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How I Turned My Depression Into a Film Festival Success

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How I Turned My Depression Into a Film Festival Success
Photo Source: Alli Kat
After I saw Naomi Watts in “Ellie Parker,” which she also produced, I decided I could and would make my own feature film too. I tinkered with a few ideas and writing partners until the perfect storm occurred. The man I was dating at the time yelled out, “We’re part time fabulous!” during an argument. I stopped the fight and said, “That’s the name of a movie, can I use it?!” Fortunately, he said yes. At that moment, images of interviews of real couples sharing their “part time fabulousness,” like in “When Harry Met Sally,” flooded my consciousness. Simultaneously, an acquaintance’s, Alethea Root’s, face flashed across my mind, and I knew I wanted to ask both her and her husband, director of photography Shawn Dufraine, if they’d help make the film.

A few weeks later, I had a dream about some antique postcards I had found at my Grandmother’s place in Virginia. I dreamt I was able to sell them and make thousands of dollars so I could fund my movie. I called my mom the next day, and she happened to be visiting Virginia from California. I asked her if she would mind if I sold the postcards to fund a film. She said, “Of course!” Once I received the two huge albums of vintage cards in the mail, I noticed they were all in pretty shabby shape. I wasn’t discouraged. I began looking up what they were worth and contacting dealers. Then, I invited Althea and Shawn over and offered them a directing and DP job, respectively. Luckily, Alethea was between projects and ready to make her feature film directorial debut. Shawn was busy, so couldn’t commit to the project. (He ended up shooting the documentary portion of the film.)

Alethea and I began to write together immediately. On the second day, she asked me what exactly did being “part time fabulous” mean to me, and suddenly, my own deep, dark past bubbled to the surface. I told her, “I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 20, and I have been fighting it ever since.” She began to ask me questions about living with Depression and how that affected my life, and in particular, my romantic relationships. We looked at each other and knew that the movie was moving away from a general romantic comedy to a specific look at living with Depression. Since we were both first time writers we decided to run with it, since we’d always heard, “Write what you know.”

Meanwhile, I was working on selling the post cards. While a pristine turn of the century card was worth $500, my set was pretty banged up. I ended up finding a dealer to take them off my hands for $100. We all know a movie costs a great deal more than $100 to produce, and I had already set mine in motion so I had to act fast. I decided to “out” myself to friends and family. I wrote an honest letter about my sometimes debilitating private battle with Depression and that we were going to start an international discussion about Clinical Depression to help lift the stigma associated with the disorder. I asked for donations in return for an Associate Producer credit. I’ll never forget the moment I opened my first donation envelope from a college friend. I imagined it would be $50 or maybe $100, but to my complete shock it was for $1,000. I stood in my apartment in stunned gratitude with tears streaming down my face. We were going to make this movie. I raised enough during my personal fund drive for principal photography.

While making “Part Time Fabulous,” I discovered I adore filmmaking as much as acting. Thankfully they go hand in hand. Along with the great team we assembled, Alethea and I focused on telling a story inspired by my life. We also interviewed real Depression sufferers and interwove their stories into our narrative, like my original idea of using the “When Harry Met Sally” structure. Once we began to write the story of Depression and recovery, there was no stopping us. We threw our hearts and souls into it, and it became our mission to help break the silence and stigma around living with Depression. Once I had outed myself, I realized how much shame and guilt I had been carrying around about having Depression. Making the film was incredibly cathartic for me.

Once we finished the movie, we began the film festival process. We did research, asked around, and made our list of dream festivals. We then entered the film into festivals via the site: www.withoutbox.com. We proudly premiered the movie at the Monaco Charity Film Festival, where I won the Best Actress Award in 2011. “Part Time Fabulous” has been in nine film festivals worldwide and won seven awards over the past year. Both Alethea and I have been able to travel around the globe to film festivals and engage with audiences following our screenings. People have had a lot to say after seeing the film. Depression sufferers have thanked us for making it because it rings true to their personal experiences, while friends and family members of sufferers thanked us, as well, because after seeing the movie they felt like they had a better understanding of what it must be like to live with Depression.

If I had continued to be frustrated and let that frustration beat me, I wouldn't have two best actress awards along with five other awards for “Part Time Fabulous” and its talented team. I'm here to say: Tell truthful stories, surround yourself with talented, driven people, and go on the journey. Be the artist you know you are and forget what all of the internal and external naysayers may say. We go around once (as far as we know) so don't let anyone tell you whether or not you’re going to have the career and life you want. We all deserve and can have more.

“Part Time Fabulous” will screen at 3 p.m. on Sat., May 5 and be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers at the MACHA Theater, Main Screening Room, 1107 North Kings Road, West Hollywood 90069. Parking available at Kings Road and Santa Monica Blvd. For tickets, visit www.awarenessfestival.healoneworld.com.

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