I was interested in directing “Unicorns” because it’s a modern, fresh take on a serious subject: surviving depression, which to me is a present universal struggle. The film is also about a connection that develops between two unlikely people from very different walks of life. The script, written by Leah McKendrick, had a unique and unorthodox approach, and I knew it would make a different, interesting and visual movie that could provoke a serious discussion of depression and suicide that is so prevalent in our modern society.
Actress/Producer Hilary Curwen developed this film with the intention of supporting diversity and gender parity in filmmaking. I was especially excited at the prospect of collaborating with a crew primarily composed of dedicated and talented women. Hilary Curwen (I’m Dying Up Here, Happyland, Bad Nannies) really challenged herself to discover the many textures of main character “Elise,” finding nuance and mining a level of personal discomfort to deliver a powerful performance that shows off her acting versatility. Markees Christmas (Morris From America, 88, Black-ish) brilliantly plays “Jonah”, an intelligent, gentle soul with a tough exterior, who carries the weight of severe depression that stifles his innate sense of optimism. Malik Yoba (Cool Runnings, Empire, Designated Survivor, New York Undercover) used improvisational choices to bring depth and authority to the “Marlon” character. Shooting for two days, in five locations (from downtown LA to Santa Monica), with multiple company moves amidst threatening rain, it was a relief to work with our amazing producer Caity Ware, who skillfully navigated a shoot fraught with production hurdles. I worked with DP Brad Rushing to devise a shot list that would be visually interesting and would be feasible for our tight schedule. I collaborated with Astrid Anderson on production design and set decoration to make sure the environments were realistic and textured and dripping with details. I collaborated with Amit Sidi to give visual nuance and depth to all the characters’ visual identities with costume. Brett Hedlund skillfully edited this film, setting the pace and helping to balance the tone to push the narrative further. I had the pleasure of collaborating with music producer Anthony M. Jones on a score that heightens the tension and elevates the emotions of the film infusing it with with his own style of contemporary music. KO creative and Colorspace added the final touches to make it sound and look great. “Unicorns” was a fun to direct and it showcases the hard work and creativity of this team. I hope it gets the platform to entertain, educate and start important conversations about mental illnesses like depression.