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Paper Cuts: EDs On Screen

By Catherine Weingarten--This week I was lucky enough to speak with Kelli Horan and Ima Leupp, the artists behind the film “Paper Cuts.”  Paper Cuts is a film about a young woman who lives on her own and is doing ok, and becomes triggered by past mental health issues when she is invited to her mother’s wedding.

As a playwright who writes a ton about body image, I am very passionate about this issue and can’t wait to see the film when it comes out! The arts can be a great way for people to explore mental health and body image and raise awareness. 

On their Indiegogo page they write, “We all know someone with mental health issues - whether we know it or not. This film tackles issues that are often either ignored or only discussed in hushed tones. We bring the issues of depression to light in a realistic and relatable way that helps bring insight and hope. By contributing to this film, you are helping us to raise awareness of these issues in a creative field.”

Catherine Weingarten: What was your inspiration for this story?

Kelli Horan, writer: The inspiration for this story comes from real experience - mine, my friend’s, my family’s. I have experienced depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm - all of which are issues the main character, Jess, experiences in the film. After writing the first draft I was surprised to find out how many other people could relate not only to the issues addressed in the film but specifically Jess's actions and feelings in regards to those issues. I want the characters and story to show the reality of what these issues can mean to an individual - specifically an adult who many think should've already beat these issues. I've seen a lot of stories show depression and other issues as something you beat - in my mind that's not how it is. I feel like showing someone learning to acknowledge issues instead of being in denial then moving to cope and actually live life is way more realistic. That has been my experience and what I wanted to share through the film

Ima Leupp, director: Kelli wrote the story, but what drew me to the script was Jess, the main character. I have struggled my whole life with the same issues that Jess has. Depression, self-harm, eating disorders..and I want to bring those issues to light. I want to show that these are real issues that women deal with and they're joked about or overlooked as trying to get attention. 

CW: Did you have any other films or pieces of art that served as inspiration while making Paper Cuts?

KH: As the writer, I wasn't really inspired by other films. However, music played a big part. I listened almost exclusively to female driven music. The band I listened to the most and provided a huge amount of inspiration was First Aid Kit. Their songs resonate so well with the themes of acknowledging issues and dealing with them, as well as female empowerment and acceptance.

IL: My biggest inspiration for Paper Cuts has been Prozac Nation. I've always looked up to Elizabeth Wurtzel as a woman who has shown that women can have real problems and it's not because we're emotional or dramatic. It's because we're complex and human. 

CW: What are some pre-conceptions that people have about body image that you guys hope this movie will shed light on?

KH: There is a lot of shame that people experience with body image issues, depression, self-harm. They don't want to acknowledge them to themselves or others. But really, acknowledging and accepting these issues as real parts of you is the first step, in my mind, to learning to heal. I hope people come away from this film with the overarching theme of self-acceptance - of your body, thoughts, and feelings.

IL: I've heard things like "She's not depressed, she's faking it for attention" or "Those cuts aren't deep, they look like scratches, you can tell she doesn't mean it" or "She probably eats when she's not around us" and these things make me furious. Mental health is a real thing that affects many people every day. These invisible diseases can be debilitating and often overlooked. I want to bring the intimate moments, the times we are alone, to light. I want to show that this is an all the time thing, not just when we're in front of people. 

CW: Why do you think female driven narrative is important?

KH: For Paper Cuts specifically, I feel like this story embodies an experience so many women (young and older) have in their lives. The character of Jess is one that I feel all women can relate to on some level - whether it's through her anxiety, depression, relationships, or denial of her true feelings. Her growth to self-acceptance will hopefully inspire other women to follow in her footsteps. I wanted these female characters to be complex to represent real women, not caricatures of singular personality types. It's important to share stories with characters like this so that women feel truly represented in the world of film.

IL:  Because I'm a woman, and I watch all of these movies and try to connect to all of these male characters, but I find myself searching for strong female lead characters and I feel like mainstream movies fall short. I haven't found a woman character I can look up to since Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and that was in the 90's.) I'm determined to change this and I'm glad I met Kelli, who is working towards the same goals. 

CW: How can readers interested in your films getting involved/support this awesome film?

KH: We are currently in our last week of crowd funding. You can check out our Indiegogo if you're interested in learning more! 

You can keep up-to-date on the production through our Facebook page.

IL: Share the film, follow us on Facebook, and look for it after its release. Send us love and luck and we'll make you proud. 

CW:Why are you proud to be you?

KH: I am proud to be me because every day I am growing as a person and sharing that experience with the world.

IL: For so long I was deep into self-hatred and guilt for just existing and feeling certain ways. I'm proud that I'm more accepting of myself and others, and I am becoming more so every day.

About this blogger: Catherine is an MFA student in playwriting at Ohio University. She was a previous NEDA helpline volunteer and is also the playwright in residence for “Realize Your Beauty”, an AWESOME org which uses theater arts to promote body positive for kids. Her fave dessert is high class coconut cake. She has written lots of trashy short plays with equally trashy titles like “Hot Santa” or “You Looked Hot when You Stole that Dress from Walmart.”

For more by Catherine:

Another Year of No Resolutions

Lena Dunham is Totally My Girlspiration

I'm Years from Motherhood and I'm Already Sick of Post-Baby Weight Loss Stories

Redefining that Heart-Shaped Holiday

Glee's Harmful Portrayal of Eating Disorders

Stepping Off the Treadmill: How I Discovered What Health Exercise Really Feels Like

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