Nearly two years ago – at a time where life couldn’t be any more confusing and where my on-again, off-again millennial crisis was reaching its peak – I made the decision to go back to school and pursue filmmaking. I wasn’t hesitant about my own capability to tell stories as much as I was worried about the concept of taking risks. I knew deep down that almost everything in this world was built through risk-taking, but I felt paralyzed whenever I took any decision pertaining to my own future.
I knew two things needed to happen before I took that step: I had to be mentally and technically equipped to turn a story constructed in the depths of my imagination into a real motion picture, and I had to defeat the traditionalist subconscious demons that constantly told me I wasn’t ready (for anything for that matter). All I really had in me was an idea and a semi-sustainable dream.
Today, one year and nine months after getting into graduate school and two months after getting my MA and making a short film, I can safely say that taking risks and acting on impulse is the recipe for my happiness. This whirlwind of an academic year came to an abrupt, but well-received end, but in order to rationalize what happened in the past 20 months and really build a vision for what’s to come, I had to write this – and get a number of things off my chest.
We tell stories to make sense of things and heal – we really do. I knew that my film would be about ASD, I knew that I wanted to tell the story of my brother’s life with Autism Spectrum Disorder and especially to reflect my family’s experience(s) for the past 19 years. I wanted one of my two brothers to play his younger sibling, I wanted a passionate woman to portray the pain and challenge(s) of a mother raising a son who is non-verbal, and I wanted the story to take place in Toronto. I wasn’t willing to change my vision or compromise my beliefs. The story and family were really mine, and the film – whether I admit it openly or not – was my own source of healing. There’s a huge misconception about film makers, it’s a poorly-supported notion that they are demanding people who make films without always being emotionally invested it them. That isn’t true. I believe filmmakers are storms of emotion, that they’re vulnerable enough to tell stories that matter, and I think that’s perfectly fine. The emotional attachment I developed for people, moments and places is something from which I can never recover. To be quite honest – making my first film was the best emotional roller coaster ride I could have taken.
Doing what scares you the most tells you who you are. I thought that I wasn’t established enough to learn about the film industry, I also believed that I was too old to try something new and that I was slowing down my own progress by becoming someone/something I dreamt about. I lived through cycles of challenging cultural beliefs – especially in the context of my own family: I had to try to express to them that passion is something that actually counts. I had to prove to them that the safe routes aren’t exactly solutions – that they’re just evasive ways for people who are too afraid to fail. I really don’t know how people live trying to dodge failure. This experience left no room for my own ego, it made me comfortable with the idea of failing, and it made me fall in love with the idea of trying (again).
Your well being/health matters. All the time.
My film screening is scheduled for early 2016. I had to push many things forward after the DOP of my production took her own life on September 29th, a day before my film screening in school. Although I had my own minor battles with stress and anxiety which are not comparable to her struggles, I now realize that we live in a society where we don’t talk about emotional well-being enough. We have very little courage when it comes to understanding, seeing, and actually believing in depression. Mental health is a necessary conversation, and depression is very real, I learned that the stigma around it could not have been more present. I had the honour and pleasure to work with this young woman whom I later found out was suffering immensely and who was unable to express her own pain. I learned that making films (or any creative work that matters) hurts as much as it heals, I learned that people are very fragile and that the idea of giving up and losing hope doesn’t apply to two people in the same manner or on the same scale. It’s really difficult to lose someone you’ve built a rapport with, and it’s crucial to acknowledge and reiterate the importance of constantly caring for our emotional well being. No one has it together, no one.
Today, I don’t give up as easily. I’m almost 30 and I’m still eager to learn, screw up and change. I don’t want to hurt people because I know we all ache differently. One of the many purposes of my film was to bridge the narrative gap between disability and race, two concepts that I know are miles apart in contemporary North American cinema. I wanted to work with women filmmakers – and I did. I had an incredibly diverse cast, and so many intelligent women/men took part in my project. I wanted to see a woman of colour star in a Toronto production – and I did. I recently spent an evening with a friend who is very dear to my heart and I was – as usual – conflicted about a number of things in life. I looked up at her wall and saw a C.S. Lewis line that I knew but didn’t repeat enough in my own mind. I needed to see it then more than ever.
Regardless of how my film is received, regardless of how loved or hated it will be, I cannot wait to take risks again. I cannot wait to fail, fall and try again.