Medway actor Lee Hunter is hopeful that a new suicide movie will help fight the stigma surrounding mental health and prevent suicide.
Lee grew up in Gillingham and attended Rainham Mark Grammar School, before embarking on an acting career which saw him play roles in Eastenders, Vikings and more recently the Kent-based thriller Whitstable Pearl.
But he says it was a long-term ambition to make a film about suicide, in memory of his sister Danielle, who suffered from bipolar disorder and died in 2012.
Last year that ambition came to fruition with the founding of On My Own, which stars Lee alongside fellow actor and friend Anthony Lewis, whom many will recognize in Emmerdale and Torchwood.
The film sees Lee as a cleaner working on the top floor of a financial institution when he encounters an employee, played by Anthony, who is about to kill himself.
It has since been featured at 13 film festivals as well as a private BBC screening, and was recently cleared for screening on Aer Lingus flights.
“I wanted to use my skills to raise awareness and initiate discussions,” said Lee, 35. “In between, I help my father who runs a fire protection company. I went to a job site with him in London and a maintenance man said one of the financiers came to the top floor a few days ago, got up the ramps and jumped into the courtyard below.
“I was just like ‘what could make someone do this?’ The writer and actor in me thought what could I have done in this situation if I was trying to talk to someone. This is kind of where the seed was sown for the project, with the fact that I wanted to do something because of my sister. One night I couldn’t sleep and wrote this short screenplay. “
At the time, Lee was living with Anthony and his brother Matt, who previously played Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter, and became executive producer for On My Own with Lee and Corin West’s father.
Another brother of Lewis – Chris – edited the film, while additional financial support came from a crowdfunding campaign.
“We shot it in London on the roof of the Old Truman Brewery for two days,” added Lee. “It was great but it was quite stressful – it was my baby, so I had to think about a lot of things besides playing.
“Tony and I know each other so we were going to get into those deep scenes, but being good friends it was easy to let off steam in between, which I think is healthy when you face this type of situation.” .
And while he’s happy that the film is finding an audience, Lee is keen to see the film shown in even more festivals and potential venues.
“It was never a project to make money,” he added. “It’s a tool for creating discussions. The only way to fight stigma is to talk about it and create these discussions.
“I know three men locally in Medway who have committed suicide and as a guy in his thirties he’s the biggest killer of men my age and that’s something we as a society need to work out . I think creating a discussion is an important step in addressing the stigma that surrounds mental health. “
Find out more: all the latest news from Medway.
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