We (Shirin and Julie) have been best friends since our freshman year of high school, when our odd senses of humor and disturbed temperaments immediately brought us together. As aspiring writers/creators, we talked for years about making something that captured the dysfunctional but loving nature of our friendship. The stars and prescription medications have finally aligned, allowing us to bring you our dream project in full force. It's a comedy called MENTAL about two neurotic best friends who both struggle with anxiety and depression.
In each episode, Shirin and Julie will navigate the minutiae of day-to-day life through the lens of extreme neurosis. It's a humorous show that depicts mental instability in a relatable way, which is something not often seen in mainstream media.
We’ve filmed one episode already to give a sense of what the show will be like, and we are asking for help to fund six more. In this episode, “Palm Springs,” Shirin and Julie go on a relaxing weekend getaway, but their five million neuroses get in the way of them falling asleep in the same hotel room together. You can watch it here:
This is a female-driven show. Shirin and Julie will be writing, directing, editing, and starring in every episode. Additionally, the director of photography (Kristen DiLiello) and producer (Samantha Simon) are both women, which makes for an unusually female-heavy cast and crew in a typically male dominated field.
We feel it's empowering to create relatable female characters who struggle with anxiety and depression. Often in media, we feel that women who suffer from mental illness are portrayed in a 2-dimensional, unsympathetic, or caricatured way. We also hope to break some of the taboos associated with taking psychiatric medication and seeking help through therapy. It's unfortunate that many people feel that admitting to taking an anti-depressant is like admitting to having leprosy.
Another cool thing is that most (if not all) of our episodes pass the "Bechdel Test" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test). It's kind of sad that this test even exists, but if you haven't heard of it, a work of fiction only passes this test when there's a scene between two women who are not having a conversation about men. It turns out characters Shirin and Julie are not super preoccupied with men because they are more concerned with trying to find environments with suitable air conditioning and noise levels.
In future episodes, characters Shirin and Julie will continue to grapple with mental instability as they navigate their day-to-day lives. Here's a snapshot of 3 of the 6 episodes for which we are trying to fundraise.
Shishito Peppers: A pleasant birthday dinner turns into a maddening state of internal disassociation for Julie when a too-spicy dish of shishito peppers arrives and she feels justified in sending them back but can’t bring herself to ask the waitress.
Crazy Friend: Julie and Shirin's college friend Emily, now a professional dominatrix, comes to town and shows them the true meaning of "cray cray" when they take her to a house party and she ends the evening rolling around naked in a blanket on the grass, sobbing in the backyard.
Shirin's Therapist Goes on Vacation: When Shirin's therapist goes on a vacation, her world becomes a bleak 1800s winter, the wind raging against a gray sky. In contrast, Shirin's therapist, a man in his 60s, wears Hawaiian print clothing and walks blissfully in the sand to happy xylophone music, enjoying his paradise vacation.
The episodes will range from 5 to 12 minutes long. The best way to describe the tone is hyperrealistic, yet simultaneously absurd, similar to the FX show Louie. Each episode is a self-contained saga and has the feel of a short film. Our ultimate goal is to sell the show to a cable network so that we can make episodes over several seasons and develop these characters and their storylines.
Right now, the one thing we really need to bring this show to life is your help. We have the episodes written and the team in place, but we can't afford to fund this on our own. We hope that with the help of generous friends like you, we can make our dream project a reality.
We self-funded our first episode, Palm Springs, which cost $906 to make. We did it on a very tight budget, paying the least amount we could possibly pay to make it. We asked our crew to work for less than their normal rates with the promise that we would be able to fundraise and pay them closer to their normal rates for subsequent episodes. We had no PA's on set and managed all of the logistics, equipment, errands on our own, which can be difficult to do when trying to focus on the acting and directing.
Our cost breakdown for Palm Springs (a 10-hour shoot) was as follows:
We calculated the costs for a future episode in which we'd pay the crew closer to their rates and have 1 PA on set. We will also have multiple locations in some of the future episodes (unlike Palm Springs, which was all set in one hotel room), which means additional days of shooting and extra costs for food and crew. We averaged the additional costs considering these factors and calculated those as $450. This brings us to a total cost of $1,356 per episode.
We are making 6 episodes, so this brings us to $8,136. The remaining costs include marketing, insurance, unexpected expenditures, a stipend for our producer, and the fees to Amazon and Kickstarter.
MORE ABOUT US:
Shirin and Julie have collaborated on several projects. They created the web series "George and Julie" in which Shirin plays the voice of George the cat (an asshole cat connected in Hollywood) and Julie plays a struggling actress. Watch the full series here.
In "Please Go" (written/directed by Shirin, performed by Julie), two women approach a stop sign at the same time and have rage outbursts.
In "Hollywood Party" (written and performed by Shirin and Julie), a studio producer has no interest in hearing a woman's web series pitch.
Outside of their work together, Julie is on the show Orange is the New Black as the role of meth-head Angie Rice.
Shirin writes and directs comedy videos, which have been featured on the Funny or Die homepage and written up by various media. In "Before and After Uber," Shirin parodies the culture shift that occurred in Los Angeles after services like Uber and Lyft were introduced.
The video was written up by Los Angeles Magazine.
And if you've read this far in our page, you possess the attention span needed to appreciate one of our favorite videos we created together, "Zoloft and Klonopin: An Opera." This video wasn't very popular on YouTube (perhaps due to the fact that it's a 6-minute puppet opera), but we believe that, much like the work of Vincent van Gogh, it will be appreciated after its time.
Risks and challenges
We are very confident that we will bring Mental to completion. We successfully filmed one of our longest episodes, completed the post-production (editing, musical score) and released it. Our production team and process are all in place.
The primary challenge, as in any film shoot, is the unpredictable aspect of production. With an unforeseen event, the consequence is that we would have to postpone the shoot. For instance, if it rains on the day of an outdoor shoot, or if a location falls through last minute, or if an actor gets sick. Our scheduled date of completion is September 2016, but it’s possible that the project could take up to a year (March 2017) if unforeseen obstacles slow the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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