouldn’t benefit from a little blood spurt, I ask you?). It’s wonderful to hear all of the feedback and support from fellow filmmakers as well as fans. I particularly love to hear from these hardcore horror fans: things like “moving”, “tear-jerking”, “heart-wrenching”. There’s a bit of a cool contrast going on there too and it’s awesome.

SFF: What message would you like the audience to take away from Static?

TL: Making Static ended up being cathartic for me on a whole bunch of levels. I think one of its messages is that everything and everyone is complex and that’s as it should be. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Accept everything, even (especially) the darkness. Feel what you need to feel.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Static was a moving tale of generational divides and value clashes. Ernest’s remark of “Stop tossing things out when they get broken and try to fix them for a change.” sounded like a stinging warning against and rebuke of the throw-away society that we currently live in. For fans of Canadian television programs, casting Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson was a treat. They played their characters quite well and looked like a real-life father and son duo. You could even hear a bit of Oscar from the hit TV show’s Corner Gas coming from Eric in some of the scenes, especially during the answering machine argument. The dripping blood gave Static that horror short film feel and it added to the film’s tense drama. It was hard to watch Ernest go through the pain of reliving his dog’s and wife’s death. But, of course, it was important to include those scenes as it gave important context to his obsession to “stop tossing things out”. In the last scene, it would have been a fitting twist to see the image of his wife’s face in the TV set as Ernest was driving madly away in the car, rather than the trees. Finally, Static was well-acted, well-written and reminds us that it can be hard to let go as well as to hold on; sometimes the situation we are in does not make the decision-making process any easier.

Give Static a follow on Twitter @StaticTheMovie to see if it is playing at a film festival near you. All the best to Tanya in her future short film endeavors!

 

You Will Get Through It No Matter What In ‘Given Your History’ (2014)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in Canada. From coast to coast, Canadians will be encouraged to do all they can to help find a cure that will eliminate this life-threatening illness. From screenings to financial donations to adopting healthy lifestyles, everyone in the country has a chance to do their bit to fight against breast cancer.

Although the chances of beating breast cancer have been improving over the years, far too many women have succumbed to it. Often their death was untimely, leaving behind their children, spouses, and even their parents to live without them. Losing a family member at any time can be hard. For young children or young adults, it can be devastating as relationships can suffer and personal struggles can be overwhelming.

Molly McGlynn’s 15-minute short film, Given Your History (2014), is a profound and emotional portrayal of two sisters’ lives after their mother dies of breast cancer. In the beginning, we meet sisters Alanna (Katie Boland) and Colleen (Rachel Wilson), as they wait for their mother, Bridget (Valerie Buhagiar), to finish her rowing session with her Dragonboat team. When Colleen visits Alanna after their mother dies, internal and external conflicts soon emerge between them. For a sneak peek into the film, watch the trailer below:

 

Short Film Fan caught up with Molly and she shared some of her thoughts about the film:

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Given Your History?

Molly McGlynn: I  lost my mom to breast cancer almost ten years ago when I was 21, which is around the age Alanna’s character is supposed to be. Also, I am one of five girls and I wanted to make something that takes a glimpse into grief after the dust has settled a bit and how the loss of parent can affect sibling dynamics. It’s not autobiographical, but comes from a deeply personal place.

SFF:  What particular challenges did you face when making this short?

MM: Emotionally, I had to distance myself from my own narrative for the sake of the film. It was empowering and cathartic to direct a film based on such a difficult period in my life! Logistically, the dragon boats scenes were a little bit of a nail biter. I was insistent on using the Dragon’s Abreast team that you see in the film, which happens to be the team my mother was on. We shot in October and the very last weekend the boats could be out in the water was our shoot days. So, basically, if the weather did not cooperate, I’d lose the boat scenes which were so integral to the story. But, by good luck it was a chilly day and the sun was shining. We got what we needed.

SFF:  Given Your History was a deeply moving and emotional film. What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

MM: Really good! A lot of people can relate to this narrative. I don’t want to label it a “cancer” film, but that is a central part of the story. Everyone has been lost or grieving something at some point, so I think people can see a little bit of themselves in it.

SFF:  What message did you want to get across to the audience with this film?

MM: I’m hesitant to want to push a “message” out with my work; more just show a truthful, honest story that may make the audience look at themselves or their life in a new way. If I had to name it, I guess it would be to say that ‘we’re all gonna be okay, no matter what you have to go through’.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Given Your History is definitely a stirring short. It is an educational film in that it shows how one can still find peace despite living through the sorrow that breast cancer can bring. The Dragonboat scenes also taught us that no one is alone when fighting a disease such as cancer. The film also underscores the fact that life must go on and that it does go on. Both Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson played very convincing roles as sisters, with the most realistic and intense moment taking place when Colleen is trying to calm down a very distraught Alanna in her bedroom. Given Your History is a must-see film for anyone struggling to deal with a loved one’s health battles or coping with the loss of a loved one.

We wish all the best to Molly and hope to see more short films from her in the future.256px-16mm_filmhjul