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  • Writer's pictureShiao-ya (Maggie) Huang

"Drive with Me" Selected as Top Ten Finalist at 2021 SMHFF Youth Film Festival!

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

"Drive with Me" started as a side project for my 2020 Christmas break. Due to the pandemic, I knew I wasn't going back home; I was going to stay in campus for the holidays season. I usually always have little side projects going on in long breaks. This break was no exception, but since I was staying in school I thought I could take advantage of my university's stop motion studio and create a stop motion film.

Around the last week of the semester, an email dropped into my school mail. It was a film festival competition invitation from the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival (SMHFF), targeting young filmmakers. It was an invitation to produce a short film on mental health/ dementia, advocating issues surrounding the topics by using film as a catalyst.

Mental health has always been a topic that interested me, especially after having experienced closed ones who suffered from mental health issues. I became even more aware of the topic after taking abnormal psychology back in high school. It helped me understand more and become more mindful to others and my own mental health. Film is one of my strongest passions. It never fails to amaze me. It is such a powerful medium of expression that combines so many other forms of expression such as music, writing, painting, and photography. SMHFF short film youth competition was combining these two things I really cared about and encouraging youths to create something: and that captivated me.

Naturally, I decided to join the competition and dig my head into a new project. Never did it occur to me that it will be be selected as the Top Ten Finalist in the Singapore Mental Health Short Film Youth Competition!

There were five topics to choose from: suicide prevention, recovery, cyber-bullying, life transitions, and young caregivers. I decided to go with the topic of suicide prevention. The idea for the film came to life when I started discussing with my parents about this new project in our usual Saturday morning calls. My mom mentioned that there was a Taiwanese actor whose wife suffered from depression. The husband tried a lot of ways to make her feel better to no avail. Things did not improve, until he stopped actively trying to find solutions. He would take her on road trips without exchanging a single word. He gave her company and a listening ear which ultimately helped her get better. (watch video below at 22 min 46 sec for his story!)

Other great ideas were generated at a great brainstorming session with my friend, Rohan. I stored all of them in my ideas pocket, and I still chose this idea as I was mesmerized with car rides and wanted to create a poetic road trip recovery scene.

Mental health is often a difficult topic to tackle in media. It is easy to wrongly portray one's experience with depression and fall into stereotypes and biases. I did not want to fall into that, so I decided to tell the story in Aiden's, the husband, perspective. Not just to avoid wrongly illustrating one's struggles with depression but also to show that depression can affect everyone around, not just the individual experiencing it.

Through this film, I want to encourage people to feel safe to talk about one's mental health, without feeling that it is a taboo. I also want to stress on the importance on being patient and giving company to those suffering from mental health issues, even when sometimes it might seem useless.

Meaning lies in the mundane. It doesn’t have to be something proactive or extravagant, sometimes it's about the little things, like a car ride to nowhere, that matters most.

For this achievement, I want to thank my parents who listened to me and gave me valuable inputs during my ideation process. I also want to thank my stop-motion professor Bernhard Schmitt, who has always been so supportive towards my ideas and projects. Continuously mentoring and and keeping up with my questions despite the school break. I also want to thank Rohan Gautam who helped me greatly to finish the props on time who also taught me electronic soldering for my on-set lights. I also need to thank my wonderful voice actors, Gustavo Castro-Wu and Ana Sabillón, who brought the lifeless puppets to life. Lastly I want to thank Eileen Chong, Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), and Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) for the wonderful workshops. And of course SMHFF for organizing such meaningful event.

Watch Here!

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