“Holding”: A Short Film Finding Light in the Darkest Places

A long story made short about our funny short film…

We met in film class at Cornell University about eight years ago. Despite very different film tastes—Jon had a goofier Buster Keaton thing going on and Jesse had a darker, dramatic streak with poorly edited attempts at Gaspar Noe—we soon became fast friends. Little did we know, we also both experienced depression and even suicidal thoughts throughout our time at Cornell, as well as after graduation when we both moved to Los Angeles.

Jon wrote a screenplay, as those struggling to make a film career do, about a day when he needed to call a suicide hotline. As Jon describes that experience:

“In the summer of 2015, I called a suicide hotline for the first time. When the volunteer picked up, she asked how I was doing. I said I was pretty sad and needed someone to talk to. She replied, somewhat exasperated, ‘Well, we’re kind of busy right now. Can you keep it to five minutes?’ It was the CRAZIEST thing I ever heard. Have you ever called a suicide hotline because you felt worthless, and they confirm you’re not even worth their time? It was the hardest I’ve ever laughed, and unexpectedly, it was exactly what I needed to get out of a dark place.”

Jon shared this story with Jesse as well as the screenplay he wrote inspired by the experience, and Holding was born: in the fictional version, a suicide hotline puts both Nick and Cassy on hold, yet they find unconventional ways to get out of their own heads.

In creating this film, it helped that both of us have a long history of being parts of each other’s support systems, to a probably ridiculous degree. We see the same therapist, saw the same psychiatrist, and are even on the same meds (break the stigma!). Oftentimes when one of us is in a particularly rough place, we’ll make a quick phone call or visit one another’s apartment to just make fun of the whole situation. Say what you will about idioms, but laughter sometimes really is the best medicine. That’s what Holding is all about—unconventional solutions to unconventionally painful moments.

Together, we developed it into a produced short that we shot, edited, and submitted to festivals around the country with the help of many Ithaca-to-LA transplants, including Cornell alums Derek Kigongo (’08), Amanda Idoko (’10), Elizabeth Jaeleigh Davis (’12), Mariela Ferrer (’12), and Olivia Krebs (’15), and Ithaca College alum Josh Toomey (’15).

Making this film was both an exciting first filmmaking experience at a festival level and a cathartic experience for all of those involved. Many of the cast and crew also have their own personal relationships with anxiety, depression, and suicide, which helped bring the heart of the film to life.

Given the strong Ithaca influence behind this project, it only made sense to reach out to collaborate with Ithaca and Cornell-based organizations on the film. We hope to use the film as a spark for frank discussion about the realities of these dark, lonely moments that are more multi-dimensional than the melodrama often portrayed in the media. The Sophie Fund, along with other Cornell-based organizations, is helping make that possible.

We are excited to share the story of depression as we and many others have experienced it. These experiences are parts of almost 16.2 million lives in the United States alone. Simply put, they’re a major part of real life. Real life is not black and white. Real life can be messy, funny, tough, and hopeful, all at once. Sometimes it makes no sense at all.

—Jesse D. Turk and Jon Zucker

Jesse D. Turk is an LA-based director and producer for theater, film, and TV with multiple upcoming projects including a play with music about Richard Nixon as well as a new short film about intimacy issues in the gay community to be completed this year. On Instagram: @jdturk

Jon Zucker is a writer, director, and comedian who regularly performs all over Los Angeles and is currently developing a television series based on his dad’s over-40 softball league. On Instagram: @jon.zucker

Holding premiers at the Indie Street Film Festival in Red Bank, NJ at 12 noon on July 28 at Bow Tie Cinemas (36 White Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701 Tel 732 747 0333)

Follow Holding on Instagram @holding_short and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/holdingshortfilm/