Park City actress Pam Eichner honored to be in ‘Undertow’
One in five women in Utah suffers at least one form of depression, according to the Utah Department of Health.
The ailment is due to a chemical misfiring and cannot be cured by going to lunch or spending time with friends, said Pam Eichner, a Park City-based actress who portrays a woman suffering from depression in the short film, ‘Undertow."
"I wish it were that simple," Eichner said during a Park Record interview. "Depression isn’t just about being sad. It’s something that needs to be properly dealt with."
That’s why Eichner hopes "Undertow," which is getting ready to wrap post production, will help raise awareness and bring help to those in need.
"You know, depression is so prevalent in Utah, especially among women," she said. "So, I thought this would be a unique way to get some conversations going. Maybe it will shed a little bit of light on the issue."
"Undertow" was written and directed by Utah-based filmmaker Shelly Brandon.
"Shelly wrote the film from the deeply personal standpoint of having suffered from depression herself," Eichner said.
The actress and filmmaker first connected through Facebook.
"The Facebook community of Utah actors is small so we all become friends before we actually meet," Eichner said. "So, she knew me and called me in for a table read for a feature film she wants to do."
A table read is a way for directors to hear a script and for actors to meet other actors and filmmakers, according to Eichner.
"After the read, Shelly approached me and told me that before she will start filming the feature film, she was doing a short film called ‘Undertow’ and said I would be perfect for the role as the mother," Eichner said. "When I got the script, to my delight it was a lead role. That’s something I’ve never done. I’ve always done supporting roles."
Eichner’s character in the film doesn’t have a name.
"That was done intentionally," she said. "Shelly thought it was better that the characters, including the father and kids, aren’t referred to by name. That way the family dynamic can refer to any family."
Eichner, whose last acting gig was a villain in ABC’s "Blood and Oil," reached for her own experiences to prepare for the role.
"I have had issues of depression as a child in my immediate family and it is something that I’m very aware of," she said. "However, preparing for the role was interesting to me because I am chronically happy. I really don’t do sad."
So, she used Facebook to connect with a group of women who have suffered from depression.
"They talked with me very intimately about what exactly depression feels like," Eichner said. "They were extremely honest and open, because they were eager to have depression seen in the proper light."
Brandon also provided a breadth of information.
"Shelly really put herself on the hanger for all to see with this film, and in her direction on set with me, she told me that there is a feeling of heaviness," Eichner said. "She told me that walking is heavy and that everything hurts and everything is hard.
"So, I really tried to go into that place and feel the change that depression would bring to your body, with the posture not being straight and the lack of makeup," she said. "I mean, if you’re feeling that dreadful, you’re not worried about wearing mascara or how your hair looks. It’s just a matter of how to get through this day."
The film was shot entirely in Utah and took place in a home just outside Salt Lake City near a lake.
"Shelly has such an interesting eye and even used the house we shot in as a character in the film," Eichner said. "She picked a house that had a soft, monochrome gray interior. It’s so subtle and you don’t realize it, but it looks interesting when you watch the film."
Even the song at the end of the film becomes a character, she said.
"The song was written by Jeff Bayless, a musician I have known since we were kids," Eichner said. "He’s from Los Angeles and was able to wrap everything up with his music."
During the shoot, there was a scene that called for Eichner’s character to totally fall apart.
"That was interesting to me because the set got quiet, the camera started rolling and I went into this really dark place inside where I thought how this woman would really feel and how it would affect my children and my husband," she said. "It was so intense that I don’t remember what I did. The camera stopped and I had to ask if I got it."
Eichner’s daughter in "Undertow" was played by another Parkite, Ingrid Iverson. (See accompanying story titled "PCHS junior plays troubled daughter in ‘Undertow’").
"She’s just a honey, a neat kid, who really grabbed onto what was expected of her and the character of the daughter," Eichner said. "The daughter is 15 or 16 who is at that age of trying to find her own way, but has to deal with a mom who is not quite with the program. And it was painful to watch Ingrid in the role because she really nailed it."
Eichner has nothing but good things to say about her experience working on "Undertow."
"It was an exhausting, but also very satisfying project," she said. "This was pretty powerful stuff and I loved working with Shelly and I’m excited to work with her again."
"Undertow" will be submitted into film festivals next year as a short, according to Eichner.
For more information about "Undertow," visit https://www.facebook.com/Undertow-1413956938928200/info/?tab=page_info.
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A public suicide, censorship, torture and brainwashing all add up to a compelling documentary.