Directing a short film is something……let me tell ya what.
That is the opening line to this article, written on May 4. Today is September 8 and it’s the first time I’ve touched it since then. When I opened the document and saw it, I tried to think back to what I must have been thinking the day that I wrote that. There was a lot going through my head as a writer and a first time film maker. We had already filmed all of the scenes and were in the post production stage. All of the footage was sitting on a hard drive, just waiting to be made into a watchable piece of moving art. Boy…it is amazing what life will throw at you when you least suspect it.
Writer David Dunwoody wrote a story in 2008 that fictionalized an actual incident that happened to him. I read that story in 2009 shortly after meeting him at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh, PA – zombie fan mecca. Eventually, David and I went on to be published in a few horror anthologies together. He even has a story in the book I co-edited called Dead Set. I remember having to pick only 18 stories out of over hundreds of submissions….David’s story – as usual – definitely stood out from the rest. Since then I’ve added about 10 of his books to my permanent library. Yes, he’s that good. Like….Stephen King level good, and I am not exaggerating one bit. So in December 2018, I dusted off a copy of his short stories and flipped right to New Eyes. Probably because in the past, I had read that one story more than the others. This time, it really got to me. I felt David’s experience through his own words. It was mesmerizing, to say the least. For years I have been contemplating making a short film to enter in the LA Film Prize competition. Something in my ADHD fueled all-over-the-place brain said “Make this a movie!” It wasn’t until I decided to go for it that I realized why I really wanted to make it: so many people can relate to his story. Sooooo many!
New Eyes deals with some serious topics: depression, alcoholism, suicide….things that, unfortunately, people all over the world deal with either themselves or with someone they know. It’s a subject that needs to stop being so taboo. Mental health is important and knowing how to “deal with your demons,” so to speak, is a huge step forward in learning to take care of one’s emotions. Instincts are feelings and what keep us alive, after all. So what happens when life throws you a bunch of curve balls, sometimes one right after another? What happens when one ball clocks you right between the eyes? Do you fall down or do you start learning how to dodge, duck, dive and even catch those balls?
So I contacted David and got his permission to not only write the screenplay but to change the lead to female so that my friend Robin could play the part. That was another gut feeling that I went with and I believe it was a good choice! So Dana’s story is only 10 minutes long, but by the end I hope that people will see things a little differently, in a positive way. Life is all about choices and the ones we make for ourselves are the most important.
My personal life was taking a lot of blows and New Eyes got me through it. My dad has been fighting cancer for months and my first cousin and very closest friend of 40 years took her own life. Two of my cats died, a new kitten and my 19 year old Buttercup. But my art kept me going. When my thoughts turned yucky and I felt the urge to sink into depression, I got up off my butt and started painting or dancing or writing or drawing. Art kept me going. You see, art is not about the finished product….oh no. For the artist it is all about the process because that’s where catharsis happens; that’s when we pour all of those over abundant thoughts and feelings into whatever we are creating. It’s the art of making art: the passion, the pain and the struggle. And guess what? The struggle is real.
With that being said, please give New Eyes a watch. It’s only 10 minutes long but the impact will (hopefully) last much longer. You can also find New Eyes: A Short Film on Facebook and Youtube for more upcoming short films from Dark Pink Productions. Check out the official David Dunwoody website and seriously, read his stuff!