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Writer/Director talks Mental Health & Horror documentary

Ahead of its release later this year, we caught up with the writer/director Jonathan Barkan to discuss his brand new documentary Mental Health & Horror.

Why did you decide to blend the topics of mental health and horror into one documentary?
It really came from a place of working on myself and trying to be more open about my own mental health struggles while using the platforms I had. I wrote about it frequently when I was at Bloody-Disgusting and Dread Central and I saw how people left comments that were empathetic, of people sharing their own stories. It really was a subject that seemed to invite honest and earnest discussions. Then, when I visited the set of Queer For Fear, the spark of really honing in on that idea and turning it into a documentary hit and I started putting everything together.

Mental health has been thrust into the spotlight like never before due to the pandemic, did this reaffirm to you that this was the project you wanted to make?
The project really only got seriously going in the middle of the pandemic, although the idea came beforehand. But yes, the way that discussions surrounding mental health have become more open, honest, and caring, definitely told me I was on the right path. Many of our interviewees have mourned that there wasn’t something like this when they were growing up. But we’ve realized that had there been something like this in the 80s or 90s or even the aughts, it wouldn’t have worked because society wasn’t ready to talk about mental health, much less the benefits of horror, at that time. But now we’re starting to tread those waters, so let’s keep that discussion going!

What can you tell us about the people you talk to for the documentary?
I specifically wanted to make sure we spoke to people who represented the horror community in many of its forms. On top of people we often see in film focused documentaries – like critics, journalists, editors, producers, writers, directors, etc… – I wanted to make sure we also heard from horror fans impacted by the genre as well as mental health professionals who could provide context from peer reviewed research and work in their respective fields.

Additionally, it was very important for me that we got a diverse and inclusive cast. Horror is loved around the world and people need to be able to see themselves in a documentary like this.

Why do you think horror can be a form of catharsis for people?
I think horror gives people the chance to face something scary, something uncertain, but still retain complete control. Whenever we put on a movie, we have so many factors that give us power. We can turn on the lights, turn down the volume, adjust the brightness, pause the film for a break, fast-forward to get through something scary, and more. And because we know that movies are fictional, our real-world power can’t be undone by the fantastical villain in the movie. We’re in complete control and there’s not only power in that, there’s a release as we face our fears and overcome them.

Who was the biggest coup for you getting on board the project?
Y’know, I never really thought of anyone like that. Every voice has offered something so special and incredible, and I’m honored to have heard all of these stories so far. The response to this documentary has been amazing and the way that everyone has bared their souls and hearts for us is so humbling. Everyone is important to this documentary.

When can fans expect to see the documentary?
We’re working hard on getting this to fans as quickly as we can, I promise!

What has it meant to you to put this documentary together?
It’s honestly been one of the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life. The team I’m working with are amazing, the interviews are fantastic, and people really seem to connect with this project. To know that there are so many out there who care about this, who want to see this documentary come to fruition, only validates my belief that horror fans really can be some of the most passionate, supportive, and dedicated people out there.

What is your next project once Mental Health and Horror is finished?
I can’t go into any specific details but there are definitely more projects in the works and we can’t wait to share them with you!

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