Screening as part of Femme Totale
MADISON THOMAS, EXPOSED NERVES
8 MINUTE, SHORT DRAMA
Through a contemporary dance piece, we see the different ways that a young woman deals with her bipolar reality. The ups and downs of her life are eloquently displayed through the happiness of her dance versus the weight of her depression and how she battles her way through the movements of life.
interview with filmmaker Madison Thomas - her film Exposed Nerves will be presented as part of the 17th annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on October 22nd at Tiff Bell Lightbox
Madison Thomas is a filmmaker from Winnipeg. Raised in a Métis household, storytelling was a huge part of her childhood. Madison found the natural extension into filmmaking in high school and has worked at honing her craft ever since.
__________________________________________ DB What was the initial impulse/inspiration for this piece?
MT Mental health and the issues that surround it has been something that has been part of my life since I was a young person and although it was something that was around me, it was so rarely talked about. The stigma surrounding mental health is only starting to be addressed now and as a filmmaker I realized I had the platform to add to the conversation.
Exposed Nerves follows a dance instructor named Karenza as who goes through life with bipolar disorder. In the first iteration of the script I had the manic and depressive characters speaking and verbally manipulating Karenza. It worked but the dialogue was very specific to my personal perspective on mental health and I wanted the film to be accessible to anyone who lives with or is effected by mental health issues.
I was on the bus one day and we passed the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and it was like something slapped me in the face. Dance was such an expressive, beautiful art form that didn't rely on dialogue to share a story.
DBHow does the mental health narrative specifically affect the choreography in the film?
MT The mental health narrative is the skeleton of the plot. Our choreographer Kayla Jeanson and I had a lot of discussion around translating how manic and depressive episodes make you feel into the choreography. The character of Manic is constantly picking up, pushing, spinning and rushing Karenza whereas the character of Depression is consistently blocking Karenza, physically weighing her down and essentially trapping her. Kayla has a super unique blend of dance and film backgrounds so she was great resource in terms of what kind of choreography would work on camera as well as choreography that would work in non-traditional dance settings.
DB What do you view as the greatest challenge people have to deal with in their careers and personal lives when experiencing mental health issues?
MT I think it's mainly the lack of understanding. If you call into work saying you broke your leg you get this outpouring of sympathy and understanding but if you call in saying your having a major depressive episode you're often met with judgement and frustration. As a society we've decided that any part of your body can be sick as long as it's not your brain.
DB How can dance and your film help people to explore these issues?
MT I think the film allows the audience to view a different take on living with a mental health problem. Yes we see Karenza struggling, but we also see her continuing to go to work, still making an effort to go and see her friends. I think so often mental health issues are portrayed as essentially a life sentence that will lead to homelessness and isolation. When in reality so many people live full fulfilling lives despite their illness. I hope people walk away from my film a bit more educated about what mental illness feels like but also with the understanding that while this topic can be hard to talk about, talking about it is the best thing we can do.