The Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival wraps up today at the Beach Theater with two documentaries, a filmmakers panel and a collection of student films before concluding with an awards ceremony.
Among the student short films is ” Mourning “, one of six student films screened at the festival today from 4:30 p.m. The film was written and directed by Annalize Desiato, a graduate of Towson University’s Electronic Media and Film program. She directed the film with a budget of $1,700 raised through online donations. She attended the festival all week. “I feel like it’s really important because it’s my first film festival” said Desiato. “I really like seeing what movies are being made around the world.”
A psychological thriller “Mourning” centers on a single mother struggling with personal loss. “It’s a great story about hope and overcoming grief,” she says. Filmed in late 2020, said the film was written with inspiration from the COVID-19 pandemic. “A lot of people were losing family members and didn’t know how to deal with it. There weren’t many support groups people could go to.
Desiato, who quotes Stanley Kubrick “The Brilliant” and David Fincher “Missing Girl” as two of her favorite films, said her film focuses on the mental health of a woman who loses her husband and is “hearing and seeing things that don’t really exist. All because of anxiety and depression. Desiato said the emotional struggles of Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Brilliant” had some influence on the mental health of the main character in ” Mourning “, although without violence.
Desiato said the roots of the film’s story stem from personal experience. “I experienced the greatest heartache I have ever felt in my life,” she says. “You have to learn to deal with these things on your own. You can’t rely on everyone and that’s what I wanted to show in The Mourning is how someone, especially a young mum, could deal with this on their own. I wanted to show, you are going to go through hard times, times that make you want to cry at random times. There will be times when you will forget where you are because you are so lost in thought. It’s not going to kill you. You decide how you are going to live.
Jimmy, the son, is played by Michael G. Barnes, who was nine years old at the time of filming. “He’s a very good child actor that we received from Key West. He plays the role very well. said Desiato. “In the movie, he tries to put on this best face for his mom and he doesn’t want to show his mom that he’s sad because he feels like she needs support because he knows ‘she is alone.” said Desiato.
Desiato called Barnes “a brilliant child, definitely very intelligent. He knew his business on set. Barnes had just lost his grandmother so he could identify with some of the issues the character faces. “I wanted to make sure he was comfortable” she says. “It was like talking to an adult.”
The finished product, which included 12-hour and 14-hour shooting days, was originally intended to be a horror film until Desiato assessed some of the logistical and technical challenges and pivoted his script before filming began. . The film was shot over four days in Maryland on hunting grounds and trails owned by a neighbor’s friend, and inside Desiato’s grandparents’ house.
“At first it was mostly based on a horror movie and there were a lot of paranormal and spiritual aspects, but I thought horror movies were a bit over the top,” said Desiato. She had to make the film as the school emerged from COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. “We were one of the first teams to shoot in person on set. We had a lot of protocols that we needed to check, such as temperature checks and questionnaires for Covid,” she says. “With a story like The Mourning and talking about grief and overcoming it, it was the perfect time to tell that story.”
Desiato said she found less was more when it came to putting dialogue into the 11-page script, for a film that is around 10 minutes long. The film was made as a senior project for his class, with a time limit of between 10 and 12 minutes. “So many movies spend too much time on dialogue,” she says.
Kate, the lead actress, is played by Megan Fives, a close friend of Desiato. Benairen Kane plays father and husband.
Desiato, who lives in Maryland, works as a news and entertainment writer for Chip and Company, an online website devoted to news about Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. She also produced a short film and worked as an assistant director on another short film.
Desiato said the film had a positive message for those going through mental health issues. “I think that’s really important, especially for anyone going through a mental disability or a loss,” she says. “You can overcome it and you are not alone.”
Desiato, however, does not reveal the ending. “It’s in the air what happens at the end. It will spark conversations. she says.