Forrest Groves, originally from Collingwood, has made a personal film about mental health struggles and is hoping to achieve his dream of a world premiere at TIFF
Forrest Groves has always been a stickler for “Go Big or Go Home,” and lately, going big means going to the big screen.
The Collingwood native is one of the former owners of Blueshift Visuals, a boutique production company specializing in content production for Canadian adventure and lifestyle brands. Now in her final year of law school at the University of Toronto, Groves still works in media on the side and spent the last year producing and editing a short film about living life to the fullest no matter the circumstances.
A few weeks ago, he decided to present it at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for consideration.
“I’ve always wanted to apply for a film festival, I think it’s exciting to be a part of something this big,” he said. “It’s also a great goal and it made me work even harder to finish the film in a way that I’m really proud of.”
The project is deeply personal to him.
I think therefore I exist, is the story of Groves’ life so far and the obstacles he has had to overcome to get to where he is today. In the film, Groves speaks publicly about his mental health challenges for the first time.
“I’ve always wanted to talk about these things, but I was worried it would be a thorn in my side,” he said. Having studied in a professional industry, Groves said there’s still a lot of stigma around talking about mental health, and she’s found that some people are still hesitant to engage in it.
The story is set exclusively in Ontario, and between scenic shots and sports content that puts Canada’s beauty into perspective, Groves has carefully interwoven personal interviews with his loved ones as he struggles through some of the toughest years of his life. Although harsh, the story is meant to be inspirational, and ultimately, Groves said, it’s about family support and embracing one’s flaws to become stronger.
“When these things happen, it’s easy to just shut up,” Groves said. “I wanted to humanize the issue of mental health. Take control of the narrative.”
Groves said for years he carried a lot of shame and guilt about what he went through and eventually felt it was a “disservice” not to share. He said he was always known as the kid who had everything, but that just wasn’t true.
“On the outside, people always thought things came so naturally to me,” he said. I wanted to show people that it’s not always as easy as it seems.
He worried that making the film would bring back old wounds, but ultimately said the process was good for him. “It was therapeutic in some ways and difficult in others, but overall I think it was a good thing,” he said.
He hopes that the release of the film may be useful to others as well.
“I felt like I had a story that could help other people,” he said. “It’s not about the hand you’re dealt, it’s about what you do with it.
“I don’t think everyone will relate to it, of course, but at the same time I feel like there’s a group of people that will really resonate with the message,” he said.
What he likes most about the whole process is that he has complete creative control. Although he enjoyed making films for clients under Blueshift Visuals in the past, he realized that what he really enjoyed about filmmaking was the ability it gave him to express himself.
“For me, just having unlimited creative freedom was great,” he said.
TIFF requires the film to have a North American premiere, meaning that if accepted, it cannot show the film anywhere before then.
“TIFF has always been a dream of mine, so I thought why not give it a try,” he said. “Why don’t I put all my eggs in one big basket.”
If not accepted this year, Groves has a list of other festivals in Canada and the United States that he would like to perform at.
“I think it would be great to see it on the big screen. Obviously, it’s a little intimidating, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with it over time,” he said.