Not Here

Filmmaker Sarah Laine Smith introduces her upcoming short film, Not Here. The storyline follows Dani (played by Smith) who is a former US Marine who has volunteered for the Ukraine National Guard in defending their eastern front against Russian separatists. Read on to learn more about Smith’s inspiration to create this film and how you can help support it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
My name is Sarah Laine Smith. I am the daughter of guitar maker Paul Reed Smith and I am a production assistant on House of Cards in Baltimore, MD. I have personal experiences with self -harm, self-deprecating thoughts, days in bed, suicidal thoughts, and full-blown the-world-is-ending panic attacks. I have been fired from jobs I am capable of performing for reasons that I know directly stem from my struggles with ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression. I believe I have lost about 10 years of professional and personal progress to these issues, especially when I let myself get lost in the murk of comparison. But I am deeply thankful that there are natural, artistic ways to express the confusion and darkness one experiences with mental health, for writing a poem or drawing my feelings has saved me many times. I’ve been deeply inspired by the awesome storytellers I work with. This is my first attempt to bring together my theater degree from USC  and my 10+ years of experience on other people’s passion projects in order to make my own.

What motivated you to switch from working for other people to creating your own projects?
It took me a long time to switch because of my experiences with anxiety and depression. My thoughts would say things like, “I can’t do it. “ “It’s not good enough.” “ I’m not capable, not strong enough.”  “I can’t get out of bed.”  “This paperwork makes no sense no matter what I do.”   “I’m overwhelmed, I’m scared, I can’t think straight, I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep….”. So I stepped back. I tried switching careers, and I tried settling into a more stable lifestyle. I began working in customer service and I bought a house and a dog. But God didn’t make me to live someone else’s life. He made me to tell stories, and to coordinate the telling of them well. My life of “stability” fell apart at the seams, I now believe because it wasn’t what I was meant for; someone else’s definition of happy and success made me unhappy and unsuccessful. I began pursuing the film industry again, tentatively, slowly, in manageable crew positions.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently producing a film called Not Here. What started as a small script about a strong woman, Dani, in a moment of decision has, through research and development, turned into a vehicle for awareness for mental disabilities. It’s a fictional story about a sniper’s experience in battle and her experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, naturally, I am dedicating the work to helping others with PTSD, and to spreading awareness throughout film festival audiences. I’ll be playing Dani, our lead sniper, in the film, so I’m very motivated to make this film as honorable and true to the cause as I can. I am also aware that I will be representing many soldiers on film, so I am actively researching and training to make sure every detail is as accurate as possible so that no one is distracted from the thrill of the action and the suspense of the drama. So, that’s, even more, motivation to get into the gym! (Please note that physical exercise is a huge source of healing and therapy mentally, as long as you don’t overexert yourself and don’t obsess. )

Why PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real and potent example of a stigmatized mental disorder that, with a little awareness and education, can easily be treated and calmed. I hope that by telling the story of a soldier who deals with the horrors of war, we can bring the audience into the mind of someone dealing with PTSD, and then generate awareness, empathy, and understanding. The more people see it, the more they will learn about what soldiers around the world are dealing with, and what they are bringing home with them. Then, hopefully, there will be that much more healing in relationships, and in life, for those who have served their country, who have given their everything. I plan on dedicating my entire career to bringing awareness to social issues, in entertaining and adrenaline pumping ways. I’m terrified many days, but the passion for telling stories that can help people heal, and maybe even save lives, that now finally (99% of the time) overrides the urge to crawl under the covers and hide all day. This is the first of many passion projects, and I’m simply grateful for the time, experiences, therapy, and medicine that have brought me back to this place of strength.  It’s this sense of inner strength despite fragility where I came up with the name of my production company, Iron Flower Production. (Steel Magnolias is taken 😉 )

How can people help support or fund your film?
Please check out www.notherefilm.com for more information about the project, the cast, and our goals. Also, please consider donating at http://www.gofundme.com/not-here-film/ so that we can make this project the best it can be. Side note: I’m currently contacting non-profit organizations who I feel are making an impact with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder help and awareness, in order to show film audiences a list of resources for more help during the credits. The first of these is Platoon 22, started by Danny Farrar of SoldierFit gym. Please check out  www.platoon22.org for more information about what they’re doing and how they are working to prevent veteran suicides.

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