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The main catalyst for starting the Exist film project was when a friend’s brother took his life after Christmas 2017. After much reflecting I began to write the script, creating a main protagonist called Cay, a young man who seems happy on the outside but is secretly fighting some serious demons. While writing, it was one particular inspiration that kept me going, that of meeting a homeless man who went by the name of ‘David Joy’. I met this interesting man at Victoria station, while doing some promo work, and he soon told me of his mission in life, to share and spread happiness with everyone he meets. He was kind enough to give me a metallic disc from a tambourine, saying as he handed it to me, “May this bring joy to your life.” What impressed me is Joy’s unique view on life, insisting that being homeless had actually set him free, and that it was a gift.
I felt in awe of this profound soul who, to most people, would look like a man who has nothing. Yet in actual fact he has everything. He talked about how the world is lost and how people care about the wrong things.
“People care more about things they own than the people in their life. When did we start to lose our humanity?”
When indeed? Which is where Exist comes in, showing how many of us have become lost souls without direction, too busy staring at screens, trapped in a balancing game between vanity and jealousy. Exist deals with the negative elements to social media and how those with a delicate mind can find themselves going to some dark places, ones where they feel worthless compared to their friends or popular people.
When I looked at the research on young people and suicide it was clear that the problem is global. How much sadness must be hidden behind all the ‘Likes’ and ‘Follows’ and fabricated selfies. Comparing ourselves with friends who have done better financially, or with the culture of celebrities, is futile and deeply damaging. Wasn’t it Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”?
Yet making a documentary style film, rather than a drama, posed the risk of turning people off. So I chose a fantasy genre, knowing I could tackle this difficult subject by taking it slightly away from reality, and allowing the audience to digest it. However, the symbolism will soon reveal the protagonist’s real life struggles, and the audience will see that the fantasy element is in fact Cay’s delicate mind betraying him.
My intention is to give the audience an authentic story, one based on elements of my own mental health issues. It is a topic people shy away from, mainly because unless you have found yourself in a similar situation, it is very hard to understand. It could almost be called the invisible battle, for depression can take hold of its victim and isolate them. And it can be hard work pretending everything’s okay; wearing a debilitating mask when all that is wanted is to have a regular life again. This is where the protagonist’s nemesis comes in. Nebo is Cay’s manifested demon and, throughout Exist, he puts Cay to the ultimate test. Please help share this story in any way you can. Who knows, it may even save someone’s life.
Written by Andrew Horner (Follow on Twitter @DrewHorner84)
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