Independent Thriller “The Mental State”Sweeps the Catalina Film Festival winning Best U.S. Feature Film, Best Director and Best Male Lead

The Mental State swept the Awards at The Catalina Film Festival this weekend, taking home the Best U.S. Feature Film, Best Director and Best Lead Male Actor awards. Based on the play, The Mental State tells the story of a high school senior from rural Kentucky suffering a mental health crisis and the lack of community resources his family has to help him. The film touches on school shootings and gun violence whilst also exploring the painful reality of the mental health crisis plaguing our society. 

The Catalina Film Festival celebrated its 12th year returning to the mainland of Long Beach in the Scottish Rite Cultural Center on September 21st & 22nd, then sailed to its namesake on Catalina Island for the weekend for its classical screening and red-carpet premieres at the historic Avalon Casino Theatre from September 23rd through the 25th.

James Camali, the director, was accompanied by his filmmaking partner and cinematographer Ronnee Swenton. Matthew Einstein of Tradition Pictures and Glen Trotiner produced the film and guided every part of the process from script to the finished movie.

The performances given by the cast were outstanding. The film stars newcomer Jance Enslin, who won Best Male Lead for his role as Andy Cady and includes veterans such as Carly Pope (Elysium), Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings), and Bryan Greenberg (How to Make it In America).

Casting for The Mental State was led by casting directors Patricia McCorkle and her then associate Katja Zarolinkski. “After about six seconds into his audition, it was obvious that he was the right choice for Andy,” said Camali of Enslin. Camali also remarked that “each actor was ready to come on this project to act their butts off, which they did. I’m very thankful for this cast.” 

Matthew Einstein discussed Camali’s work on the project, “James was so connected to the material and was dogged in his determination to make a meaningful statement with this film. James is a thorough filmmaker and worked so well with the actors. He would be awake until the wee hours of the morning after long shoot days to make sure everything was just right before the next day. It was a pleasure to work alongside him throughout the process and to support his efforts.”

Camali stated what sets this movie apart from others is that it “brings a lot of empathy to everyone involved in a school shooting. It’s not meant to generalize every scenario like this or our main character’s experience with his mental illness. We worked extraordinarily hard to express the perspectives of the shooter, the family, other students, faculty, and the surrounding community with utmost respect and compassion.” 

The film’s success at The Catalina Film Festival offers a glimpse at the impact the film will surely make as it screens at more film festivals around the country and the world. The film also won Best Feature at the New Jersey International Film Festival. The film will screen at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, Louisville’s International Film Festival, and Syracuse International Film Festival. The film is seeking sales representation and distribution.

Mason Cooper
Mason Cooper
Mason Cooper hails from the vibrant city of Los Angeles, California, and serves as an integral part of LA Featured Magazine's dedicated staff. As a committed team member, Mason's contribution has had a significant impact on the magazine's growth and popularity over the years.


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