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Spotlight on Schizophrenia: SUSS Theatre Interest Group

“The show must go on.”

Determined not to let COVID-19 restrictions hamper productions by the SUSS Theatre Interest Group, students took filming into their own hands and developed a safely-produced short film after receiving news that their live production was restricted. The film, titled “Static”, focuses on schizophrenia, a chronic brain disorder causing delusions, hallucinations, disorganised speech and lack of motivation.

Conceived from the desire to advocate for acceptance and support towards people living with mental health conditions, the film was given the title to reflect the criticality of schizophrenia. On the surface, it refers to the noise distortion that plays when the protagonist experiences intrusive thoughts. Reading further into the title, it hints at the helplessness felt by the protagonist towards his mental health condition. It also symbolises the distorted perception of reality which schizophrenia often creates. 

Scriptwriting taking place Scriptwriting taking place 

Apart from the editors, who offered their guidance throughout the film-making process, the team had little to no experience. Through research, the writers in the group found that they had used extreme schizophrenic symptoms to spread awareness. They questioned if this created more harm than good. When Static’s appointed film director, Wei Jiang, joined the team, they agreed that the short film should narrate the silent struggles experienced by people living with schizophrenia. This would help the audience relate to them without entrenching stereotypical beliefs. 

After several revisions, the script was finalised and the team began filming in early April 2021. There were a total of eight cast and crew members as allowed by the COVID-19 restrictions then. Assisted by Darryl Loke, admin of the interest group, the team filmed within the SUSS campus, all while using an iPhone, through handmade props created from scratch to keep production costs low. Despite their financial limitations, the team managed to wrap up the film as early as mid-April 2021, thanks to the collective effort, support and resourcefulness from all those involved.

Running STATIC trial sessionsRunning STATIC trial sessions

Through this project, the SUSS Theatre Interest Group members took home many valuable lessons from the process and insights into schizophrenia. “The project helped me appreciate film a lot more and I'm more conscious of the work that goes into production from pre to post-production. Now, I pay more attention to script, props, costume, cinematography, etc,” reflected Adeline Trapal, one of the cast members who played the role of Keira in the film.

Another actress, Nicole Ngo, who played the character Cheryl, added, “I had the chance to learn about the mental health condition through my involvement in this short film. I am very appreciative of the team behind the production.”

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