Westchester-made Movie Has a Mission: Mental Health Awareness

By William Dickerson

Left to right, Kathryn Erbe, Conor Proft and Harry Hamlin in a scene from William Dickerson’s new movie “No Alternative.”

This month, my film, “No Alternative,” is being released worldwide. It will be available to rent or own on all major online platforms, including iTunes and Amazon Prime Video, and later this year, on subscription streaming services.

My sincerest hope for the film’s success is not for a financial windfall – but for as many people to see this film as possible.

And not for the reasons you might expect.

“No Alternative” is set in 1990s Westchester County, where I was born and raised, and during a time when teenagers idolized the grunge musicians of the day and struggled to express themselves under the harsh criticisms of the conservative adults in their lives.

The story, which is based on the novel I wrote of the same name, centers around Thomas Harrison and his little sister Bridget. Bridget rejects the world around her, instead – as a coping mechanism – takes on the musical persona of a gangster rapper named “Bri Da B.” It’s a controversial move and a sign of her escalating mental illness, which sends waves of concern through her family, who are inspired by my own – my sister, Briana, especially.

Westchester proved to be the ideal place to shoot and produce the film. Not only would filming here convey authenticity, but our crew enjoyed great working relationships with the City of Yonkers Mayor’s Office of Film & Photography and the Westchester County film office. Both were crucial in helping us maneuver logistics. Furthermore, we were able to utilize tax breaks given by the New York State Tax Credit program for filming here.

When I began writing “No Alternative,” it was a not-so-thinly veiled plea for my sister’s survival. By the time I returned to Westchester to shoot the film, however, the battle was lost. Briana lost her fight with mental illness on July 1, 2014. I may be a hopeless optimist or, more likely, a man on a mission, but I don’t feel we’ve lost the war. I’ve made it my goal, through the production and promotion of this film, to spread as much awareness about mental health as I possibly can.

For all pre-orders of the film on iTunes, a portion of the proceeds was donated to Emotions Matter, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the illness my sister suffered from. BPD is one of the many forms of mental illness pervasive today. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, touching nearly 44 million people nationwide.

The film’s stars, Michaela Cavazos, Conor Proft, Kathryn Erbe and Harry Hamlin, have all helped to spread awareness in their own promotion of the film. Everyone involved in this film believes that in talking about the issues, the darkness that shrouds mental health is brought into the light – and that’s when real healing can take place.

In your support of this Westchester-made film, you’ll be supporting my greater mission: to destigmatize and bring hope to those who suffer from mental illness. For me, there’s simply no alternative.

Yonkers native William Dickerson is an award-winning filmmaker and author. His filmography includes his debut feature film, “Detour,” a metafictional satire, and “The Mirror.” “No Alternative” will celebrate an encore screening and soundtrack listening party through YoFiFest on Apr. 18. Follow Dickerson and the film on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @NoAltFilm.

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