Being Here, a short film written, directed, and produced by local Chicago female filmmaker Sydney O’Haire, will make its debut on the Omeleto platform, a short film YouTube channel currently with 2.45 Million subscribers.
The short, which won Best Drama at the Windy City Film Festival, focuses on Charlie (Breiner-Sanders), who is struggling to leave rehab due to her dependency on the people she’s connected with while there, including Joy, (Carin Silkaitis) a fellow patient. Although the facility has become a place of security and comfort, it is inevitable that Charlie must return to the world outside and face her fears.
This is the third film from the dynamic duo, Sydney O’Haire and Mélisa Breiner-Sanders. First was the award-winning Dressed (2017) which starred Breiner-Sanders, which was followed by Pointe Work ( 2017 ) Being Here (2019), written, directed, and produced by O’Haire, kept true to their formula by keeping Mélisa as the lead and associate producer.
Since running through the festival circuit Being Here has won numerous awards, serving as the proof-of-concept for the feature-length version, Back Me Up.
Filling its channel with award-winning short content from across the globe, Omeleto allows short films that succeeded on the festival circuit to have an outlet that potentially could reach millions.The platform is programmed by Chicago writer, editor and Columbia College graduate, Kat Ascharya.
Currently, with today’s circumstances with COVID-19, there couldn’t be a better time for people to be tuning into Omeleto. Bridging a gap between production and distribution for many independent filmmakers, Omeleto uses data to analyze every accepted film to optimize its audience reach.
“While we showcase ONLY award-winning films from Oscar-qualifying, BAFTA-qualifying or similar top-tier festivals, the audience has the final say in what films stay on the channel — by voting via likes and dislikes, and audience retention and watch time habits,’ Omeleto told Reel Chicago.
Watch the trailer below:
O’Haire was born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida, She graduated with an MFA in Cinema Directing from the School of Cinematic Arts at DePaul University in 2018. Sydney has already directed 10 films including shorts, music videos, documentaries, and live events.
These films have been selected, screened, and awarded at multiple film festivals around the world; she was selected into the second round of the Sundance Institute Writer’s Lab. Sydney is currently teaching the first ever filmmaking class at Saint Edward’s Upper School in Vero Beach with a curriculum she developed herself.
How did Mélisa and you meet? Mélisa and I first met at DePaul University in a graduate class that combined cinema directing and acting grad students in 2017. In this class, we made our first film together, Dressed, that I directed and Mélisa starred in. It was the winner of the Sydney Lift-Off Online Film Festival and chosen as an Official Selection of BendFilm Festival, SOHO International Film Festival, Berlin Lift-Off Film Festival, and 8 more.
This film was the beginning of it all! We worked so well together that when I began to work on Being Here, I asked Mélisa to come on for the role of Charlie. Actually, I wrote Being Here with her as the lead in mind,but didn’t tell her until long after I finished a (good enough) script for a table read.
If it gets made into a feature, how much additional footage do you needa? There is so much more of the story that I want to share with audiences, but – because of the time constraints of the short film – I could only choose select parts. With Back Me Up, I get the opportunity to really open the world up and dive deep into the characters and their history, and I have spent the last two years working on a new script to capture all of it. So while it is in the same world and has many of the same characters, the storytelling has a different pace so it’s a whole new shoot.
Back Me Up is a film that shows the beauty of a second chance, and that those who do recover are often the most uplifting, honest, and successful people you’ll ever meet. It will really resonate with those who have been through rehab, those who know the addiction journey, and the people who love them. It’s also about community and the transformative power of true friendships.
You’re also a script supervisor. How do those skills help you become a better director? There is absolutely no substitute for being on set and watching the monitor, even when you’re not in the director’s chair, so every opportunity to work as a script supervisor is a great chance to learn.
As a “scripty,” the position requires you to see and hear exactly what the director is seeing and hearing each and every take, so you spend a lot of time communicating with them. From every set I’ve been on, I’ve learned something new about what I like or what I don’t like. It may be ideas about how to work with actors, what I’m looking for in a performance, how to analyze every detail in the frame, or how to communicate with different departments.
When I direct, my top priority is for everyone to feel comfortable and that their artistic opinion is valid – no matter how big or small their role is on set. Because of script supervising, I’ve been able to see what these sets look like first-hand and how to emulate them. In my opinion, it’s the best job to have if you’re striving to one day only sit in that coveted director’s chair.
How much do you relate to your characters in Being Here?? Being Here hits close to home because it’s my story. The lead character, Charlie, is based directly off of me and my experiences in rehab, and her best friend, Joy, is based off of my best friend from rehab, who sadly passed away from breast cancer in 2015.
At the end of the film, I was grateful to be able to include a really lovely tribute to the real-life Joy with some old footage I filmed. I’m also passionate about creating and shifting the dialogue around addiction and mental health because they affect all of us.
There’s an epidemic of addiction in the United States and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2019 more than 130 people died from opioid overdose every day. But what do we know about those individuals beyond these clinical stats? We don’t see the intimate struggle of an individual.
We don’t know what it’s like for them to fight their demons; or go through a rehab facility; or how difficult it is to reemerge and reintegrate back into “normal” life. We lack empathy for the individual because we don’t know their story. I want to change the social stigma and spark healthy discussions about mental health and addiction.
My experience in rehab was strenuous, emotional, and downright hilarious, and – without it – I may not be here telling my story today. Storytelling and rehab saved my life. Creating this film has helped me close the loop on my therapeutic journey that started over 6 years ago, and it’s time I shared my story with the world.
What’s your next project? My next project is creating the feature film version of Being Here, titled Back Me Up. Mélisa and I are working tirelessly on making this film happen, and we’re extremely excited to give this story the time and energy it deserves in a full-length film format. You can learn more about Back Me Up at backmeupfilm.wixsite.com/site and @backmeupfilm on all social media platform.
You can view Being Here here.
Katharin Mraz is a contributing writer for Reel Chicago and Reel 360.