Supernatural and film fans got a special treat on August 31, 2015: The Weirdo Hero, a short film directed by former Supernatural VFX coordinator Ryan Curtis, premiered at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver.
The 40-minute film, which hopes to make the rounds of film festivals in 2015/16, complements Jared Padalecki’s “Always Keep Fighting” campaign by dramatizing one man’s struggle with depression. Spoilers follow, so if you want someday to see the film with no preconceptions, skip the next few paragraphs of Bardicvoice’s synopsis and Far Away Eyes’ commentary and analysis!
“Fabulous Frankie” Myers, a pro wrestler who just achieved his life’s dream of winning the ECCW Championship, wakes up the next morning to realize he doesn’t feel any different; he’s not happy despite the win, and despite the love and support of his beautiful wife Gina. He’d thought his win would change his whole attitude on life, but he’s still overwhelmed by his father’s recent death, his own financial challenges, and the toxic office politics of his mundane, day-to-day job in a customer call center. His problems don’t just overwhelm his triumph; they seem to make the win meaningless. Hoping to cheer him up by reinforcing her conviction that he has choices and opportunities, Gina presents him with tangible evidence of his creativity and artistic talent: she found and beautifully framed a cartoon drawing he’d done. What Gina doesn’t realize is that Harold the Hare wasn’t just a clever cartoon character; he’s actually the embodiment of the self-doubt Frankie has felt all his life. Hallucinations of Harold bring to life the sarcastic voice of Frankie’s self-criticism and depressive tendencies, pushing him toward giving up. It takes a transformative experience, realizing his wrestling persona IS a hero to some people, for Frankie to finally confess his urge toward self-harm and seek help.
By taking the viewer inside Frankie’s head, the film does a brilliant job of conveying how depression colors a person’s perception of ordinary life, throwing shade on every positive experience and magnifying every negative one to the point where everything seems hopeless, pointless, and worthless. Frankie emphatically isn’t fine by the end credits, but he has taken the essential step of realizing and admitting his problem, and opening himself up to professional help. The film ends with a listing of resources available to help fight depression, and the main character’s willingness to contact one bolsters the message that there’s no shame – and a lot of sense! – in admitting you need help.
Commentary And Analysis
Rather than glorifying or glamorizing depression or suicide, or shocking the viewer with a gruesome end, Weirdo Hero explores the truth about these topics. It asks us to have the conversation that woefully needs to be had in our society. Weirdo Hero may be a great start to breaking the silence and to bring the subject of depression in from the shadows.
The fact that the main character happens to be a wrestler is fitting. As the film follows Frankie after his big win, we see him wrestle with so much more than an opponent under the big lights. He fights so hard not to listen to Harold the Hare, to keep fighting as he works on the phones, and yet no matter what move he makes the depression he’s fighting manages to wrestle him down. It drives him to an almost desperate act — a permanent act.
Yet, what we see draw Frankie back from that terrible edge is a young fan who makes him pause. She isn’t really there any more than Harold is, but what she represents is the ultimate truth that makes The Weirdo Hero shine. As he is forced to confront this fan that sees him as her biggest hero, he realizes that what he did in that wrestling match was more meaningful than he could have ever dreamed.
No, it didn’t change his job situation. It didn’t make what was happening with bills or grief easier. Frankie’s day-to-day life continued on as it always had after the big win — but that didn’t mean his victory had no lasting impact. What he did in that ring inspired someone else. In doing so, it gave significant new meaning to what he had done, even if he didn’t see it. It also pushed him to become the hero she saw in him: it got him to ask for help.
It is also the most heroic action that takes place in the entire film.
Asking for help is the film’s biggest message. It doesn’t have to be just about depression or suicide prevention. The Weirdo Hero stands in as a reminder to all of us that no matter what we’re struggling through, no matter how hard it seems, we’re not alone. We can ask for help, turn to our friends and family, and not allow the Harold the Hares of our minds to twist us. It reminds us that while we all face shades of these emotions — self doubt, stress, anger, hopelessness, and sadness — we are not “weird” and different from others because of them; we’re all weird together.
Most of all, we are all heroes to someone else — even if we may not know it.
Premiere Night Delights
The post-show Q&A revealed that everyone involved in the production had a lot of passion for both the subject and the positive “keep fighting” message. It also included many gems, including that role of the building security guard (also a wrestling fan!) was originally supposed to be stereotypically male, until they got the bright idea of casting Briana Buckmaster; and that Ryan read Harold’s lines while they were shooting, with Ty recording Harold’s voice for the film in a single day during post-production, in one set of flawless takes that totally reimagined the character into something much more dangerous than even the writers had conceived. Osric got the very last question of the evening and brought down the house by using the idiotic hypothetical question one fan had tried to ask every one of the guests at VanCon: “If this movie were a tree, what kind of tree would it be?” In response, however, Ryan gave the best answer of the entire weekend: “A family tree!”
Far Away Eyes’ impressions bring that home: “The Weirdo Hero was funded by small donations, and I am proud to have chipped in $5. Being at the Rio theater itself, as it premiered, made that donation special and real. I had seen enough movie premiere photos and stories on the Internet, but this was the first time I’d actually be at one. It was thrilling to see something I had helped fund projected onto the screen. Meeting some of the cast and getting the chance to thank them for the film was even better.
I was excited to meet Briana Buckmaster for sure, glad that I could finally share my joy in her portrayal of Minnesotan, Donna Hanscum. However, getting to thank ‘Ravenous’ Randy Myers for his awesome performance as Frankie was perhaps the best. We only had a brief moment to shake hands, but it sealed the night for me. His portrayal moved me on many levels, capturing Frankie’s story with a sincerity and reality that made the movie connect.”
The premiere really was a family affair. With a theatre full of Supernatural fans, the film met with a very positive audience response; it resonated with the supportive SPN family message that we’re all heroes to someone and must always keep fighting. Hey: it’s the family business.
We would love to hear the impressions of anyone else who was at the premiere. Please share your reactions to the movie and to the evening’s festivities! We would also be happy to answer any questions about the premiere. Ask away!