mental health awareness
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  • Christina Beck Brings Perfection to New York Film Academy Los Angeles Guest Speaker Series

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    In February, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles welcomed writer, director, and actor Christina Beck as a Guest Speaker to the Q&A stage, following a screening of her award-winning film Perfection.

    The film, which tells the story of a young woman who struggles with self-harm, and her relationship with her mother, was screened in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day, a global event dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding self-harm, and spreading awareness so that those who suffer do not have to suffer in silence.

    Beck began by discussing the script’s origins, which, unsurprisingly, initially sprang from her own experiences. “I wasn’t a cutter, but in my 20s I used to pick at my skin a lot, and I had a lot of self hatred,” she shared. “I grew up in LA, I had a very beautiful mother, and there was a lot of emphasis on exterior beauty and trying to be perfect. And trying to fit in and finding my way as a young woman, I felt like I wasn’t enough … so I started writing that character, and then later it morphed into a bigger story.”

    NYFA Los Angeles Producing Department Co-Chair Roberta Colangelo, who moderated the event, followed up with a question about what the medium of film can do, or what kind of opportunities it can bring to the subject of self harm.

    “I think even if you’re not someone who cuts yourself you can relate, hopefully, to the feelings,” said Beck. “For me, I always think that filmmaking is such a powerful medium, that we can observe behavior, follow a story, hopefully, and connect with a protagonist, and go on that journey.”

    Beck went on to talk about the process of making the film, which took two and a half years — and in true micro-budget fashion, the journey was full of ups and downs. They started out with no financing, cast the film out of Beck’s living room, and on one occasion, had only a half-hour at a location to film an entire scene.

    “So that’s a little stressful, for sure,” Beck admitted. “And there were quite a few moments like that, honestly … but you just kind of have to make it work, because the bigger picture is more important than the stress of the moment.”

    The bigger picture, in the case of Perfection, is an opportunity to positively impact the people sitting in the audience.

    “It leaves you with a strange sense of empowerment,” Colangelo noted. “Not by showing a very powerful female figure that has heroically overcome everything, but someone that is working her way [through it]. It’s a very powerful message.”

    Perfection is by no means a comprehensive guide to healing, but it was never intended to be. As Beck stated, the intention behind the film was, if nothing else, to be truthful.

    “In 85 minutes, it’s really hard to wrap up someone’s whole recovery,” said Beck. “It just wouldn’t be truthful. And so we kind of modified that journey to leave with a sense of hope.”

    Perfection is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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  • Raising Suicide Prevention Awareness & Challenging Stigma With New York Film Academy Camp Alum Florence Kosky

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    Creating a film that works as a beautiful piece of art as well as a platform for an incredibly important message is a challenge, even for the most seasoned filmmakers. Yet at a very young age, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film summer camp alum and British actress/model/director Florence Kosky has brought all these elements together in her short film All The World’s a Stage.

    Motivated by the profound loss of three young friends to suicide, Florence decided to collaborate with others to “do something positive” to help “break down the stigma around suicide by provoking thought and opening up a conversation.” Through crowdfunding, she assembled what she would need to put together a visually stunning film on a shoestring budget, and in the process built an incredible team of passionate professionals who volunteered their time for a cause they believed in: raising awareness and, hopefully, saving lives. Even Olivia Colman volunteered to narrate, lending her distinct voice to a script approved by MIND and supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

    Watch All The World’s a Stage here:

    A Message from NYFA Counseling:

    This beautiful and powerful piece really portrays the distorted thinking that accompanies depression well. The main character’s belief that he has to perform and come across in a specific way in order to be loved and appreciated is a thinking trap that people struggling with depression often face. It’s incredibly difficult to have the energy and persistence to get help: often the very things that we need when we’re feeling that way are exactly what depression tells us we don’t deserve. We hope that people take away that needing support, and then getting it, is something we all deserve; that mental health IS health; and that, as a society, we can all support a change to address the stigma that depression is a weakness — and as a result, save lives.

    U.S. Resources:

    NYFA New York City Counseling Website

    NYFA Los Angeles Counseling Website

    Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/

    Text TALK to 741741

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

    1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

    Here, Florence shares the process and inspiration behind a truly powerful film with the NYFA Blog:

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to the NYFA Acting for Film camp?

    FK: I’m a model, actress, and filmmaker from Dorset in England. I’m now 22 and so far have got three short films under my belt as a director and two indie features as an actress. As a model I’ve worked internationally for the past five years, working for brands from Adidas to Dior. It’s pretty busy, but very fulfilling!

    I came to NYFA when I was 16, and it was because I had always loved acting and film but had never experienced the two of them together, and we couldn’t really find anywhere better than LA to go for me to do this!

    NYFA: What inspires you most about acting and film?

    FK: I think I find acting and film so inspiring because it’s an art form that is really easy for the consumer to relate to and to be moved by. To me it’s wonderful because even if the director or the actor intends one thing, the viewer can take something else from it, and that is wonderful because it gives it a universal quality.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience making All The World’s a Stage?

    FK: Making All The World’s A Stage was pretty special because it was crowdfunded, and the whole cast and crew volunteered; so it felt like there was a real cause that everyone was rallied behind and cared about. That gave the experience this really lovely focused feeling, because everyone was working their hardest to make it the best it could be because they thought it was a story that needed to be told, rather than just a job they were being paid to do.

    I found this really moving, and it made me feel very supported throughout. I think you can see in the final product that it was made by people who really cared.

    NYFA: What was it like to put the story together and shoot the film? Were there any challenges along the way in making your film, and how did you overcome them?

    FK: The story was already in place, as the script is based on a poem that my friend, Charlie Fox, wrote when we were 17 and lost a mutual friend to suicide. Her words have stuck with me since, and they really painted a picture in my mind. For the narrative, it was just a case of relaying those visuals back into words.

    I think the biggest challenge we faced was that, generally, I want to create fantastic worlds that, if they were on a bigger production, would use a lot of VFX. So it was working out how to create those same feelings on a much smaller budget.

    We used a lot of stylized lighting in an empty studio to create mood shifts and different locations — my favourite of which is the night sky in the bedroom scene, because we just used a projector and some footage we bought for around £30 from Shutterstock which is A LOT cheaper than VFX — and actually a couple of people have asked me who did the VFX for that scene, so that was really the best outcome!

    NYFA: You used crowdfunding to support this film production, and worked with MIND, the Mental Health Foundation, and Olivia Colman. That is huge! What surprised you most about that experience?

    FK: Thank you! I think the most surprising thing was that Olivia wanted to be a part of it! I and my producer, Matt Cook, had always had her [in mind] as one of our ideal voices for the narrator. So when we were coming to the end of post production, we thought we might as well try to reach out to her agent and see if she’d be interested. We sent the picture lock and the score and, incredibly, she was! I am so grateful to have worked with one of my heroes so early on in my career — it was honestly wonderful to see a master of their craft work, and I think the film would be a lot less powerful without her voice.

    NYFA: What would you most like to say to your audience about your film, and what it means?

    FK: I would just like to say thank you for watching, and if you can take anything from it, please remember that depression and mental illness can happen to anyone, no matter how perfect their lives look on the outside. Remember to be kind and to look after each other, as you never know what someone is battling with. At the end of the day, we are all each other have.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    FK: I’ve got another feature that I’m shooting as an actress this summer, which is very exciting! It’s a comedy mockumentary which is going to be super fun and nice to balance out the heaviness of my recent projects. I’m also working on the script for my first feature as a director, which hopefully should go into production next year. Keep an eye out!

    #KeepYourCrown

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