As some of you may know, I’ve spent the last three years studying filmmaking in the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program at the University of Arizona. Now, as I begin my senior year, it’s time to start preparing for the final product of all the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated so far: my Senior Thesis Film!
I will spend the next two semesters working with a talented, dedicated crew to realize a vision into a form that is both beautiful and tangible: a short film called PORCHLIGHT, which premieres at the Fox Theater on April 27, 2019!
In order to make this happen, however, we will need some funding! This will help us rent equipment, acquire set decoration, and—most importantly—feed our crew! Student crew members work many long hours for FREE in order to help us make our films, so the least we can do is feed them well.
Porchlightwill be a naturalistic art-drama depicting the madness, grief, and endurance of a family in the midst of a sudden and irreversible tragedy. When a young stay-at-home mother is found dead, her family congregates to untangle her last moments and resolve a looming matter: How will they raise her child?
Some of you may have correctly assumed that this story was inspired by an event that recently occurred within my own family. I would like to tell this story first as it truly is, so that I may preserve its reality and shed light on its consequences.
I grew up with a beautiful sister, Briana, who my parents adopted before I was born. Her first few years were tumultuous and culminated in her biological mother’s suicide, profoundly impacting her cognitive development and mental health. She suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental illness characterized by a fear of abandonment often caused by childhood trauma. Despite different methods of treatment, she struggled with chronic depression and intense emotional fluctuation.
Briana persevered, fell in love, and had two precious babies. She built a life and a family, despite the difficulty she endured daily. She loved her children. She was highly motivated, energetic, and sweet. She worked out all the time and looked like a goddess. And yet, one night in the Summer of 2017, she took her own life.
I struggled with the decision to make a film that revolves around something so personal; however, I found myself unable to focus on much else, and was further compelled by the encouragement of my professors and peers, along with a fateful feeling of obligation.
Mental illness and suicide are topics that are traditionally tip-toed around, swept under the rug, and kept quiet. Many of us try to internally fix our own problems without bothering to ask for help—especially if we believe that we’ll be perceived as weak, dramatic, overly emotional, or naïve for doing so. Mental illness has long had a stigma attached to it—one of being somehow abnormal. The act of suicide itself is considered vulgar and unspeakable—understandably so, for those who have the privilege not to think about such horror. The reality is that it’s all around us; 1 in 5 Americans (20%) live with a mental illness, and 45,000 people die by suicide in the U.S. each year.
Not only those who are “mentally ill” are at risk for suicide. Many people internalize their stress until they essentially implode from it. When we don’t say what we feel, the public image we construct can become vastly distant from our innermost selves. The only tools that can break down these walls of isolation and confusion are communication and knowledge—and at a time where global interconnectivity is at is highest, we have these resources ready at our fingertips.
I believe in the importance of education and the widespread circulation of knowledge, particularly regarding mental health, stress management, and emotional navigation. Please help us spread the word. Anything helps!