Photo courtesy of Cody Curtis.

By: Abigail Nelson, Arts & Culture Editor

Cody Curtis, a recent USM graduate of Media Studies, is embarking on his first feature film journey. Written and directed by himself, Suffocation, is currently in production.

The film focuses on a girl named Jasmine who faces a devastating life situation that results in her world turning upside down. It tackles issues of depression and anxiety, but has an overarching theme of hope and the promise that you are not alone. “I wanted to tell a story that will impact people,” said Curtis, “I tried to tackle as many sides of depression and anxiety as possible.” Curtis values mental health and has generously donated 10% of their original funding goal as well as any future proceeds to Greater Portland Health. 

Creating a feature film is no easy task. A skilled team of producers, actors, photographers and more are needed for a smooth running production. Curtis has just that. The total number of cast and crew will be around 35 people. In addition, most are current students or former graduates from the theater or media studies departments at USM. “All of the support, teamwork, and people I’ve been able to work with is the reason why I can’t give enough gratitude to the people who are a part of Suffocation.” said Curtis, “They’re the biggest reason why I’m doing this.” 

Wendy Ducas, a junior theater major, was a part of that support for Curtis. Ducas was there for the original reading and has since been involved with the production of Suffocation. “I’m super excited and grateful to be a part of this experience and work with the amazing cast and crew.” Ducas said. This will be her first role in a feature film. In addition, she will be working behind the scenes and has also been managing the social media accounts to update the public about the fundraising goals and achievements. 

Curtis explained the feature was originally going to be a short film. After the school shut down in March, he would have scratched the project had it not been for the support he found at USM. From professors to friends, Curtis and Ducas expressed their praise for the community and connections formed at USM that have offered them so many opportunities in their art careers. Some of these very friends are who encouraged Curtis to make the original script into a feature length film and Suffocation was born. Although COVID-19 has brought on some challenges, like zoom call rehearsals, it has also opened doors for growth in the project. Support for the film is already reaching across seas in addition to local praise. But there is still a long way to go. 

Filming will begin in October and the staff is well prepared to accommodate health guidelines with the assistance of a COVID-19 specialist. Curtis hopes to have a finished product by the summer of 2021, when film festivals are within view. The public will be able to view Suffocation around next fall, most likely on a streaming platform such as Amazon video or Vimeo. 

The cast and crew have big hopes for Suffocation. “I see the film as a way to de-stigmatize mental health stigmas in the world and social media,” Ducas said, “I hope people see that they are not alone.” 

For more information on Suffocation visit Suffocationfilm2020.com

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