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SYNOPSIS

Sage's world is riffled with a turbulent anxiety disorder that impedes all elements of her life. We follow her journey of isolation and raw existence. She's well practised at suppressing all signs of the illness but on a trip away with friends, her best friend becomes the catalyst for change. 

 
 
This year figures from the New Zealand Mental Health Survey show that one in four New Zealanders will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
— TALKING THERAPY
 
 
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DIRECTORS STATEMENT

This film is both a jarring and evocative piece of cinema that depicts a day in the life of someone with anxiety and panic disorder. It’s a piece to sink your teeth into.

A key friendship is revealed in the film and this becomes a catalyst for our main character in confronting her reality. He also acts as a light, comical element within the film. He is a refreshing spirit and it is evident their friendship runs deep. It was important to me that the film followed a natural rhythm of life, with both highs and lows. This friendship propels the film to follow that rhythm. 

The tone and pace of this story is one that overlaps. The jarring attacks and lingering stillness works as a cohesive piece. We wanted to make sure we represented the very real physical manifestation of panic attacks, how they interrupt and invade your world, but once they subside, silence infiltrates. Our protagonist, Sage’s, world is contradictory and the editing style, score and performance reflects this. 

This raw story was born out of my own season of anxiety and panic disorder 3 years ago. I would wake in the night with panic attacks, unable to eat, unable to stomach anything when I tried and became fearful of everything around me. I lost a large amount of weight - I thought there was a biological issue at play. I was completely unaware that I was, in fact, battling an anxiety disorder. I had never heard anyone speak of anxiety as a mental illness, but as soon as I started to open my mouth, I then realised it ran in my family and that those I worked with and some dear to me, battled with it also. I was shocked to hear that people were struggling as severe as I was but kept it quiet. They were ashamed. It was this journey and realisation that catapulted the premise of this short film. 

The stigma that surrounds mental health, as a whole, I believe needs to be challenged. I feel there are two extremes that are at play here. One side is riffled with shame, silence, guilt and fear. For that side, my desire is to contribute to a platform of communication, support and healthy discussion. The other extreme is that more and more people, everywhere, are beginning to claim anxiety to be a part of their lives. It’s rampant in our culture, the statistics are rising and it’s extremely concerning. This world is becoming a scary and fear-filled place. However I have started to notice ‘anxiety’ becoming a word that is casually thrown about, more and more. My concern with this movement is that the word is beginning to lose its weight and severity in the context of those who are diagnosed with the disorder, where it dictates and debilitates every aspect of their life. Both extremes I hold in a sensitive and weary tension, very aware that, like with everything, there is a spectrum and this is an extremely complex and difficult topic to unravel in its entirety. My desire for this film is to contribute to the platform that discusses all aspects of the spectrum. Implementing the discussion and the affect that it can have on those A) struggling, B) trying to support those who are struggling and C) have no idea at all; will be immeasurable 

Making this film has truly taken every fiber of my being. During the shoot, I fell into that same deep, dark place of panic again. It was incredibly infuriating, having grown in recovery over the past couple of years. Something personal happened just before shoot, and my body and mind just disintegrated. On shoot day 2, I fell into an intense panic attack and had to be driven home from set. I was beside myself in grief. I felt robbed of my pride and joy of this project. I managed to get to shoot day 3 and was welcomed with open arms from every crew member. The love and acceptance blew me away. I then flourished. The support, acknowledgement and patience led me to a place of great strength and the ability to cast my vision clearly. I was not expecting to recover as quickly as I did, but the incredible team enabled this story to have legs of its own. I was personally battling the very thing I was trying to build a narrative around. I was a walking story of the story I was trying to tell. As hellish as it was, now looking back I see how much more power this film has, because of that hell. 

This film, I hope, propels anyone struggling to seek support and those who are supportive figures to gain patience and endurance. Furthermore, open the eyes of those who are completely unaware of the debilitating journey of mental illness.

 
 
 
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CAST AND CREW

 
 
 

FLORENCE NOBLE
SAGE

Florence is a notable actor, writer and director in both New Zealand and Australia. ‘Things Are Going Really Well,’ a short film she wrote, directed and played the lead, was selected for the LA Comedy Festival, Sweden’s Norrkoping Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival, where she also attended The 2015 Accelerator Program. Florence has won numerous awards and is continuing to hone her craft both on and off the screen. Rachel was drawn to Florence immediately and noted her equally passionate, gentle and tender accents. Florence was a perfect fit for Sage with her subtle yet strong approach to the sensitive subject, while embodying the narrative authentically.

 

 

JORDAN VAHA’AKOLO
HUDSON

Jordan debuted his acting career in Kiwi feature film ‘Born to Dance,’ which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. His breathtaking performance brought him onto Rachel’s radar. His powerful vulnerability fused with quick wit became an immediate match for the role of Hudson. His passion for earnest storytelling was central to the role, as well as incorporating a vibrant and comedic streak in amongst. Hudson’s role was to bring vivacity within his friendship with Sage and breathe life into the wider story. Jordan was incredibly dedicated to the role and to the wider topic of mental health. 

 

 

RACHEL ROSS
DIRECTOR

Rachel graduated South Seas Film School in 2011 and since then has been working in various roles within film, TV and commercial work. 

Rachel wrote and directed the short film ‘Taylor’ - a story of two brothers’ coming together one night, after many years of separation. It was accepted into: 

  • Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2012 – Received the top special mention in its category - (Florida, USA) 
  • Fastnet Short Film Festival 2012 (Schull, West Cork, Ireland) 
  • Wairoa Maori Film Festival 2012 (Wairoa, New Zealand) 
“The category you entered is extremely competitive. It is the best of the best. You are great at what you do and have picked a perfect profession to showcase your talents. Go forth and make great films.” 
- Bonnie Adams, Senior Program Director, Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, USA

Rachel was also a recipient of the New Zealand Film Commission's Talent Development Grant. This grant enabled her to spend 8 weeks writing her first feature film at the New York Film Academy in New York, where she developed "Have you tried, maybe, not worrying" into a feature-length screenplay. She's now in the process of re-writes and approaching key funders.

 

 

HAMISH MORTLAND
PRODUCER

Film Producer based in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Hamish graduated from Canterbury University’s School of Fine Arts in 2003, where he majored in film (BFA). After studying he began working within the camera-line before branching out into directing and finally producing both in New Zealand and the UK. 

His most recent short film with Roseanne Liang "DO NO HARM" was selected to premiere at Sundance 2017 and also played at the 2017 SXSW - among many others.' Another recent short with Zoe McIntosh, "The World in your Window," was selected to premiere at Clermont Ferrand 2017 and has been accepted into Tribeca Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival 2017. Passionate about tackling the gender gap, all three of the short films' Hamish produced in 2016 were written and directed by females.

Hamish currently produces commercials, shorts and is in early development on several feature films.

 
 
 
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