A new short film, I AM, aims to break down stigmas associated with schizophrenia through the life of Gabi, a young woman attempting to hide her condition from her boyfriend. Mental Health Today spoke to lead actress and producer Oriane Pick about the difficulties in letting someone in and allowing yourself to be true to who you are.
Romantic relationships in rom-coms, and sometimes in life, follow a well-known scene-by-scene narrative – the nervous first date, the giddy butterflies anticipating the next overpriced coffee, cheeky Nando’s, or boozy pub crawl, and the inevitable, gradual, letting down of boundaries.
Nevertheless, while life attempts to imitate art, no matter how often we may find ourselves falling in love, putting yourself out there and possibly being vulnerable never gets simpler. This can be even more difficult when full disclosure means being fully open about a mental health condition, and especially so when it is often misunderstood and misrepresented in popular culture.
Untangling this problem, the movie I AM is possibly an exemption to the 'far more' condition in Oscar Wilde’s often quoted witticism that ‘life imitates art far more than art imitates life’, because the film is firmly based on the real-life experiences of people who have schizophrenia. They have guided the movie's production and have illuminated the writers about their own personal struggles and misconceptions about their condition.
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Candid Broads Productions: bringing female-led mental health stories that have the ability to challenge misconceptions and develop new narratives
Schizophrenia is rarely featured in movies, and when it is, it is often through the lens of the pervasive stereotypical tropes – that it is something that the audience should fear, that people with schizophrenia are violent or are criminals, or that the condition denies love, friends, and happiness.
Oriane described how this movie differs in its depiction of schizophrenia from the blockbuster trend: “It was something that we 100% wanted to do correctly because we've seen so many movies that are just doing it completely wrong… They get millions and millions of like profits out of it. And it is showing a very wrong image of what it is to live with schizophrenia.”
“There was a lot of different testimonials that we got from people living with schizophrenia. And I knew that for me for the story, I had a very clear story in mind… I knew I wanted it to be about the fear of telling someone that you deeply care about what it is that you're living with and what's your day-to-day struggle. I knew that was something that I definitely wanted to tackle because I was hoping that this could help the community, for anyone that would feel worried about actually telling their loved ones."
The story of the movie revolves around the life of Gabi, who is not being true to who she is because she is afraid of losing her boyfriend if she comes clean about her condition. But also, understandably, she is “trying to have the normal life that she's always wanted to have.”
"It is difficult to let someone into your own space sometimes and to just tell them all of your secrets and everything that that you're feeling", Oriane commented.
She added that integral to this movie was making a noise about mental health struggles and as well as advocating and transforming the media landscape when it comes to those challenges: “[We wanted to] show that it is an inner struggle and is something that is so tough for the person living with it, that you just need the support all around you to make sure that you can get better, and learn to live with it in the right way.”
But you would be mistaken if you initially think that this movie is concentrating on negativity, far the opposite, as Oriane explained, while the plot deals with a very serious issue, the narrative (without giving away any spoilers) and the characters have been written to be uplifting and inspiring, rather than reproduce unhelpful, negative stereotypes.
This 15-minute movie is produced by the new innovative female lead Candid Broads Productions. It will be submitted to various festivals around the world early this year, with the hope that some private screenings will raise funds for charities helping those with mental health struggles. However, this is not the end of this movie's production as there are plans that I AM will be further developed into a feature-length film. Candid Broads also additionally intends to produce a series of short films around mental health.
You can view the movie’s trailer here.