The crew and cast members of 'Paper Sky', after wrapping up their shoot
As mental health comes to the forefront today, it’s important to discuss how we can process our emotions and make sense of our traumas. One of the many ways we can process our feelings and navigate life’s complexities is through creative expression.
This is why initiatives like the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival’s "Short Film Youth Competition" are often created - to provide a safe platform for artists and audiences to learn, and have conversations about mental health. To explore how we can find healing through creativity, Kaya speaks to two budding filmmakers, who are participating in this year’s film competition, on how they found solace through film.
Exploring grief through Dawn Tan’s “What Would Mitch Do?”
Behind-the-scenes of Dawn working with her camera crew
The film was heavily inspired by Dawn’s personal experiences with a friend who battled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Although she did not lose him to suicide, she found herself consumed with anxiety.
“I was in a constant state of panic, because I was the only person he would share his struggles [of suicide] with, and he also made me promise not to tell anyone,” Dawn says.
Dawn realised the emotional toll the friendship was taking on her, and decided to distance herself. As she coped without her friend, she experienced loss and found resilience, which is the film's core message.
An emotional moment from Dawn's short film "What Would Mitch Do?"
“All the stages [of grief] are represented [in the film] but it’s a process that isn’t so linear,” she says. “Even if someone in your life is [gone], this person can still live on in your heart.”
“Mental health is something that I have experience with and am passionate about…and I wanted to craft something that is more directly related to [my story],” she says.
Filmmaking not only helped her process her trauma but also gave her a sense of resolution. After showing the film to her friend who was the inspiration behind it, Dawn shared that he teared up and they both found closure. The film helped to put the past behind them amicably as they processed their shared journey.
Directorial debut for Pearlyn Ho of ‘Paper Sky’
Pearlyn Ho, the writer and director or 'Paper Sky', smiling during her shoot
Despite being new to filmmaking, Pearlyn crafted a compelling narrative that delves into these complex issues. Her passion for spreading awareness about mental health drove her to share this story of hope with those who suffer from depression.
My main aim wasn’t to win an award, but to reach more people…and relate [to them] in different ways [which] might help them and impact them.”
“I was doing a lot of things at that time, with 4 CCAs and being involved in student council,” She says. “It was in JC when my mental health dipped the most.”
At her lowest, she felt depressed and also struggled with eating disorders. Although she is in a better place now, making the film has allowed her to look back on her past with a new lens, helping her process her emotions. Through filmmaking, she can express herself and connect with others, helping them realise they are not alone.
Creative outlets can help us process our traumas and find healing. They offer a safe space to open up and build a supportive network. Through connecting with others, we find solace in shared experiences and see that we are not alone.
In embracing self-expression and mental health discourse, we can discover strength in our collective journey towards healing and growth.
If you are seeking help, or know of someone who is in need of mental health support, you may contact these helplines:
- Samaritans Of Singapore (SOS) 24hr hotline - 1800 221 4444
- SOS Caretext - 9151 1767 (WhatsApp)
- SOS Caremail - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Singapore Association for Mental Health hotline - 1800 283 7019
- Institute of Mental Health hotline - 6389 2222