A shocking true story about undiagnosed mental illness, told through a desperate husband’s actual home videos. Oscar-winning director.
“BIPOLAR is a story that is very powerful, and very real. It will cause people to look anew at a widespread, under-reported, and very significant social and health issue. With your help, this film can and will make a difference.” – Bill Guttentag, director
BIPOLAR is a feature-length documentary about undiagnosed mental illness. It unfolds through a desperate husband’s actual raw home videos as he attempts to save his family during his wife’s transformation from loving mother to destructive stranger.
Michelle was a happy wife. She had graduated from nursing school Suma Cum Laude. Her husband Randall was a devoted husband, talented artist, and musician.
Michelle and Randall were married in 2004. Michelle confided early on to Randall that she came from a difficult background, that included a family with instances of mental illness. Randall was neither educated on the subject nor overly concerned. Their lives were filled with passion and love. In 2009 the couple welcomed a daughter, Charlotte.
Michelle was prone to mood swings. As her career advanced, her mood swings, especially at night, became more evident and more frequent. Randall had always loved taking photographs and video of their life together. When things were good, they were often very good. But as the many faces and moods of Michelle progressed, they darkened. Randall grew concerned. He tried to use the images and video to enlighten Michelle as to her own behavior. At first, she was receptive to watching and learning from what she saw. The couple also sought medical assistance. But still, the moods grew more erratic, manic, and soon, destructive.
This Kickstarter has been launched to help create and release a unique film. It educates and informs in a way few films can. Through video footage that is stark at times, the audience views the actual process of emotional collapse from undiagnosed mental illness – on the screen, as it actually occurred. It’s hard truth and vivid authenticity of a kind that has seldom been shown in a film before.
Two-time Academy Award winning director Bill Guttentag and award-winning producer Jennifer Hutchins have joined with Randall White to create a film that will shine a bright light on bipolar disorder, and on the perils of undiagnosed mental illness.
“Life is like a piano; the white keys represent happiness, the black show sadness. As you go through life’s journey, remember the black keys also create music.” ~ Ehssan
BY VIRTUE OF ITS FISCAL SPONSORSHIP through From The Heart Productions, Inc., pledges made to this campaign are tax-deductible, to the amount and extent allowable by law. See section on “fiscal sponsorship” – very bottom of page.
BACKGROUND/STORY OF THE FILM
Michelle grew up in Indiana and Florida. She was confronted early by mental illness. One of her grandmothers was schizophrenic and the other suffered from bipolar disorder. Michelle had developed a nurturing personality. She was a good student.
In 2009, Charlotte was born. Michelle and Randall were good parents, doting at times. Randall was an artist who enjoyed photography. He chronicled their lives together, and Charlotte’s early childhood, through photographs and video. Subtle changes in Michelle started to become evident.
Michelle’s moods began to swing. She became somber, irritable, and impatient with greater frequency. Randall perceived it as a warning sign of depression. But he noticed that at other times, Michelle was energized and adventurous. Randall saw that as perhaps a return to normalcy, a sign she was successfully working through it. But she wasn’t.
Randall took on a greater role with Charlotte … friend, guardian, caretaker …
Michelle began to distance herself more. She displaced home life with nightlife. Her reality became less about values, her pursuit was more about a good time. Substance abuse increased and she began having an affair.
Michelle’s inner good collided with her disorder. The disorder was winning. Her skewed chemistry, exacerbated by drug use, gave her higher highs and lower lows. When afflicted, she rationalized. When stable, her guilt became unbearable. She began having suicidal thoughts.
“One of the things so bad about depression from bipolar disorder is that if you don’t have prior awareness, you don’t have any idea what hit you.” ~ Kay Redfield Jamison
THE MAKING OF THE FILM
Randall recorded a memorable, searing, touching record of Michelle’s disorders and battles. The source of the film’s power derives from its authenticity and rawness. The film is extraordinarily heartwarming in parts. It’s very personal. But this is a story that happens too frequently in today’s world; the tragedy that unfolds is far too commonplace.
Director Bill Guttentag plans to supplement the dramatic footage recorded by Randall with other existing materials that includes Michelle’s moving letters, diaries, and social media posts (above). It is expected that a prominent actress will serve as Michelle’s voice. Bill will interview a few of Michelle’s close friends – every interview being voice-over only, so that the audience will always be part of the unfolding drama with maximum intimacy. The dramatic story of Randall – his once magical relationship with Michelle, their boundless love for their young daughter, Charlotte, and his Sisyphean struggle to create a safe had happy home for her amidst the turmoil will be a constant backdrop. Some audiences will experience familiarity at parts. All audiences will experience deep emotional reflection.
“Bipolar disorder disguises itself with moments of normalcy. Michelle was smart and that made her a good rationalizer. Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them, even while it is actually happening.” ~ Randall White
ABOUT BIPOLAR DISORDER
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood changes – from emotional highs – also known as mania or hypomania – to deep lows of depression. Symptoms can be difficult to discern and vary from person to person.
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 14 million Americans, or about 4.4% of the U.S. population. 82.9% of those affected with bipolar disorder have “serious impairment.” This is the highest % among all mood disorders. (National Institute of Mental Health)
The number of total undiagnosed mental illnesses in America is unknown. But it is estimated that 51% of individuals with bipolar disorder are untreated for it. (Treatment Advocacy Center) Most concerning is that this % appears to be increasing now, in both frequency and consequence.
“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.” ~ Marya Hornbacher
“My mother was a social worker in inner-city Detroit. Her job was to protect children from their parents. In the late 90s I witnessed her caseload rise from under 10 to over 50 and found this same pattern to be true for most social workers. Hundreds of mental facilities closed. The numbers of untreated patients grew. My goal is to use the film BIPOLAR to help raise awareness of undiagnosed mental health issues, ask the important questions that provoke thought, and help enact solutions that can hopefully contribute to a world with less abuse.” -Jennifer Hutchins, Producer
“I hope to tell a warm story which will resonate powerfully and stay with folks after they leave the theater or turn off their TV. I hope it helps them look empathically at the complexity of this issue – from feeling the pain of Michelle, to admiring the moving and quiet heroism of Charlotte and Randall.” – Bill Guttentag, Director
“I originally began to document my family for my own self-sanity when Michelle’s illness first began to manifest in our lives. As time progressed, I learned our struggle as a couple, and later as a family, was far from unique. Millions of people are impacted by bipolar disorder. I hope our story is relatable from the raw physical truths, to those accompanying the wild moments that come with the disorder. People supporting this film can help us not only shine a light, but also defeat common stigmas associated with mental illness in general.” – Randall White, Co-producer
ABOUT THE REWARDS:
- MAKING “CHOICES”: All “selections” (choices) are made AFTER the campaign.
- CAN YOU MIX AND MATCH? Yes – if you’d like a certain combination or quantity not offered on the page, click image of Jennifer (top right), send a message; we’ll work it out.
- DELIVERY DATES: The Rewards delivery dates are approximate, and reflect a best-guess for the film’s completion; we are likely to fulfill many Rewards earlier.
- ALL REWARDS at $22 and above include the film with extra’s.
- ALL REWARDS at $95 and above include your name in the film’s closing credits.
HERE ARE IMAGES AND DESCRIPTIONS OF SOME OF THE REWARDS:
- $10 and above – Understanding Bipolar – a composition: original work by Randall White, part personal experience, part cautionary tips. (See image, below.)
- $65 – Signed Poster – limited edition – shipped in tube, attractive, suitable for framing, signed by Bill, Jennifer, and Randall.
- $75 – Hand made candles – made by Randall and Charlotte, in assorted vibrant colors, scented, attractive, soothing – and a symbol of peace and hope. They will use microcrystalline wax which adds a genuine crystalline look. (See image, below.)
- $180 – Zoom session with producers – you will be one of 6; call will be 30 minutes – the final 10 minutes of which will be reserved for Q and A. (See image, above.)
- $375 – Original, one-of-a-kind “thank you” art by Charlotte – attractive art, uniquely made for you, created by Randall White’s 10 year old daughter Charlotte as a personal and most heartfelt “thank you.” (See image, below.)
- $650 – Insider Special – a unique reward, including an original script, signed by Bill, Jennifer, and Randall; a copy of the production diary; the signed poster – personalized to your name; a video (download) of outtakes from B-roll not shown anywhere else; a rare CD from Railer (Randall’s band – very good); and a private phone call with Jennifer about the film or subject of your choosing. (See image, below.)
MEET THE TEAM
BILL GUTTENTAG DIRECTOR
Bill is a two-time Oscar-winning writer-producer-director for dramatic and documentary films. He won an Academy Award for the documentary Twin Towers (Universal). He won a second Academy Award, and received three additional nominations, plus a Peabody Award, three Emmy Awards, two Writers Guild Award nominations, and a Producers Guild Award nomination. He has directed multiple films for HBO, most recently Only the Dead See the End of War. He co-created and executive-produced the NBC series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment. He directed the theatrical documentaries Nanking (ThinkFilm) and Soundtrack for a Revolution (Wild Bunch). He wrote and directed the dramatic features Knife Fight (IFC) starring Rob Lowe and Carrie-Ann Moss, and LIVE! (Atlas Entertainment) starring Eva Mendes and Andre Braugher, each of which premiered at Tribeca.
JENNIFER HUTCHINS PRODUCER
Jennifer has produced over 200 episodes of docu-series and variety television for CBS, A&E, Paramount Network, TLC, SYFY, Discovery, Fox Sports, NatGeo, YouTube Originals, Amazon, and Travel Channel. Her most recent series “That Animal Rescue Show” is with directors Richard Linklater and Bill Guttentag airs on CBS All Access October 29. Her feature films include Most Likely To Die (distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment); Time Toys directed by Mark Rosman and starring Ed Begley Jr. and Greg Germann; Unfollowed produced by Timur Bekmambetov; and Expendable Assets starring Jake Busey and Ted McGinley.
TERENCE MICHAEL EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Terence Michael has produced, developed, and delivered story content, in film and television, by virtue of his ownership in three separate production companies which have covered work for most major studios, networks, and agencies in Hollywood. He has produced feature films distributed by Sony, Universal, MGM, Lionsgate, and HBO; and he has executive produced or “showrun” television shows airing on NBC, Fox, MTV, VH1, Showtime, Lifetime, TLC, Spike, Esquire, Syfy, Travel Channel, Bravo, Hulu, TNT/TBS, and A&E.
LEE ROTHENFLUE CO-PRODUCER
Lee Rothenflue is a producer, post producer and editor with over 20 years of experience in film and video production. Credits include feature films such as 12 Mighty Orphans with Luke Wilson and Martin Sheen, Texas Cotton, Hi I’m Blake and Locked in a Garage Band. He has worked in Peru, China, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti & Kenya to produce, shoot and edit a wide array of projects. Working on 9 feature films and a dozen narrative short films, his film experience has continued to expand across multiple styles and genres.
NICK BRADFORD EDITOR
Nick Bradford is an award-winning editor in film and television. ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’, was featured in the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win a Webby for Best Documentary Editing. ‘I Am Going To Break Your Heart’ was nominated for a 2019 Canadian Screen Award for Best Biography or Arts Documentary. Nick has worked on projects for HBO, CBS, Disney, Quibi, and many others as well as for directors Alejandro Innaritu, Bill Pohlad and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
KIKI TEAGUE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
KIKI TEAGUE has owned her own production company for over 20 years. She has also field produced for PBS, and produced over 200 stories for the syndicated news franchise On The Net. She wrote, produced, and hosted over 26 episodes of a TV program that helped launch The Military Channel and wrote and hosted The Equestrian, a weekly TV program in Boston that was nominated for two Emmys. Her feature film Song of Songs won Best International Film at the San Diego Film Festival.
RANDALL WHITE CO-PRODUCER
RANDALL WHITE is a technologist and musician. BIPOLAR is his personal and revealing story told through his home video recordings made during his whirlwind 13-year relationship with his wife Michelle, who suffered from bipolar disorder. He shares the tragic and true struggle he and Michelle fought against a disease they neither knew nor understood. Randall has shared his and Michelle’s story in this film, in order to bring hope, help and understanding to families who suffer with mental illness.
BUDGET, TIMELINE, & USE OF PROCEEDS
The film budget varies based on a host of factors, including the success of this campaign. Some funds have already been raised and some additional financing is contingent on the success of this campaign – similar to a “matching funds” arrangement. We are of course hopeful that the campaign will exceed its target, but we expect to procure some additional funds above and beyond Kickstarter.
Production includes all existing footage, continuity, plus interviews, added footage, narration, graphics, incorporation of Michelle’s letters and other materials.
Post production includes final film editing, sound editing, color correction, and special effects.
It is projected that the film will be submitted to film festivals from March to June, 2021.
We came to Kickstarter so that we could maintain the independence necessary to tell this story truthfully, and in so doing, preserve the accuracy of the personal story while accentuating the opportunity for helping others who are – or know of – others afflicted with bipolar disorder. To do this, we also wanted to reach a like-minded community. We felt there could be no better place than Kickstarter, where independent film is staunchly supported, and like-minded communities are formed and fostered daily.
If you’ve got questions, Jennifer and her team are pleased to respond. At the top of the page on the right there is a small round image of Jennifer – click that, then click CONTACT ME to send your message.