Using 2D Animation to Explore Depression and Grief

We caught up with the team behind the forthcoming short 
'What We're Meant For' a story of a 13-year-old girl and her
relationship with her dad, shortly after the passing of her mom.
Each character is dealing with the situation in an opposite way:
the daughter overcome with emotion and her father emotionally
shutting down, resulting in them alienating themselves when they
need each other the most. The daughter and her father must confront
their differences and find a healthy way to deal with their demons.
Described as a drama with fantasy and thriller elements, this film is 
sure to be unique! Read our exclusive interview with Gabriel, the
director behind the film.

AWI: Where did the idea for the film come from?

Gabriel Bruskoff: I had just finished a 2-year writing workshop that completely transformed my writing. Coming out the workshop, I wanted to practice by writing a short film. I needed an idea, so I looked at several idea-generator exercises I did over the years. Reviewing these ideas, one jumped out. I remembered it instantly: it was the idea I had when I was so exhausted that I said “screw it” and wrote down what I thought was the worst idea ever. I then took a break, finishing the exercise when my energy was back and I could focus on doing it correctly.

That idea, the “screw it, I don’t care” idea, had something: it had an energy that none of my other ideas had. I applied what I learned in my workshop to the idea, and then the script just appeared, like it had existed all along and I just discovered it.

Tell us about the animation aspect, and the team behind the film!

GB: I didn’t write the script intending for it to be animated, but after it was written, it was clear I had wrote an animated film. I come from a live action background and have no experience with animation, but one of my friends, Stephanie Eisenberg, was in the animation world. The story was also uncannily on point with what was going on in her life, so I showed her the script, knowing that it would be either the perfect script or the worst script in the world for her to produce. Lucky for us, it was the former.

Since then, we’ve been putting our team together any way we can. Steph reached out to her animation contacts, I reached out to my live action contacts, we both reached out to friends, and I even met our concept artist randomly at an art fair. We’re still in the process of building our team, the majority of which will come on after we’ve finished fundraising.

What steps are you taking to ensure that the film approaches mental health in an honest, authentic and stigma-free way?

GB: First and foremost, the film is very personal to both Stephanie and myself. Almost everything the characters go through are things we’ve directly gone through: me and my dealings with depression and Stephanie and the grief she felt losing her father. Our goal with this film is to be as authentic as we can, to be raw and honest and put our experiences up on the screen, so the audience can relate.

All throughout the writing and filmmaking process, we’ve been and will continue to receive feedback not just from film professionals, but also from mental health experts and people who personally have gone through mental health episodes. Accuracy and authenticity are very important to us, just as important as good storytelling, for this film.

What do you hope that viewers will take away from the film?

GB: The idea of what we can change versus what we can’t. As someone who suffers from depression, my whole life I’ve tried to either beat or avoid my illness, only for it to repeatedly flare up, often at the most unexpected times and in very extreme ways. Only recently have I accepted the fact that my depression is part of me, and that I cannot change that. I can acknowledge and work with it, I can do what I can to control my depression rather than having it control me, but I cannot not have it. It is part of me, it’s in my DNA, my brain chemistry, and there is nothing wrong with that. For me, I learned to accept myself and resolve to do what I can to make things the best.

What makes your film so unique?

GB: Our film is raw and honest while also being heartfelt and inspirational.

Many films dealing with mental health can be one or the other: raw and honest and a downer, or inspirational but also trite and inauthentic. But we’ve found an approach that covers the best of both worlds.

It will allow those dealing with these issues to connect and allow those not dealing with the experiences to better understand what others are going through.

Mental health is inherently difficult to address in film because film is a visual medium and mental health is very much internal. Through the use of animation and creative storytelling devices and techniques, we’ve found a way to visualize mental health, to show what depression is and what it is like to battle it. We believe this aspect will make the issues we are exploring much more accessible to our audiences.

What plans do you have for the film once it’s completed?

GB: We’re making an important and powerful film, one that audiences will really connect with, and even potentially impact their lives. Because of this, we want to reach as many of these people as possible! We plan on entering the completed short in festivals and connect with organizations to help us get the word out to the general public.

Want to learn more? Check out the current campaign for ‘What We’re Meant For‘. Meet the team, learn more about the film, and donate if you can! Gabriel’s campaign is running until the end of this week.

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