BWW Interview: Carina Rush & More Talk Powerful Family Drama NO LETTING GO
There is a new feature film hitting the film circuit that is a powerful family drama about love, challenges, and hope. The family in NO LETTING GO may appear like any other family coping with life issues on the surface, but we quickly learn there is much more as one of their children has mental illness. The film started as an award-winning short film named ILLNESS and now has been expanded to truly allow an audience inside the home of a family struggling with the isolation, stigma, and dynamics involved with mental illness; shedding light on a very important topic. Filmed in Westchester county, NY in the summer of 2014, Broadway World spoke to former Broadway-actress-turned-producer Carina Rush and some of her cast about their experience on this film.
BBW: Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings about this amazing film with us. I was able to see the film as well as the award-winning short from two years ago and can honestly say it's just as powerful as a feature. Carina, you were lucky to be able to maintain the creative team from your short. Can you speak on that?
Carina Rush: By keeping our original creative team intact (Jonathan Bucari as director and writer, Randi Silverman - now in full capacity as writer and producer and myself as the producer), it reduced the amount of stress that naturally comes with a much bigger production. With us as the starting point, it became very important to add a young, but seasoned crew that understood our vision. Also, the pre-production phase is incredibly important and one must be thorough, because once you are filming it consumes every minute of every day.
BBW: While you kept many of the original actors, you also turned to Hollywood for this film and brought in some larger names as well. How did that affect the overall production of your film?
Rush: It made us all step up our game tremendously. We had several of our seasoned actors that felt very strongly about being part of the film, and their participation helped secure other actors as well. The result is a very powerful film!
BWW: Let's talk to your award-winning actress Cheryl Allison who was amazing in the short and I was completely blown away by the range in the feature. Cheryl, what was it like for you to get to dive into this character and how was that different from preparing for the short film?
Cheryl Allison: That's a great question Greg. It's interesting because the short film showed a very intense 15 minute window into the life of my character Catherine Spencer. I prepared for the short film by doing a lot of research. I met with mothers who had children suffering from a mental disorder. I created a back story for Catherine and detailed history. I became very attached to this character and it was hard for me to release her when we finished filming the short film.
BWW: There is much more in the feature that surely allowed you to inhabit her even more.
Allison: I felt like she deserved to have her story told in a more in-depth way. 15 minutes just wasn't enough for this character and her family. I always felt RESTLESS about it. So when the producers contacted me and said they were working on a feature, I was thrilled. The subject matter is so important and the fact that it's based on a true story just heightens the emotion. For the feature, I already knew Catherine very well, but I got to discover all the other sides of her. I got to dive into the relationship with her husband, her friends and her three sons on a much deeper level.
BWW: Richard Burgi, you've spent the past 25 years working in numerous soaps, TV shows and films. What drew you to the role of the father in this film?
Richard Burgi: The movie interested me because of the subject matter, the people involved and working near where I grew up. It was a truly rewarding experience on many levels.
BWW: It is also so wonderful to see the great Kathy Najimy as a therapist in the film; giving a ppwerful voice to the world of mental illness through the eyes of a professional.
Kathy Najimy: The short time I had on the set of NO LETTING GO and behind the scenes spending time with the family that inspired this story- was moving and enlightening. Mental illness does not take a backseat - But rather,in this film, shines a deserving, dramatic, breathtaking light on it.
It was a pleasure to be a part of this project.
BWW: Alysia Reiner, who has appeared in many indie films, plays Catherine's friend Lisa. Was there something special about this film that made you have to work on it?
Alyssa Reiner: I have a nephew-in-law who had just had a bi-polar episode and I read about NO LETTING GO. I so believe in art and film as a way to start conversations, gain more acceptance and healing around the stigma of mental illness, and so I offered my services.
BWW: Cheryl, having spent the better part of two years involved in this story, how was it when it came to an end?
Allison: When we wrapped production, I remember feeling closure. I was so happy the full story of this amazing and resilient family had been told. I was finally able to release her.
BWW: Carina, you had a dear friend of yours act as consulting producer on this film who has a huge background in the business. So Linda Kruse, for other filmmakers reading this interview - any words of wisdom based from this experience?
Linda Kruse: Over the years I developed the creative side as a Director and yet as a Producer, I am well aware of the money being spent. One of the things I learned early in my filmmaking career is you can waste a lot of money and time if you don't think of the big picture. So I only take on projects that are working towards a long-term goal. My advice to other filmmakers and my philosophy has always been: why make a short film when you can make a shorter version of a feature Film, and then use that as a way to raise money and awareness for the feature. (Not to mention, I have always felt I have a responsibility as a filmmaker to work on projects where I can make a difference. ILLNESS and NO LETTING GO was the perfect combination. )
Our original tag line: 'Short Film, Big Message' with ILLNESS meant we were always destined to tell a bigger story. The subject matter was too important to just leave it as a short film. We quickly realized we could touch and effect more people with a full-length feature. ILLNESS basically started the conversation so we felt it was up to us in NO LETTING GO to shine a brighter light on such a crucial topic. We wanted to show the whole experience and hopefully help families know they are not alone. And once the Short Film started winning awards - we knew we had a responsibility to go big.