The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting a panel for emerging and practicing filmmakers focused on mental health. The panel, titled "Destigmatizing Mental Health," will be available to stream live on Wednesday, June 28 on YouTube and Facebook starting at 7:30 p.m. PST.
Filmmakers will share their personal journeys with mental health, showcasing the challenges and rewards of their experiences as they’ve navigated their careers. They'll also be joined by mental health professionals who will provide insight and guidance on navigating mental health within the entertainment industry.
Among members of the panel are Brittany Snow, star of the Pitch Perfect films and Hairspray. Snow recently co-wrote, produced, and directed the romantic drama Parachute, starring Courtney Eaton, Thomas Mann, Dave Bautista, and Kid Cudi, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year.
Last year, Snow spoke with A.frame about the importance of destigmatizing mental health. "My hope is just to help people feel not as alone or strange in what they are going through," she said.
Lexi Underwood, who co-starred with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in the hit series Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu, will be on the panel as well. Underwood recently founded her own production company in 2018, Ultimate Dreamer Productions, and made her directorial debut with the docu-short, We the Voices of Gen-Z.
Other members joining the panel will bring some deeply personal experiences with bipolar disorder.
General Hospital star Maurice Benard has been an open advocate for mental health for years, beginning in 2009 when he shared his bipolar disorder diagnosis on Oprah. The Emmy winner is also the host of the "State of Mind with Maurice Benard" podcast and has lent his face and voice to numerous organizations to support the cause. Benard has also testified before congress on mental health issues.
Paul Dalio is a writer, director, and composer whose first feature film, 2015's Touched with Fire, explores the connection between bipolar disorder and artistic expression. The title is borrowed from the book by Kay Jamison, which reframed bipolar disorder as a creative gift instead of a mental illness. The film premiered at SXSW film festival and received awards from 12 different mental health organizations.
Rounding out the panel is Brian Nam, Co-Founder & CEO at DIVE Studios, a podcast-focused production company delivering to listeners audio collections of personal stories. The company recently launched a daily self-care app called MINDSET, which offers various self-care tools and resources with the goal of changing the way that people take care of their mental health.
The filmmakers will also be joined by two licensed clinicians, Pierluigi Mancini, PhD and President of the Multicultural Development Institute, Inc. and Dr. Kojo Sarfo, a psychotherapist. The panel will be moderated by Madhuri Jha, Vice President of Science, Equity, and Integration at ETR, a nationally recognized clinical social work and public health professional who is also a trained psychotherapist who works in private practice.
Beyond sharing their stories and journeys with mental health, the panel will also offer strategies for breaking down barriers, empowering filmmakers to prioritize their mental well-being, something often overlooked in the entertainment world.
The panel is part of Academy Gold Rising, a career development program for students and young professionals from underrepresented communities. The program works with various studios and industry organizations to provide educational programs, career preparation sessions, and networking and mentorship opportunities with Academy members and industry professionals.
This program is made possible by a grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation.