“Let’s do a short film about mental health”. These were my words when actor Simon Hipkin and I spoke about working on a project together. The reason? Well, certain themes such as grief, betrayal, loss and heartbreak have played a major role in my twenty-seven years on earth.
Some people are more resilient to life's hardships but for a long time, this was something I struggled with. These days my anxiety is under control. How? I do what works for me.
This is not medication nor is it any kind of alternative therapy. Talking and sharing my emotions with friends and family have been the best way for me to overcome any mental struggle I have had. Allowing myself to feel the emotions my body is telling me and not mask it with medication has worked out to be a great recovery tool for me. It has enabled me to become emotionally stronger and resilient. I must note this is not for everyone and I recommend talking to your doctor. Anyway, back to my short film.
Holding the Rain is a silent drama which follows a mental health sufferer struggling to live with obsessive compulsive disorder. I wanted to convey a story of real sadness but ending with a tinge of hope. This was very important for me as I thought about the viewers who are challenged with mental health issues and how I wanted them to feel afterwards.
Hope is very powerful and it is hope that we should all believe in because recovery is possible - you just need to find the right tool to fix the problem. I am a strong believer that talking is the first step to a positive and healthy mind.
I met the actor Simon Hipkin in Sydney last November as part of an Australia introductory group. We both became friends but were none the wiser to each-others careers in the industry. After several months we spoke briefly about working on a short film but I didn’t have the resources to shoot, nor did I have a story to tell.
After a few hours thinking up a storyline, I thought of my own experience suffering from anxiety and the whole OCD / suicide plot just spilled out on to the page. I must add I don’t suffer nor have I ever suffered from OCD or have I attempted to take my own life, I just strongly wanted to tell a story with tragedy looming but ending in a hopeful “it’s gonna be okay” conclusion. This was why I wanted to make the film.
Over the years I have learnt that a powerful way to tell a story in film is without dialogue. Saying nothing can be more emotive than littering the viewer with dialogue overload - so it was something I was keen to explore. I shared the story with Simon hours later and he jumped on board instantly - it was very important for him to portray the character tasteful with dignity and not overdo it. We were very caution about not offending or disrespecting real people in a similar position. We shot the film in 2 days in and around Brisbane and was filmed and edited using just my iPhone. I was thrilled during the edit to see the quality of footage produced.
I’ve received a huge number of heartwarming messages of support from mental health advocates, charities, sufferers and survivors about my short film and this encourages me to keep raising awareness and advocate the hopeful message. I am very thankful for this and I appreciate all the kind words thrown my way.
My short film has been submitted to several international short film festivals - so fingers crossed it makes the cut in some of them. This would boost the film to a much wider audience and that is always a good thing for mental health awareness.
I have made numerous short films as a teenager and also attended the prestigious London Film Academy in 2011. Over the last few years I have been working on several feature-length screenplays which I am hoping to pitch in the near future.
We sure you'll agree that Stewart (and Simon) have created a beautiful film that tackles a difficult subject with respect and sensitivity. Have you found a creative outlet to tackle your own mental illness? DId you make a film? paint a picture? write a song? Want us to share it with the world? Let us know in the comments below.
You can keep up-to-date with Stewart on Twitter, where he's @stewarthannah90 or follow Simon Hipkin, who's @SimonHipkin. You can also subscribe to Stewart's YouTube channel (like we have) which is linked here!