A very personal story for an up-and-coming director is about make a very public World Premiere. The Year Between will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City this Sunday, June 12th. The feature was filmed in the southwest Chicago suburbs, including Ocean Park and Burr Ridge, last October and November. The talented cast includes Primetime Emmy Winner Steve Buscemi, and writer-director Alex Heller herself. Heller and one of her producers, Chicago’s Eugene Sun Park of Full Spectrum Features, stopped by to chat with SCREEN as the premiere approaches.
Inspired by writer/director/star Alex Heller’s own experiences, The Year Between is a fresh and irreverent take on a young person’s struggle with mental illness. “The film is really a family story at the end of the day that uses comedy and drama to shed light on and bring some humanity (and levity!) to the very real topic of mental illness,” Park declared to SCREEN.
The Long and Rewarding Road to Tribeca
“I’ve been working on the screenplay for about six years, so seeing the project brought to life has been incredible,” Heller shared with SCREEN. “As a first time feature director, every second of every day was a learning experience. I’m so grateful to my team for their talent, resilience, and patience–for believing in me and this deeply personal story.”
Producer Eugene Sun Park has endless praise for Heller and her tour-de-force in this film, including her first foray in front of the camera. “Alex’s voice is truly unique,” Park shared with SCREEN. “She has this magical ability to make you laugh, cry, and scratch your head – as in WTF!? – all at the same time. We’ve also been working on this film together for over five years, so it’s particularly fulfilling to see it come to fruition after many starts and stops, hurdles, and setbacks along the way.”
Saluting the Team
In addition to Heller and the aforementioned Emmy winner Steve Buscemi, the ensemble cast is anchored by J. Smith-Cameron, Wyatt Oleff, Emily Robinson, Kyanna Simone, Rajeev Jacob, and Waltrudis Buck.
Park’s production company, Full Spectrum Features, produced The Year Between along with Level Forward and Chicago Media Angels. Producers included Park, Heller, Amanda Phillips, Sonya Lunsford, Rachel Gould, and Caterin Camargo-Alvarez. Executive Producers included Adrienne Becker, Susanna Fogel, J. Smith-Cameron, Roger Clark, and HaJ. Harrison Atkins edited, Jason Chiu shot it, while Lauren Culjak composed the score and Linda Perry served as Music Supervisor.
Connecting with the Audience
Producer Eugene Sun Park feels there is something for everyone to connect with in The Year Between. “I think a wide range of audiences will enjoy this film, probably for overlapping but also different reasons,” Eugene explained to SCREEN. “Young folks will be excited to see a college student really ‘owning’ her mental illness with an inspiring degree of confidence and brashness. And older audiences will also appreciate how the entire family – parents and siblings included – can come together to be a part of the healing process and the lifelong journey of learning how to live with mental illness.”
Director Alex Heller echoed Park’s sentiment. “I hope The Year Between opens people’s minds and gets them talking,” Heller said to SCREEN as we wrapped up the interview. “I’ve been medicated for bipolar disorder for a decade – an experience that I don’t share with anyone I know personally. Throughout the years, my treatment has both liberated and constrained me. The only way I can begin to describe the journey is through making this movie… so, I’m thrilled to share a highly-opinionated, comedic perspective on what it means to be treated for a mental illness.”
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