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This theater is a SAFE SPACE

Jay Michaels interviews Anthony Laura and Casey Hartnett

Many off-off and independent companies provide services. It’s part of being nonprofit but few keep the audience in mind as well. Many companies offer training, scholarships, internships, even housing to cast an crew on productions, but few are there when the show ends.

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Face to Face Films inaugurates The Julia Initiative in honor of philanthropist, Julia Patanella, who passed away in 2004. The Initiative creates a “safe space” within Face to Face for cast, crew, and audience, who find themselves in situations of mental or physical harm.

When the world was business-as-usual maintaining a schedule of life, work, art was difficult. But now, that tribulation has been increased – in some case, almost unbearably. Producing partners, Anthony Laura and Casey Hartnett have created this initiative to help their actors, the crew, and even their patrons find a place to talk, to ask for help, and have a friendly hand and voice to assist them in getting it. A member of Face to Face is available to help find services to assist individuals in solving or at least alleviating the situation.

98086582_10158698411401019_301240652430049280_o.jpgI sat down with Casey and Anthony about the initiative and what made them want to open their hearts this wide and go that extra mile.







This is a wonderful thing you’re doing. What brought you to create this initiative? 

CASEY: A lot of our work, stage and film productions, tells stories dealing with mental illness. Our company members are all such strong advocates for mental health, so we only felt it appropriate to give audiences and followers of our work a space to feel like they can safely reach out to us if they feel inspired to talk about their own mental health. From there we can direct them to appropriate resources and programs.

ANTHONY:  We wanted to create our initiative to provide a safe space for people who interact with our company and productions.  It was important for us to find a way to give resources to people who may be suffering and may not know where to look.  By comprising a list of phone numbers, websites and individual recommendations, our company can point people in the direction of hope for whatever they’re struggling through.  It’s important to note that this isn’t only for depression or anxiety, but other illnesses and situations that can lead to mental health decline, such as domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying.

If it’s not too personal to ask… was there anything in your life that made you decide to undertake such a program? 

ANTHONY:  I suffered with depression and anxiety from a very young age, and though I had a very supportive family, sometimes the help I needed wasn’t easy to find.  I would find myself coming across road blocks of websites that were inaccurate or phone numbers no longer in service.  I wanted to help provide a clearer path of resources.  The Julia Initiative is named after my Aunt Julia who was a nurse and someone who was always willing to lend a hand.  She was one of the many women who raised me growing up and helped support me creatively and personally with my development as an artist and a person.  She taught me that a life spent serving others and helping others is the only way to live a successful life.  She passed away in 2004.  The initiative is named after her and dedicated to her memory.

CASEY: Mental illness is so common, I’ve certainly had some sort of relationship with it and have seen friends and family suffering and working through their own mental illnesses, so I think it’s something that affects so many people but is still so stigmatized to share and talk about. So we want to open the conversation and allow people to talk about it safely.

Have you thought about how this could blossom? How do you see this project growing? 

CASEY: Hopefully the initiative will grow as the company grows and as we expand on our body of work being produced, reaching more people. I think over time it will give a greater meaning to our company of Face to Face Films and help solidify others’ understanding of who we are as artists and creators and what we believe in.

ANTHONY:  Casey and I hope, as our company grows, our initiative continues to grow to eventually be able to employ therapists and maybe even our own hotline with trained professionals who can provide assistance.  Overall, we would love for the initiative to not only help people in the United States but all over the world who are suffering.

This IS a strong undertaking… Do you have any major concerns regarding it? 

CASEY: I suppose, I just hope that we can successfully help guide those who need some direction of where to go for help and resources. People who feel very alone in working through their mental illness.

ANTHONY:  I don’t currently have any concerns.  I’m very excited to see it start up!

How can someone reach you? And what do they need to employ your services? 

CASEY: We will have an email address set up where they can email us and someone will reply with either resources or programs that they can look into. We are here to listen to their stories if they feel like sharing and need a place to vent and then guide them from there.

ANTHONY:  People can reach us on Instagram @facetofacefilms and DM us.  Or by e-mailing us at facetofacefilms2020@gmail.com.  All responses can take up to 48 hours to return which is why we urge anyone suffering and needing immediate assistance to call a hotline or 911.

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Artistic Director ANTHONY LAURA with his aunt JULIA PATANELLA

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