I had the chance to discuss Hazy Little Thing, the feature film by Erin Carter and Sam Coyle. This project focuses on mental health and social media and is making its world premiere at the 2020 Canadian Film Festival. Thank you to Erin Carter and Same Coyle for answering all of my questions.
Can you tell our readers a little about yourselves?
Sam Coyle – I am a writer/director/producer living in Toronto. I grew up in a small town immersed in the theatre world; my Mom was a theatre teacher and director so I watched a lot of plays. I went to theatre school in New York for two years and when I moved back to Toronto I started writing and producing short films so I could be in them. This is where I fell in love with storytelling in a different way. I felt like I had so much power in the narratives I was able to bring to life. I also started having a strong vision of the stories which would spur my directing career. It’s been five years of building those skills through shorts, music videos, and visual poems, with Hazy Little Thing being my first feature.
Erin Carter – An Alberta girl at heart, I started out as a true drama nerd in high school. Went straight to theatre school after that and eventually ended up in Toronto. I found Toronto was the first time I felt a pull to take things into my own hands and produce my own work. Since then I have written, produced, and performed in three shorts, executive produced and started in Jordan Canning’s award winning feature Suck It Up and now, very excited for Hazy Little Thing to be my first writing/producing credits on a feature film.
How would you describe Hazy Little Thing?
Hazy Little Thing is a feature film about addiction and mental health, but I think more than that, a film about connection and what a lack of it can feel like.
What are your own experiences like with social media usage in your daily life?
E – The idea of social media obsession as a crutch came from an amalgamation of both Sam and my struggles with it- or maybe I’m just saying that because it was mostly based on me… I have definitely fallen prey to the confidence murdering effects of social media. Losing hours a day to the routine scrolling, no doubt consisting mostly of festivals and red carpets I didn’t attend, acquaintances I see as having ‘accomplished more than me’, or even people I’ve never met, effortlessly posing in exotic places. The cycle of quick hits of affirmation followed by self disgust have plagued me. That need to share the best parts of myself in order to feel accomplished, or seen, or even alive- something I think we see in Billie- is something I can relate to greatly.
S – It changes every day, to be honest. Some days I am not able to go on it because I’m so busy and other days I check it constantly, as if something in my life will change the next time I open it. I struggled a lot, before writing Hazy, with jealousy. Seeing peers of mine getting accolades that I wanted. Or if I wasn’t in a great place I would be triggered with sadness from someone else happiness, I used to compare myself a lot to others. I didn’t know I wanted something until you see a photo of someone doing that thing. It’s a very bizarre minefield that you have to navigate. Now I just know when I’m not feeling great I delete Instagram for a few days till I’ve dealt with my sh*t.
How have you noticed society changing with the use of social media?
E – I’m not going to say social media is killing all of us and with it, our sex lives, or that no one enjoys the company of a good book anymore- but I think there is a very dark side effect to the time and space we give to these platforms, and I think social media has a sneaky way of rewiring the reward pathways in our brain’s in unfortunate ways.
S – When I travel and see beautiful world monuments and everyone NEEDS to take a selfie in front of it. As if having their face in the photo proves that they were there, people aren’t able to just enjoy the present moment anymore. That has been going on for a while now though, but what I have been fascinated with lately is how people don’t connect in the same way. I think a lot of people don’t see it for the facade that it is. They assume friends and family are doing great based on the updates they get through social media, so they don’t reach out to each other. The reality is we are more lonely than ever. The more I talk to people who seem like they have it all together, the more I hear people talk about loneliness in a very real way. We create ideas about other people based on their posts, which is only a fraction of the reality.
What inspired you to create Hazy Little Thing?
E – For me, Hazy Little Thing was inspired by my own experiences with self sabotage, imposter syndrome and depression. We were trying to explore that place where there’s an inability to connect- this having been a symptom I’ve personally really struggled with in those low points.
S – The themes were a big draw for me to tell this story; themes that have appeared in my own life, depression, lack of connection and psychedelics. I wanted to talk about depression through a different lens, looking at alternative aspects of the issue. I was interested in how to get a character to look inside themselves to find the answers instead of taking a pill that will “make them happy”. However, I’m careful not to portray the film as any type of answer, depression affects everyone differently. This is just one specific case of depression that we wanted to explore.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this feature?
E – I hope people walk away with a sense of how community and connection can heal, and I think a lot of us can relate to not knowing how to ask for help, so I hope the film can be a reminder that there’s a plethora of people to turn to, and resources out there.
S – I hope it makes people reach out to each other. If they walk away thinking of a friend or family member and call to meet up or really ask how they are then that’s an incredible feat. I like when art makes an impact no matter how small. The fact that someone might connect to someone in their life would be an achievement.
Where can our readers see Hazy Little Thing next?
We have our world premiere at the 2020 Canadian Film Fest. The date and time for the screening will be announced shortly. Make sure to visit their site for more info.
Where can we keep up with you both and Hazy Little Thing online?
And because we are all cogs in the social media machine, you can indeed find us on instagram @tinyempire, @erinmcarter and the film @hazylittlethingfilm
Website – samcoyleproductions.com