Kelechi Okoro (Supporting Lead)
Growing up in the black community, I not only witnessed homelessness and poverty but a vast amount of unchecked mental health challenges. I would later learn that my community in and of itself is not only in utter disarray because of hundreds of years of historic oppression but mental illness as a result of surviving the conditions that is born out of it. This bore the nightmarish reality, where the voices of thousands of brown/black women, men and children go unheard. When their cries for professional mental help are finally heard, it is often too late. Either it ends in a fatal police encounter, a suicide, or an untimely death due to years of self-medicating through alcoholism and/or drug addiction.
This reality hit close to home for me, starting with my mother, uncles and down to my twin brother Daniel whom we would lose in February 2018, from a very similar fate that thousands of others face. This is what inspired me to write “A Beautiful Nightmare”. It not only served as a form of catharsis and therapy that I desperately needed but as a moment to educate others on the harsh realities of schizophrenia. This is why I approached the story from the moment my brother Daniel came home from college with my father trying to get him help to no avail. It was the moment that we discovered that we were–like so many others–now trapped into the mental health department’s web, one comprised of legal and medical barriers that make it difficult to get through and help our loved ones. This difficulty would be the start of our nightmare, which consisted of witnessing the linear and progressive nature of Daniel’s schizophrenic episodes and watching the beauty of his talents and accomplishments deteriorate as a result and not being able to combat it.
The most painful part of all of this was that, we couldn’t look away from it. We were forced to watch as he deteriorated before our eyes, no matter how hard we fought and there was practically nothing we can do about it. So this is what I wanted the viewer to feel. I wanted them to feel the chaos, the anger, the insanity that we all witnessed in hopes that it agitates the viewer into action, in hopes that it compels them to learn more about the experiences of mental health and become advocates of those hindered by said challenges. Fundamentally, I believe cinema is a medium that can be used to educate and highlight the painful realities of the human condition. It is a gateway to understanding those different from us, veering viewers away from judgement and instead inspiring action and change. I aimed to use this film as a tool to do just that.
Kevin Maxwell is a Filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California, who holds a BA with highest honors in Film and Television Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts. Kevin is currently a masters student at Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism studying Communication Management with an emphasis in Marketing and the Business of Entertainment. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Topping Scholars Scholarship for first generation students.
In 2018, Kevin was admitted to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where it was his goal to further hone and work on his craft. At USC, Kevin produced and directed a series of films including ‘A Beautiful Nightmare.”In late Spring 2020, Kevin was selected to produce and serve as post-production supervisor for a prestigious and highly selective 480 Advanced Thesis project entitled “The Order” which he successfully helped push through completion amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Kevin is currently co-producing a short film called “Leaving The Factory” from an award winning film production program at Santa Monica College. He also plans on finishing the feature length version of CORA and hopes to continue writing, directing and producing work he feels passionate about.