Go See Demons at the Oceanside International Film Festival in August!

TME Productions partnered with Letters Against Depression, a nonprofit organization founded by Robert Mason, to produce a short film, Demons. Directed by David M. Gutel, this film has a mission to reduce suicide by spreading awareness about how to deal with depression.

Logo for Letters Against Depression, founded by Robert Mason.

Letters Against Depression strives to help people all around the world to deal with depression, and this organization exists for people to reach out for advice and support about how to deal with their depression, Mason added. “I want to add comfort to people and allow them connect with others who have depression,” Mason said. Now this organization serves about 300 patients worldwide and counting.

Poster for Demons. All photos courtesy of Chris Sweda.

Demons will be screened at this year’s Oceanside International Film Festival on August 10. Made possible by many producers and executive producers including Theresa Dame Bellasario, Angie Quidim and Chris Sweda, Demons will be one of 60 films shown on the big screen in Oceanside. Written by Noah Johnson and Darshar Vaidya, Demons stars with Michelle Way, Sidney Franklin, and Kathleen Scott among others in cast.

Crew on set at California State University Long Beach.

Filmed at California State University Long Beach (CSULB), this film follows a young college student, Aaron, who suffers from depression. Aaron, played by Sidney Franklin, learns to deal with depression not by committing suicide but by asking for help from his professors and friends at college. “When I saw the script for this film (Demons), I immediately felt connected with the story and with what Aaron went through,” Mason said. “Mental illnesses in the media seem to have an after-school special feel; however, in Demons, I knew the story and the main character (Aaron) will change the conservation about mental illnesses.”

Sidney Franklin as Aaron.

Mason also shared that he suffers from depression himself since childhood due to bullying at school. He isolated himself from other children during his school years, but could manage his depression on his own until college years. He escaped to work for Walt Disney World in 1998 to escape his troubles, however he felt lonely in Florida. “I did not want to see my family, and I wanted to stay isolated,” Mason said. “When I could not get up from bed or skipped events because of my condition, I sought care from my doctor to learn how to fight back. I felt scared to tell people about my depression since of the stigma, so I kept my depression a secret.” He coped with his depression by keeping a journal about his emotions. Additionally, by launching Letters Against Depression, Mason hopes to be a person for others to feel safe to ask for help via letters.

A birthday party scene in Demons.

Gutel also shared his own personal experience with depression. “My brother’s best friend’s younger brother committed suicide. After I read the script, I realized how little we talk about suicide in society and how we just try and ignore as if it never happened. I wanted to direct Demons because I saw it as an opportunity to talk about an issue our society is facing through the power of narrative film story telling,” Gutel said. “I saw it as a way to touch people in need deeper than any other method.”

Mason also hopes that this film will draw more volunteers and those affected with depression to become more aware about Letters Against Depression. “I felt honored to be asked to partner with TME to produce Demons, because I am passionate about mental illnesses, depression, and suicide awareness. I hope this film touches others and influences other people to help those affected with mental illnesses,” Mason said. “I see myself in this film, and kids with depression can see themselves through Aaron, and reach out for help.”

Aaron’s mother in Demons.

Gutel graduated from CSULB in 2014 with a degree in film and electronic arts with an emphasis in directing. Gutel hopes to show two messages through this short film. He wants to show that people who have depression need to talk to someone about their issue. Also, Gutel wants to spread awareness to people about suicidal problems, and educate them how to reach out to those who need help with depression and other mental issues.

“Hopefully, I want to touch as many people as possible who are struggling (with mental health issues). By bringing awareness to an issue that isn’t talked about, I hope we can start to help those is need. If I just touch one life, my job is done.” Mason also hopes that this film will help parents become more aware about mental illnesses, as he plays the role of Aaron’s father in this film. “Small things can become a big environment for kids to experience depression and think about suicide,” Mason said.


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