One of the best things about running a Horror website is getting to see some really innovative and interesting short films from independent filmmakers. Garry Crystal’s short dark short Down is a fabulous watch as it is both extremely funny as a comedy of embarrassment and the discomfort of pushing personal boundaries as well as having some serious points to address about suicide and mental health. As an indie short Down has an absolutely stellar cast, featuring the divine Amanda Donahoe (The Lair of the White Worm, LA Law, The Madness of King George and Toast of London), James Eeles (Darkest Hour, Black Mirror) and Paul Barber who is probably best known as Denzil from the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Down which was produced by the Hertfordshire based Hidden Door Productions and has already screened at several BAFTA & Academy Award qualifying festivals including Rhode Island International Film Festival and Aesthetica,
In Down Alice (Donohoe) finds Ed (Eeles) bleeding to death in a lift after attempting to commit suicide. Alice is a lesbian living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is torn between her desperate phobia of blood and her overwhelming desire to save his life. Will they through this unfortunate and unlikely meeting they be able to help each other?
The film was producer by Karen Newman, who’s debut feature Just Charlie won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Grand Prix in the Ecran Juniors at the Cannes Film Festival. Director, Garry Crystal is a multi-award-winning director and writer; his short films Bertie, The Fox and the Rabbit and Bobby have been selected for numerous Academy Award and BAFTA qualifying international film festivals.
We were intrigued by the messages about mental health contained in Down so we tracked down Garry to find out some more about what inspired him to make the film and how he worked with mental health charities in bringing the film to the screen; ‘Down was inspired by an experience I had when directing a play at university.’ Garry told us, ‘During the production interval, I discovered a man who had just attempted suicide in the theatre elevator. I had to help him and thankfully he survived but I always wondered what caused him to do this and what happened to him subsequently. I have known people who have struggled with mental health issues and felt that this could be a unique and interesting situation to explore this theme further
I also wanted to make it comedic, albeit darkly comedic, as I think that humour is a very effective method of getting audiences to engage with “serious” topics. If you make someone laugh, they tend to relax and that enables you to broach subjects that they might have resisted previously. Some of my favourite films have juxtaposed humour with drama/ horror and I think this has made them even more compelling- Jaws, La Haîne and Pulp Fiction, for example.
Getting the cast was flatteringly easy- I sent the script to Amanda Donohoe via her agent and she got back to me very quickly and said yes! It was exactly the same for James Eeles and Paul Barber. I think that the script resonated with them and they wanted to be a part of the film- very, very humbling indeed!
Down tackles OCD, mental health and suicide and I think it would have arrogant, naive and utterly disrespectful to anyone who has been affected by these issues, if I didn’t thoroughly research these issues when writing the film. I wanted to make sure that the characters, their backgrounds, dialogue and behavior were realistic. You simply can’t use “artistic license” when it comes to these topics.
I worked with three charities in making Down who all looked at the script and pointed out if I needed to make any amendments: Live Through This, OCD Action UK and Mind. Live Through This is an incredibly moving and powerful website run by Dese R’ae L. Stage and is a collection of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors in the United States (https://livethroughthis.org/about/). OCD UK is one of the UK’s leading Obsessive Compulsive Disorder charities and is run by people who live with the experience of OCD (https://www.ocduk.org). MIND is one of the UK’s leading charities that deals with mental health and provides advice and support locally and nationally to millions of people with mental health problems (https://www.mind.org.uk).’
We thoroughly enjoyed Down so where can folks get to see it? ‘Down will next be screening at Hollyshorts in LA in January. and will be showing as part of New Filmmakers Los Angeles later this year’ Keep watching the Hothouse on Twitter for dates.