Movie 'Solo Orange' takes a look at mental health

A fog machine popped open a door at the College of William and Mary’s Integrated Science Center on a recent Friday night. Inside, cords stretched across the tile floors, snaking into camera and lighting equipment.

This was the first night of filming for the student-produced movie “Solo Orange,” a movie about what it’s like to cope with anxiety and depression.

Isaac Davis, the movie’s director, said the inspiration for the film was his friend John Van Bergen, who committed suicide earlier this year.

“He was a very close friend of mine, I knew him since fifth grade,” Davis said. “I never knew there was something truly deep and truly troubling about what he was going through … but that’s kind of what prompted the whole making a film around depression and anxiety.”

When Davis sat down with Van Bergen’s parents, he said they told him they wanted him to make a film about the struggles of mental illness.

The script for the film is written by Byron Bushara, a student at William and Mary who lives with depression and anxiety.

“When it comes to the sensitivity of the subject, I truly believe having somebody who has not only gone through that process, but is continually going through that process gives us a very good perspective on what we should look at, what should be included, kind of how we should form the story and what that story should cover,” Davis said.

When it came to naming the movie, Davis said “Solo Orange” stands for two things.

“The first part ‘solo’ stands for the isolation and loneliness you feel when you have anxiety and depression,” Davis said. “The orange part stands specifically for John … in a lot of the artwork that he produced over the years, you see that orange is a very specific color that always pops up in every single piece of his artwork.”

Davis said when he was talking to Van Bergen’s mother, he asked her what her son’s favorite color was.

“She first said ‘Well, for some odd reason when he was a child he always wanted to paint his room orange. We never let him because we thought it was an odd color I guess to paint a whole room,’ ” Davis said. “That kind of solidified the orange part in the name (of the movie).”

The end goal of the movie, according to Davis, is to give audiences a different perspective of what it’s like to go through anxiety and depression, as well as the signs of poor-mental health people should look for in their friends and family members.

“I think the hardest thing for me, being such a close friend of his … is what did I miss, what did I not pay attention to,” Davis said. “We’ll never know, in truth. We will never know what we missed, or what was the trigger or what not, but the least we can do is show people that this is a serious subject that needs attention.”

Davis said another goal is to submit the film to the Student Academy Awards and to the College Television Awards.

"We have an uphill battle, but I think we have one of the best production teams here to get it, so we’re very excited,” Davis said.

Davis said the movie will be fully acted and produced by students from the college. He said this will be the first feature-length movie created by students at the college.

“The people I've met and the people who’ve wanted to be involved in this project are absolutely exceptional and this could not be possible with out them,” Davis said.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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