About this project
YOU DID IT! We made our funding goal with many hours to spare! Whew! Thank you to all our super wonderful backers and to all those who have been so supportive of The S Word on social media. This campaign has been such a collaborative effort. This film belongs to all of you! Now let's finish this movie and change the world!
Thank you for visiting our Kickstarter page.
We're very excited to have you join our award winning team to help get THE S WORD finished and be part of creating social change.
~ THE S WORD director, Lisa Klein, is interviewed in BUST, a women's lifestyle magazine. Check out the article HERE. Our thanks to journalist Candace Opper and Bust Magazine!
~ We won! We are IndieWIRE' Project of the Week. Thanks to all our wonderful Kickstarter backers who voted! See the final tally of the votes HERE.
The word suicide brings conversations to a halt, and evokes primal fears of the darkest of all human experiences.
Speaking the word itself is not the problem.
The silence that so often follows is.
THE S WORD, a feature-length documentary, tackles one of the most unfathomable issues of our time by telling the stories of suicide attempt survivors, along with the families and loved ones of those who have died by suicide - who are left behind to suffer the anguish, guilt, and confusion of death by suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in America. The voices of those living through suicide loss and attempts will be amplified above simple discussion and politics of the issues. This film will be bracing, controversial, and surprising in its revelations, its humor, its connections, and its multiple points of view.
So, when people ask us “Why suicide? Isn’t that topic depressing?” Our answer is, “There is nothing depressing about working to prevent the kind of suffering that so many families have endured. The most depressing thing would be to remain silent… and not make this movie.
Thank you for being a part of it.
Suicide has affected DESE'RAE STAGE since she can remember. When she was very young, a family friend died by suicide. When she was a teenager, one of her friends died by suicide. When she was 23, she attempted suicide.
The years that followed included college, a move to New York and a growing love for photography - all through cycles of loneliness and depression. Then, she realized there were so many questions from her past that could be addressed using her camera.
“What now?” “Am I the only one?” “Where is everybody?” “How can I make a difference?”
To find the answers, she seeks out other suicide attempt survivors. Attempt survivors have been silent, anonymous, reduced to stereotypes and statistics. Dese’Rae sets out to show the world that suicide is not an affliction of the other—it affects people of all ages, races, faiths, ethnicity, gender presentations, sexual orientations, professions, and so much more.
She creates a project called livethroughthis.org, which explores life on the other side of suicide through the stories of attempt survivors, in their own words, and the intimate portraits Dese’Rae creates of them.
We join Dese’Rae as she finds attempt survivors and shares their stories with the world - fighting through the silence and shame. Through her odyssey, she discovers a community rising up to transform personal struggles into strength and action on a national level. We travel with her across the country to meet, (among others):
CRAIG MILLER who spent every day trying to talk himself out of suicide by writing out his thoughts. After a suicide attempt he once again turned to his salvation – writing. His book, "This is How It Feels," spreads the message that life is an opportunity.
KERIS MYRICK who rose from suicidal discord to serving as a leader of a major mental health organization.
LEAH HARRIS a suicide prevention activist who lives and works in Washington, DC becomes part of the landscape as she fights to affect change on Capitol Hill.
ANN TAYLOR a single parent who reveals to her teenage son, SAM, that she attempted suicide. In that extraordinary moment she begins her quest to find a path to an engaged and active life.
The other side of suicide is the loss. Families and loved ones who have lost somebody to suicide have their own stories to tell.
BRANDON TOH was a musician and a crisis line supervisor for a Southern California mental health service. His struggles with bipolar disorder ended in his suicide in 2012, leaving a stunned family and circle of friends in shock and mourning. Brandon’s mother, JEAN TOH, reveals: “The ache of loss is a part of me, but I think sharing my experiences with others is the best I can do now. The challenge for me is to accept I will never see my son again, but that I can go on by remembering all facets of the life he did live.”
These stories are interlaced with Dese’Rae’s day-to-day life. We visit her home, meet her fiancée, FELICIDAD GARCIA, and watch their relationship grow as they plan their wedding and their future as a family. Their story offers a window into what it’s like to love someone when thoughts of suicide and self-injury are a reality that necessitates ongoing conversation. Together they are bitingly funny, loving, and realistic about the challenges they face.
With each of our characters, we explore how suicide has affected their lives - whether they have attempted, lost somebody to suicide or both. From those varying perspectives will emerge each person’s approach to suicide prevention in their own unique voices, and we will track them as their stories unfold.
These raw stories will draw our audience in and allow them to connect with survivors through their unguarded courage, insight, and humor.
Woven into these intimate story arcs are supporting characters who are leading voices in suicide research, therapy, advocacy and activism, including:
- Dr. William Schmitz, Jr., Past President, American Association of Suicidology
- Dr. April Foreman, Psychologist, Southeast Louisiana Veteran’s Health Care Services
- Dr. Thomas Joiner, Professor of Psychology, Florida State University
- Andrew Solomon, award winning writer on politics, culture, and psychology
- Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, psychologist and mental health advocate
- Dr. John Draper, Director, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
At its heart, THE S WORD is a film about humanity - people giving voice to their struggles in the hope that those intimate stories will help prevent further suicides. Amidst all the pain, these stories are really about life.
My family has lived—and died—through mental illness and suicide. My name is Lisa Klein, and I am the director of THE S WORD. As a survivor of both my father's and brother’s suicides, I have wrestled with the guilt, shame, and confusion that surrounds it. I will never know why my dad ended his life. Nobody talked about my brother. My mother could never bring herself to say the words, “My son killed himself.” No mother should have to say that - ever. Suicide is one of the most confounding and cloistered issues of our time, and the silence kills—literally.
Until very recently, first person narratives of people who have been suicidal were largely missing from this conversation. I intend for THE S WORD to bring these voices to the center of the dialogue, allowing for new and creative approaches to suicide prevention and intervention.
Your generous contributions will aid in our to efforts to shine a light on a topic that has long been silenced and buried with the lives it’s claimed. I invite you to join us to help make this film a reality. Thank you so much!
Lisa Klein - Director - Lisa co-directed, OF TWO MINDS (2012), a journey into the lives of remarkable people living, struggling, and triumphing with bipolar disorder. It won a SAMHSA VOICE Award and an EIC Prism Award, the most important awards for a mental health documentary, and been seen by sold out audiences at screenings across the country.
Doug Blush – Producer/Supervising Editor - Doug is an award-winning filmmaker whose editing credits include the 2012 Academy Award Best Documentary nominee THE INVISIBLE WAR, the 2013 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, WORDPLAY (2006), I.O.U.S.A. (2008), THESE AMAZING SHADOWS (2011), SLINGSHOT (2014), THE HUNTING GROUND (2015), and THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (2015).
Gianna Maria Smart – Producer - Gianna is an Emmy Award winning producer for her work on THE SOPRANOS (2007). Most recently she Co-Produced the HBO Series ENLIGHTENED (2012) with Mike White and Laura Dern. Her past TV credits include NORTHERN EXPOSURE and JUDGING AMY and DreamWorks films THE TRIGGER EFFECT, PRINCE OF EGYPT and ANTZ.
Josh Bayer - Editor - Josh is a filmmaker from West Bloomfield, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 and and his short films have appeared in film festivals around the country.
Patricia Harris Dileva - Coordinating Producer - Pat has over 20 years of event management experience, including stints as Promotions Director for the Los Angeles Marathon, and as a Project Director for Perelman, Pioneer & Co., an event marketing firm specializing in sports and entertainment.
Susan Berk – Executive Producer – Susan has had a long career as a civic activist, author and archivist. She began at the American Jewish Historical Society as an archivist, then moved on to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library organizing exhibits for libraries and other public spaces. She has served on the board of the Santa Fe Film Festival and Center and the Museums of New Mexico Foundation. She is a current member of the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts
Kurt Norton - Producer - Kurt co-directed/co-produced THESE AMAZING SHADOWS (2011), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is distributed through IFC/Sundance Selects, and had multiple broadcasts on the PBS series Independent Lens.
We have gathered about half the footage we need to complete our film. So far our production has taken us to Boston, New York City, Brooklyn, Washington, DC, Denver, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Atlanta to track the stories that continue to impact people’s lives. We have additional interviews scheduled over the next few months in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC, Baton Rouge, Jacksonville, North Carolina and Los Angeles.
With your generous support we will be able to finish production by January 2016 (or so) and move on to full time post production (we have been editing during production). We hope to finish and premiere THE S WORD in mid 2016.
Some of our supporters:
When you support our project with your donation, no matter large or modest, you are saying that, "I want to end the silence that is making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.” It’s time.
Tell your friends, family, colleagues...everyone you think would be interested in supporting THE S WORD. You can also spread the word via social media! Sharing this project is equally as important as making a donation.
Here are details about some of our fantastic rewards! Please see the full list by scrolling up and viewing the column to the right. We have reward levels from $10 to $7500 that will suit anyone's budget and level of desired support.
Since you have taken the time to review our entire Kickstarter page you must be a special person. We would like to acknowledge your specialness by sending you a very special button. Drop us a short note at TheSWordDoc@gmail.com and we will send you the I Heart THE S WORD button you see below.
Risks and challenges
QUESTION: Why do a documentary on suicide? Isn't that topic depressing?
ANSWER: There is nothing depressing about working to prevent the kind of suffering that so many families have endured. The most depressing thing would be to remain silent...and not make this movie.
QUESTION: Do you have access to the people and organizations you will need to tell your story?
ANSWER: Yes. Every one of our interview subjects are committed to our project. We have received a lot of support and encouragement from organizations such as the American Association of Suicidology, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Carson J. Spencer Foundation, Active Minds and many more.
QUESTION: Movie making is expensive. Will you have enough money to finish your film?
ANSWER: Filmmaking is expensive but we know how to stretch a buck. Our entire production team is experienced and committed to this project. The film will get finished. But, frankly, the more money we raise the more we can do to make the film great.
QUESTION: What are your plans for screening the film?
ANSWER: Our strategy is to purse an 'A' list film festival for our premiere - then to present community based special screenings across the country. We are already fielding requests from universities, mental health organizations and hospitals including the Mayo Clinic, which is scheduled for spring of 2016. We will also go after a national broadcast, Netflix and SVOD.
Thank you for being a part of THE S WORD.
We would love to hear what you think about our project. Share with us your ideas, thoughts and stories.
Email us at: TheSWordDoc@gmail.comLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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