Short Film: "Gray Matter" by Nicole Lefteau

Sitting in a room listening to pitches from the UNT Short Film Club, Nicole Lefteau's attention was drawn to Samuel Gustafson's idea to tell a story about a couple whose relationship is affected by mental health issues. Films attempting to remove the stigma about mental health are in short supply. Jumping at the opportunity for a fresh perspective on romance, Lefteau went on to write an original script and make her directorial debut.

In a little under 10 minutese, Gray Matter, presents a vignette on the uncertainty surrounding a relationship where Will (Johann Mahler) has severe schizophrenia and his girlfriend Lily (Sabrina Bruederlin) has multiple anxiety disorders. Assistant director Jon Rafael Birondo believes viewers should accept that "everybody deserves to be loved and everyone is worth loving. The fact that they have mental disorders doesn't dilute their capacity or necessity to be loved." 

Lefteau has a knack for romance stories that entail modern day struggles. In real life, love isn't always unicorns and rainbows with perfect timing. She says, "Everybody in their own way has some kind of issue or condition." Personal experiences combined with researching other people's stories contributed to the crafting of her 14-page script.

One key source was a high school friend diagnosed with schizophrenia. Lefteau says, "What I learned from him is that like other mental health conditions, it's different for everybody to some degree." His experiences were described as terrifying, which Lefteau aimed to portray in the film without resorting to a horror vibe.

The air of uncertainty surrounding innocent love was enhanced by the Jhad Francis' first film composition. The soundtrack has a prettiness to it with layers of dissonance that are prevalent during deftly used jump cuts. Gray Matter's film score can currently be heard on Bandcamp. 

The Dentonite is proud to premiere Gray Matter dir. by Nicole Leftau. Relationships can be beneficial to each person's health, but that doesn't mean they don't withstand stress and challenges. This UNT Short Film Club production is a fitting watch for this Valentine's Day.

Director/Writer: Nicole Leftau
Director of Photography: Jordan Wright and Thomas Blanks
Editor/Composer: Jhad Francis
Starring: Johann Mahler and Sabrina Bruederlin
Runtime: 9:34

Header image designed by Brittany Keeton