[Interview] Young Filmmaker Bravely Fights Back With ‘The Forge’ After Losing His Sister

Photo: (SoulPancake)

Photo: (SoulPancake)

“No matter what kind of cards you’re dealt, whatever hand life deals you, you have to give it your all” — that’s the message Eric Lim wants to spread. Lim tragically lost his sister to suicide a few years ago, and became inspired by the idea of turning destruction into creation. Thanks in part to the amazing team at SoulPancake his vision became a reality in “The Forge.”

The video, dedicated to “Anybody Hurting,” has been viewed more than a quarter of a million times since it was uploaded a few weeks ago. In the film, Lim reads a letter he wrote as a kind of eulogy for his sister. As the video continues, Lim appears in a fantasy landscape where he is locked in a violent battle with a terrifying monster.

+ Watch Eric Lim’s “The Forge”

We caught up with the filmmaker and star of the project to find out about the film, what the response has been like and how Tanya continues to inspire him.

ACT: Why did you decide to turn the letter you wrote to your sister into a short film?

LIM:  That’s a really interesting question. You know, a lot of it had to do with collaborating with Stephen Reedy, and he had had this idea for like a sports commercial: fighting back and giving it your all. Basically when we were running down the line of ideas when we first started meeting up and talking about a potential short film. He had this one idea that was a metaphor for fighting back and overcoming adversity. And it was kind of set up like a commercial for like a sports shoot like Nike or something like that … or Gatorade. But the reason why we decided to combine the idea was kind of an adaptation of my eulogy for Tanya. So many of the people I’ve been talking to at Tanya’s funeral and so many of her friends were kind of confiding in me that they were having a really rough time, just in the job market or trying to get a foothold … I know she had a friend that came up to me and that really struck me that went to law school, had passed the bar exam, got esquired and couldn’t find a job, and was working as a host as a restaurant. I remember a lot of people confiding in me and the amount of anti-depressants taken and the amount of fear and anxiety with these things, I thought that was kind of the best message to tell people, to keep fighting back and that they have something worth fighting for.

ACT: Where did the inspiration for the monster and “the forge” come from? 

LIM: The monster itself was designed by an illustrator, Alex (Pardee), who actually did a lot of designs for the movie “Sucker Punch.” He’s a very close friend of Steve’s. I guess the idea was to make something terrifying, you know, kind of give life to this darkness that is present. We just wanted to get that feeling, that intensity down, and the fear across.

ACT: Your film is dedicated to anybody who is hurting right now. For those who have thought about attempting suicide, have made an attempt or have lost someone to suicide, what would you like them to take away from the video?

LIM: It’s not about fighting back in the sense of striking back or being violent: It’s about giving your all and about respecting yourself enough to keep coming back and being relentless and swinging for the fences. Because everyone has something to give, you know? And speaking from own experience, I’ve dealt with a couple of really difficult years, not just losing my sister but also losing my girlfriend. I also spent a lot of years with career stagnation; I think the point is that you kind of fight through those things. And no matter what kind of cards you’re dealt, whatever hand life deals you, you have to give it your all.

ACT: What’s been the response to the video so far? Can talk to us about comments or stories that resonated with you?

LIM: That’s a really good question. The most important thing for me was hearing back from my sister’s friends. Them saying thank you so much for making this and saying that Tanya would have been so proud, because in a lot of ways her friends were closer to her than I was. They spent their time socializing or just growing up with her or getting to know her wherever she lived (New York or Boston or New Orleans or Chicago). She had these amazing, really loyal, close friends all around the globe. For them to tell me that was really important to me. And that definitely was very rewarding. To have my own friends come out and just tell me, you know, how proud they were of me was a really special thing. To have people actually respond to the video and say “this really helped me; I was in a dark place; this really changed my day; I was thinking of hurting myself and this made me reconsider.” That was really the point of the film — to try and use the production values, the action, that kind of high intensity film-making as a Trojan horse to kind of get into people and leave a message behind with them so that they are kind of left in an emotional place or left where they feel a little more empowered about themselves. That was very important to me.

ACT: For those who are looking for resources, can you recommend some places they should turn? 

LIM: Yeah, absolutely. One of the places I went to the most just for information and understanding the resources was the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (I talked to them) a lot just to make sure that we were conveying the message in the right way. And, obviously, I think the de facto resource that we really wanted to provide for all people, that was very important for me, which actually makes the running time longer, was to give people the resources for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

ACT: Are there any songs or artists that have helped you through your struggle?

LIM: That’s a really great question. I think music is such a tremendous thing. It really does inspire you and can shift your emotional state, which is what we tried to do with the film. There’s a lot of great artists…I really like the new Vampire Weekend album and the song “Step.”  There’s a lot of great music that has really carried me through quiet a great deal of stuff, whether it’s stress of losing a loved one or lover or just dealing with professional disappointment. It really is the soundtrack to your life.  Now that I’m thinking about it … after Tanya passed away, I spent a lot of time listening to the music my sister and I shared when we had time together. I remember going to a Metric concert with Tanya in the Palladium — so I remember listening to that band a lot to kind of get a feeling of having Tanya around again. Same thing when my girlfriend, Krissy, passed away in November — we had an amazing time at this The Lumineers concert, and we loved The Black Keys – there was a lot of music that meant a lot to us in that relationship, so I’d play that music a lot on repeat just to get that familiar emotional feeling like they were still around with me.

ACT: Is there anything you want people to know about Tanya?

LIM: I think the thing about Tanya that I always really, really respected and looked up to was that she had this spirit of adventure. And, you know, it was really difficult for her to deal with her illness and the severity of that and something I could never empathize with, but one thing she never lost was her spirit of adventure. She was constantly traveling the world and taking on new endeavors and was never afraid to try new things. And that’s something I really have tried to take on just from watching my big sister. I hope I can kind of keep that mindset open, where I try my best with all my heart no matter how discouraging it might get. It’s not easy but I think in the end it’s extremely worthwhile. (End of interview)

The video isn’t just spreading a positive message, though. Austin Wintory’s soundtrack to the film is currently on sale, with all of the proceeds benefiting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 800-273-TALK (8255) for confidential support. For more resources on dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide, you can find help at Half Of Us or by taking action below. You’re not in this alone. It’s never too late to ask for help.

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