Wake Up, a documentary about suicide prevention directed by Nate Townsend ’15 and produced by Chelsea Bo ’14 and Sean Drummond ’14, will have its premiere at YouTube’s WE ARE ONE Global Film Festival on Thursday, June 4, at 3:45pm PT / 6:45pm ET. The free festival was organized in collaboration with 20 renowned festivals around the world to raise funds for Covid-19 relief. (You can stream the film here.)
The film follows stories from four communities that are vulnerable to death by suicide—American veterans, the LGBTQ+ community, university students, and gun owners—and weaves them together into a call to action. IndieWire just named Wake Up as one of 10 films worth watching at the festival.
The project had its genesis six years ago, when Townsend was approached by Alex Lindley, a student at the University of Missouri, about making a film about the suicide crisis in America. Lindley had just lost a second friend to suicide and had started a non-profit called Project Wake Up to fund the project. “Having lost my uncle to suicide by firearm, I care deeply about this issue, and quickly agreed to direct it,” said Townsend.
Once the funds were raised, he tapped friends and former classmates Bo and Drummond to produce Wake Up. “We’re big fans of Nate’s work and are always happy to join forces with fellow LMU alumni,” says Bo. The film was shot over the course of a year in a half-dozen cities across the country.
True to the school’s “keep it in the family” spirit, several other SFTV alumni were among the production staff, including Paul O’Hannigan ’15 (unit production manager); Chris Jones MFA ’14 (editor and co-writer); Michael Finley ’14 (sound effects editor); Elliot Fan ’15 (motion graphics); Luc Delamare ’13 (B-camera/drone operator); Sara Baum ’16 (B-camera operator); and Lily Drew ’16 (re-enactment actor).
The film’s release during the Covid-19 pandemic gives its subject matter even more urgency. “The suicide crisis has without a doubt become more dire during this time, when our lives have been turned upside down,” says Townsend. “We felt it essential to get our film in front of people as soon as possible, and this festival was the perfect opportunity for that. It’s truly a dream come true.”
Bo and Drummond were also glad to make a film that aligns with the mission of Paxeros, the production company they co-founded after graduation. “We want to tell stories of peace, joy, and unity,” says Drummond. ”Our healthcare system fails to make mental health a priority, and we hope Wake Up starts a conversation about this topic and offers a step in the right direction.”