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The Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab for the Promotion of Mental Health via Cinematic Arts creates, supports, and examines original narrative screenwriting, television writing, and media making centered on mental health. Student filmmakers, faculty, and board members will engage with the studio lab through new works creation, courses, and special events aimed at tackling complex topics, amplifying marginalized voices, challenging stereotypes, modeling best behaviors on stage and screen, and pursuing healing through innovation and inquiry. It has been well documented that the mass media—the public’s most significant source of information about mental health—has long perpetuated a deeply negative stigma around the subject. Through one-dimensional viewpoints, inaccurate portrayals, and depictions centered around fear and shame, the media has reinforced discriminatory behavior around those with mental illness and propagated impediments to treatment and recovery. The studio lab is made possible by a generous gift from the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation and is housed in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. Participants can expect to:
  • Create and produce new works across comedy, drama, and horror that portray mental health, lead to broader understanding among audiences, and strive to influence societal change
  • Organize programming around mental health awareness and build and promote a community and culture around media and filmmaking in mental health
  • Examine the media’s role in creating negative stigma; analyze the demonization of characters afflicted with mental illness; and find and study positive portrayals
  • Invite psychologists, social scientists, media/gender/race/religion scholars, and TV/screenwriters into discussion with students to deepen their understanding of psychology, gain a better understanding of how to represent mental illness accurately, and inspire students to explore aspects of mental health that haven’t yet been depicted in popular culture
  • Produce generations of filmmakers with a greater understanding of mental health and more profound compassion for people affected by mental health issues
We’ll celebrate the films and TV shows that have shined a light on mental health and illness, discuss the films and TV that may be problematic, and delve into how films and TV shows can present mental health in a nuanced way. And we’ll ask: How can we as filmmakers continue to entertain while promoting empathy, understanding, and acceptance? Our dream is to make this Northwestern effort the beginning of a national and international sea of change in how mental health is depicted.