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Young Moline filmmaker addresses mental illness
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Young Moline filmmaker addresses mental illness

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DAVENPORT — Twisted Sisters Productions, a local independent filmmaking group, will premiere “I’m Fine,” a short film about mental-health awareness, at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd St. Admission is free.

The 40-minute movie is the semi-autobiographical story of its director, producer and co-writer, Elise Edens, a 23-year-old from Moline who graduated from the University of Tampa in Florida, majoring in history and minoring in film.

“This film is a personal journey that has become a public mission,” she said. “Mental health and depression touch me personally, and because of that experience, my goal is to lift the curtain from mental illness and reach people, to show them that they aren’t alone.”

The film, which was shot in June at Moline High School and other local spots, follows the struggle of Ava, played by Anna Riggins, a high-school junior who must overcome her depression being dismissed as “just a phase” by those around her.

She begins to heal when she realizes that speaking up and rising above any stigma attached to mental health is the only way to survive.

“We really want people to know it’s OK to not be OK, that it’s OK to ask for help,” Edens said. “Throughout the film, she relies on her best friend a lot. She realizes she needs to get help from somebody other than her best friend, that it’s OK to talk about it. It doesn’t make you an alien.”

The film “really reflects what happened to me,” she said. “You write what you know.” The title comes from the answer Ava gives to people who ask how she is: “I’m fine.”

“You’re going through the motions, not really feeling anything,” Edens said. “In the film, her outlet is running; mine more is music. Sometime people have outlets.”

Edens didn’t seek treatment until later in life than Ava does. “The problem is, I didn’t get help as soon as I should have. I realized this isn’t something I could deal with myself. I started seeing a counselor, got some medication, and I continue to this day.”

“No one wants to be different, especially in high school, so trying to fit in while facing depression can be overwhelming,” said Edens, who teaches in the summer Urban Exposure film program for area youths, works as an editor at WQAD-TV and is a substitute teacher for the Moline-Coal Valley School District.

She founded Twisted Sisters Productions with her sister, Emily, 26. “We started doing our own films, and we have a very dark sense of humor,” Elise said, noting Emily is an actor and handled costumes for “I’m Fine.”

“Together, we come up with some pretty crazy ideas that to most people would be considered twisted in the head, hence our name,” Elise wrote on the production Facebook page, facebook.com/TwistedSistersPro.

Being involved in film has improved her self-confidence, she said.

“I definitely think it’s something I love; people tell me I’m good at it,” Edens said. “I’m able to tell stories that otherwise would not be told. Some people connect with music, art. Filmmaking is another one of those ways.”

She credited Jonathan Burnett and others from Urban Exposure for working as the crew for the film, which she plans to make available online in the near future.

“I want the film to let people know it’s OK to talk, have a conversation about it,” Edens said of depression and anxiety. “If you keep it all inside, it just makes it worse.”

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Jonathan is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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