Such is the premise of Sky, a new short film written and directed by native Houstonian Lance Childers. Main character Ben Bennett has never opened up to anybody about his obsessive-compulsive disorder, but has found a sanctuary of sorts through music.
"There are many nuances and complexities as to why I chose piano playing. The piano starts as a creative outlet. It doesn’t stop whatever the issue is but it does give relief," says Childers.
All good plots need conflict and for Ben that conflict arises as he prepares for an upcoming school audition and starts agonizing over his composition.
"I needed him to have something that was subjective so that when he becomes obsessed with the composition that he’s writing, there wasn’t a solution. If I had Ben be a mathematician and he found the solution, he would be able to move on."
Still in preproduction, Childers knew the challenges inherent in demonstrating what was going on inside the head of a teenager with OCD. Compulsions like hand-washing and checking the stove are obvious to onlookers, but other symptoms like the need for symmetry, counting and feelings of taboo are battles of the mind.
"I do use cleaning rituals but only as a device, maybe twice, but they are there and they’re only there because it's a short film and you must establish, give the evidence. I never use the word OCD," says Childers.
An avid skateboarder and photographer, Childers had success with his first short, 2016's The Gold Line, about skateboarders in search of that perfect moment. He's got a knack for shooting the Houston skyline in a glowing embrace and he's going to use that same treatment when he films Sky at locations in downtown Houston and rural Texas.
He'll be working again with fellow crew members from previous productions: Caleb Gonzalez, Ph.D. (producer) and James Pinedo II (director of photography). Joining them on the crew are Roseann Garcia, Javier Paredes and Alethea Delmage. They've also hired Emmy-nominated composer Amos Cochran (Dayveon) to write an original score.
They already have held auditions for main characters Ben and Sky and were, frankly, overwhelmed by the talent in the region. "I have to tell you I was utterly impressed by the professionalism and ability of the kids who came to the audtion, 15 to 17 year old kids," says Dr. Gonzalez. "Houston is really blessed with so much talent. I was moved by the performances. We'll have a tough time making our selections."
In discussing the short with family and friends, Gonzalez and Childers have learned that it invites discussion of the subject. They're hoping that the film will encourage those afflicted with the disorder to seek professional help, as well as providing a better understanding for family members.
It's not an inexpensive endeavor and they've launched an Indigogo campaign to raise $30,000 to cover pre- and post-production costs, filming, equipment rentals, insurance and distribution. Their initial goal is to enter the short in prestigious festivals and, after that initial period (most festivals require that a film be made within that year), identify other distribution avenues.
If this is a subject that touches you or a family member, Gonzalez and Childers recommend visiting the website for the International OCD Foundation at iocdf.org.
For information about the Indiegogo campaign, which ends September 9, visit indiegogo.com/projects/sky-a-short-film.
To learn more about The Gold Line or Sky, visit lhcproductions.com.