INTERVIEW: Sam Coyle and Erin Carter Explore Mental Health in Their Film, HAZY LITTLE THING
Hazy Little Thing explores people’s relationship with social media and their own mental health, from the minds of filmmakers, Sam Coyle and Erin Carter. With what’s going on right now globally during this pandemic, can you relate to the feeling of isolation and loneliness despite constantly being “connected” via technology?
Hi guys, thank you so much for joining us on Defective Geeks! Please tell us about your new film, Hazy Little Thing. What is it all about?
Hey thanks for having us! Hazy Little Thing follows Billie, a writer, blocked in the wake of her past success. Spiralling further and further into her fear of failure and lack of self-acceptance she posts a particularly self-deprecating post on social media, and after seeing this, her sister and a few close friends rush to her rescue to throw a sort of intervention under the guise of a surprise birthday weekend.
What drew you both to explore the topic of mental health in this context and through Billie’s experience? What was the most challenging thing about writing this story?
Erin Carter: I think the draw came from an amalgamation of both Sam, and my, struggles with some pretty harsh self-scrutiny in the past. As artists I think, we can often find ourselves cemented in a loop of self-destruction and questioning– especially when projects are self driven. In that sense, I think the biggest challenge was to take our singular experiences, and fuse them into something new, something applicable to Billie’s story.
Sam Coyle: I was very drawn to a lot of new research on how psychedelics are being used on people with mental illness. I wanted to talk about depression through a different lens, looking at alternative aspects of the issue. I was interested in how to get a character to look inside themselves to find the answers instead of taking a pill that will “make them happy”. The challenge with a story like this is to not portray the film as any type of answer, because depression affects everyone differently. This is just one specific case pulled from both of our experiences that we wanted to explore.
When exploring the social media and Internet aspect of the film’s story, where did you pull Billie’s relationship with it from? Did you discover anything that may have been eye-opening– if not shocking– during your process?
EC: What we were trying to talk about was the feedback loop that social media can cause. I don’t think we discovered anything new here, it’s just a reality of our lives. I think we wanted to explore our own experiences with these compulsions as I am no stranger to this– especially now. That cycle of quick hits of affirmation followed by self-disgust have plagued me, and I’ve felt that need to share the best parts of myself in order to feel accomplished, or seen, or even alive. We really just wanted to explore that way in which we can now seek to be seen.
SC: The seed of Billie’s state of being was pulled mostly from our personal experiences with social media. I struggled a lot, before writing Hazy, as I found myself becoming jealous of my peers, or comparing myself a lot to others. It’s a very bizarre minefield that you have to navigate. So if anything, it just made us look at our own habits more closely. I tried to understand it and see patterns, and the more I spoke to others, the more I started to hear similar stories and feelings. How these apps are making us feel worse about ourselves or so alone, while being so connected.
While filming the movie, was there a moment when you guys had a “this is TOO real” reaction to a scene? Especially for you, Erin, was there a part of you that related to Billie on some level or understood how she got to where she is in the movie? What was it like playing a character like her?
EC: I’m not sure anything can be quite that surprising when you’ve lived with a script for that long, as a co-writer of the script, I knew Billie so well by the time we got on set. But admittedly I had a lot of moments while writing where I took a good hard look at my own habits. I’ve had very few opportunities to play reckless characters in my career, playing Billie was both exciting and extremely vulnerable– let’s just say her tendencies are sometimes right up my alley.
SC: I will say, half way through shooting we had to have a talk with our cast and crew to not have phones out while on set. This was because some people were on their phones so often, in-between takes, right before I call action, after every cut- all the time really. I was like, “how can they not see the similarities?”
Personally, how do you feel about people’s relationship to social media today, especially the new generation that is growing up with it? Do you have an opinion on what the future is for us and our lives online?
EC: If I can speak to this space we all find ourselves in now– quarantined, in our homes, desperately seeking connection by any means necessary– I really do think there is a positivity out there. There are possible support systems to be found out there in online communities. But, there’s also a much darker side to our endless access to the lives of others. Honestly, I’d like to think that positivity will reign, but I fear our constant accessibility to content has already rewired the base lines of how we seek affirmation.
SC: I feel like I am having revelations with technology more now than before we wrote Hazy. Technology is changing so rapidly that we are constantly adapting at very high rates. Currently, we are seeing the future of online interaction with the pandemic. People are isolated, so they are turning to technology and social media for engagement; it’s a pretty powerful tool, and is currently being used in a mostly positive way. But I do sense that under these extreme circumstances we will see a lot of change in the future. My fear is getting accustomed to distance and seeing people through screens. Conversations are just never as good as they are in person, face to face.
How do you hope people will respond after watching Hazy Little Thing? What do you want people to take away from it?
EC: I hope that people walk away re-evaluating their own community. I know we can all feel isolated– fucking now, especially, and that sometimes it’s very difficult to see that there are people and resources out there to turn to. I hope that viewers can de-stigmatize mental health illnesses, and re-think how to communicate with those they know that may be suffering. And hey, maybe a few people will just leave and think to put their phones down for a few hours, that’s okay too.
SC: I hope it makes people realize that the updates on social media are not the end-all-be-all. There is a lot more going on behind the facade. In a small way, I just hope it makes a few people call those people they haven’t spoken to in a while and really ask how they are.
Where can people watch the movie?
With mostly all events canceled we can’t say exactly when our film will premier. But we are excited to be a part of a festival that is willing to re-schedule. So far, Hazy Little Thing is still set to premiere at The Canadian Film Festival, sometime this spring/summer. Info on new dates and tickets here: www.canfilmfest.ca or you can follow @hazylittlethingfilm on instagram for all other updates.
For our final question, for both of you– if you could have one super power each, which would it be and what will you do with it?
EC: Oh, 100 percent I’d want t be able to teleport. Especially now! Not to mention you can take a quick vacation anytime you want, but wouldn’t it be great to just teleport (an arm’s length) away from your friends and family right now?! God damn that would be nice.
SC: Well, since we did our answers while in isolation, I see that Erin and I choose the same super power; I would totally take teleporting. Or maybe it’s just that we have worked together for so long that we have similar thoughts.