Toronto Film School alumnus Cydney Cochrane will soon see her passion project promoting mental health awareness hit the big screen.
Short Stay – an independent short the 28-year-old Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre grad poured her “heart and soul” into – is set to mark its world premiere on Saturday, July 20 at Toronto’s Royal Cinema.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a film premiere, so it’s unbelievably exciting,” said Cochrane, who shot Short Stay on a shoestring budget in her Etobicoke apartment back in February 2018.
“Knowing that me and the cast all get to dress up, go to the theatre, and see our names and faces up there on a big screen – it’s something I never thought was possible.”
Adding to that excitement for Cochrane is the fact that Short Stay deals with subject matter the self-described mental health advocate, writer and director feels so strongly about.
The resulting 27-minute short film – which takes viewers inside the mind of a suicidal young man as he wrestles his inner demons – is loosely based on her own enduring struggles with anxiety and depression.
In fact, Cochrane said it was her real-life “mental breakdown,” which was triggered by traumatic flashbacks of being physically abused and raped in her past, that spurred her to make Short Stay in the first place.
“I’ve always had mental health issues since I was 13, but it was that experience, oddly enough, that inspired me to get the film done and to portray it in the most realistic way that I possibly could,” she said, noting that the incident in question landed her in the mental health unit at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
“Because of that, I wanted to make sure I put something real out there…because for someone that lives with mental illness day to day, life is not all rainbows and sunshine.”
For Cochrane, the “slightly dark and intense” result was a labour of love – one for which she solicited nearly everyone she knew in a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the project.
“I didn’t think a lot of people would donate, but thank god for those who did, because they gave me the opportunity to make this film,” she said, noting that she was able to collect donations totaling $1,200.
While Cochrane said she was first bitten by the acting bug in her Grade 9 drama class back at Lakeshore Collegiate Institute in south Etobicoke, it was while studying acting at Toronto Film School that her interest in filmmaking was first piqued.
“It was there that I became really fascinated with all the work everyone was doing behind the camera and my focus kind of turned from acting to filmmaking,” said the Class of 2016 grad.
It was also from Toronto Film School’s talented of stock of acting alumni that Cochrane cast the majority of her film’s roles, including fellow graduates Liam Owens as Owen Parker, Chelsea Chute as Lost Soul, Cailey Lupiccini as Stephanie Scott, and, last but not least, Daniel Lewis Haug in the lead role of Daniel Farley.
For Haug – who first met Cochrane on the set of another Toronto Film School short film back in 2015 – one look at her script was all it took to convince him that Short Stay was a worthy project.
“I read it and was thoroughly impressed by the writing – it was very raw and very real,” Haug said, noting that, like his character, he’s battled his own mental health issues.
“He’s a mid-to-late 20s man who’s been struggling through life…he’s just trying to find his place in the world, but any time he tries to find it, he seems totally lost. Reading that, I had a lot in common with the character – I found pieces of that to be true in my life.”
Both Haug and Cochrane said their hope is that Short Stay will help ease the stigma attached to mental health issues for both those who struggle them and those who might alleviate the burden of those who do with simple acts of kindness.
“One of my goals is to make people who live with mental illnesses feel more comfortable with themselves and more open about their struggles,” Cochrane said.
“The other hope is that this film will help make people who are uneducated about mental illness more open-minded and bigger-hearted – because the more loving, accepting and understanding we all are towards one another, the better off we’ll all be.”
The Short Stay premiere will take place Saturday, July 20 from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Royal Cinema, 608 College St., and will be followed by a short Q&A session with Cochrane and members of her cast, which also includes Shakila Fernando, Nii Wallace-Bruce, and Nicholas Kastanis.
Tickets can be purchased at www.universe.com/cc-shortstay