TBB Talks to … Kyla Frye About mental health awareness short film ‘Faces’

February 7th is marked as ‘Time To Talk‘ day.

Time To Talk was created in association with the charity ‘Time To Change‘ which was launched in 2007 with the aim to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

In support of the movement, actress and filmmaker Kyla Frye has released ‘Faces‘ a micro-short film which looks at mental health sharing her own experiences while creating a platform that sheds a light on what it is to be a ‘Strong Black Woman‘ battling with an illness that doesn’t always allow us to confront these issues.

The last time you spoke to us was in 2014 when your film company Fryeday Entertainment was in its infancy and now here we are 5 years later, can you tell us about your transition from actress to film director and production company owner?

Hello TBB! Thank you so much for having me back. I’ll always be an actress, first and foremost but I became aware of the fact that I was always subject to somebody else’s vision and sometimes,I felt that vision didn’t represent me or the world as I saw it. I started Fryeday Entertainment back in 2012 so that I could take ownership of my career but also create work that I personally believed was “Being The Change We Want To See”, which is the company’s mantra.

Your latest film ‘Faces‘ was co-directed by Sam Bradford and the second film that you have made with Praxima (production company) what made you want to join forces again for this film?

I love Sam Bradford! As an actor, I’ve worked with him on several projects and he is someone who I trust implicitly. He’s a true visionary and he loves film and loves what he does and it shows in his work. It was for these reasons that I knew that if there was anyone I wanted to collaborate with for Faces it was definitely him. Sam is not just a colleague, but a friend and I am very fortunate to be able to work with and learn from such a talented individual.

Your first film ‘Double Cross’ received critical acclaim do you feel pressure to generate the same response to ‘Faces‘.

You’ll always be your biggest critic and with ‘Double Cross‘ (available to watch on Amazon). I do feel the pressure to have that same level of success, if not more. However, ‘Faces’ isn’t about commercial success, it’s about creating greater mental health awareness and allowing other people to feel comfortable speaking up about their struggles with mental health. If people who watch the film feel empowered enough to open up, accept and/or seek help and support for their mental health, that’s all that truly matters to me.

Faces‘ is a film about Mental Health Awareness which was released on ‘Time To Talk‘ day in association with the charity ‘Time To Change‘. What made you want to touch on this subject matter?

I created ‘Faces‘ initially as a way to process my own experiences of anxiety and depression. I wrote the original script back in 2012 but I wasn’t in the right place to bring it to fruition back then. Publicly, no one had any idea that I was suffering from the outside, it looked like I was thriving. I was “always positive” “always smiling” and “always there” for those who needed me. It got to a point where I became aware of the disconnect between what was taking place on the outside to what I was truly feeling on the inside but I had no way to make sense of what would it mean if something was “wrong with me?” If I wasn’t the “strong black woman” who had it all together?

Having gone through years of therapy and now, being on the other side of darkness, I am able to truly share what I went through; breaking down the barriers and the stigma attached to speaking about our mental health. When I was in the depths of my depression, Time to Change and Time To Talk didn’t exist and it was still very much taboo to talk about these issues. So I am grateful to now be in a position where I can talk about it and hopefully encourage others to do the same.

In the past few years, there has been a lot of emphasis on the stigma of mental illness in the Black community especially around Black men and the negative connotations of admitting mental illness is an issue. This film looks at the Mental Health of Black women who are often labelled as “strong” enough to withstand such issues. Why do you think this stigma exists?

As Black women, we’re not afforded the luxury of being seen as fragile and I think that comes from our history. When you think about what Black women have gone through over the centuries; slavery, the rape, and torture the separation of us from our husbands and children; the exotification, in the way we saw with Sara Baartman; the removal of our men and boys due to the systematic racism of the criminal justice system along with the perpetuated ideals of what it means to be a “top boy“. The fact that we have to have a hashtag to #BringBackOurGirls or a 6-part documentary highlighting the abuse of our young women by one of our most notable music artists, highlights how the world treats and values us. Epigenetics is real and for our own survival, we’ve learned not to dwell on our own hardships as we have to pick it up and keep it moving for everyone else around us. As a result, we’ve found ourselves imprisoned by our own strength and as much as our strength is something I am in awe of and should be revered, I do feel that it is often to our own detriment.

What role do you think culture plays in this stigma?

Massively! For all the reasons I spoke about earlier but also, we cannot ever be seen as “less than” as that’s what we’re already going up against in the wider society. There’s this idea that being ill mentally is a shameful thing, that you cannot “hack it“. In some areas of our community, struggling with your mental health is linked to you struggling with the devil and that you need to go to church more or pray more and that too is equally damaging.

The main character Sabrina is played by actress Oyinka Yusuff, how did she get involved in the film and how was her character developed?

I’ve known Oyinka for some time and always admired her work. She’s just stunning and I wanted to make sure that the character Sabrina, although in part, based on myself, represented more than me. With Oyinka being this natural haired, darker skinned, voluptuous beauty, I knew she would be the perfect person to take on this role. So I dropped her a message letting her know I wanted her for the lead. She got back to me saying she was interested, so I sent her the script and her response to it just overwhelmed me. Oyinka was so warm and receptive to it and considering it’s quite a soul-baring piece, it really reassured me that we would be able to go to “that place” together and create something special. Honestly, she is super talented and I just knew that she would be able to Sabrina justice which she most definitely did. I am so grateful to her.

What do you want women with Mental Health issues to take away from this film?

That it’s OK not to be OK. That it happens to the best of us. That in order to take care of others we must first take care of ourselves. That our greatest strength can also be our biggest weakness if we don’t stop to check in with ourselves. That seeking help doesn’t mean you’re not a superhero because even superheroes have sidekicks.

Do you have any more projects in the pipelines?

I have a feature film, ‘The Pay Day‘ in the works with Sam Benjamin and Sam Bradford, which, for those who loved ‘Double Cross’ will be the film they’ve been waiting for. I’ve also got a one-woman play I’m developing at the moment and a TV series that I’m currently writing. Both of which excite me greatly and is “being the change” in every way.

You are about to become a mother, congratulations, have you been given any advice on what to expect?

Thank you! Just that it’s going to be the best thing ever but we will never sleep again. I’m ready though and I have the most incredible husband who is equally excited about our little one. I’m just really happy and grateful right now and looking forward to what this next chapter will bring.

Thank you for speaking to TBB

Thank you so much for your support and for being the voice of our community. Appreciate you.

‘Faces’ is released online


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