A middle-aged woman looks directly into the camera and matter-of-factly says: "There's been a hit put on me." She explains that a man at her gym, whom she believes to be the head of the "gay mafia," ordered the hit.
The woman, Elida --- the central subject of Rochester native and independent filmmaker Katie Adamides' documentary Wake Me Up --- is not actually being pursued by professional assassins. But she lives in a near-constant state of agitation and paranoia.
Fear and pleading creep into her voice as she says, "I don't want to be killed."
Other segments show Adamides approaching Elida with compassion but also willingness to challenge and confront her. At times you even laugh, but never at the subject's expense. That's because Adamides has a strong sense of mission. She's trying to combat the stigmas associated with mental illness and convey how often its victims go untreated.
Local musician Gregory Paul, who contributed music to the film's soundtrack, says Adamides "is really trying to do a great thing."
"She's trying to expose some truth behind this topic and debunk a lot of the myths," Paul says. "This is something she just fell into. She didn't set out to go to L.A. to make this film. She was already there, and it turns out she had a neighbor that she had kind of a weird experience with. I think she had a gradual revelation."
Adamides' first contact with Elida was being woken up by Elida's outbursts of rage towards passersby and other neighbors. The film chronicles Adamides' own journey of discovery as she begins to grasp the severity of Elida's situation.
"I ended up calling the police to find out what California state law is when it comes to mental health arrests," Adamides says. "After doing some research, I found out that their code is a '5150.' In order to be considered a 5150, you need to be considered a threat to yourself or others. She really didn't fit that criteria."
Realizing Elida was not likely to have her needs addressed, Adamides felt a growing desire to educate the public as she educated herself.
When Adamides and Gregory Paul were introduced by former BER local show DJ Katrina Walter, the timing was auspicious. Adamides was actively looking for music for her film and Paul was seeking new venues for his music after taking a step back from his longtime band the Autumdivers.
Adamides and Paul soon found their work fit. Well suited to visuals, Paul's writing heavily reflects his drone and ambient influences. And, though it is often built upon upbeat rhythms, Paul's music echoes collective sensations of isolation and anxiety, of the individual being overwhelmed by the outside world and feeling paralyzed within it.
"I grew up out in the country," Paul explains. "Always being outside and being on my bike, the landscape really affected me. I was really into old blues music as well. There was this really almost historical mysticism to the blues. These people, it was like they rendered the music out of the land."
On Saturday, Paul releases his new solo album, Awake from the Flash, which contains recordings that span the 20 years he's been playing.
"I got a guitar around 14 or 15," he says. "I didn't know how to tune the thing for about a year, but I immediately started recording. It seemed like right off the bat I wanted to create albums --- I was an album-maker before I was even a songwriter. I think that's what led me into wanting to make soundtrack music. That's the one thread that runs through everything that I've done, extended tonalities and creating a mood."
The new album retraces Paul's trajectory from straight-ahead folk and pop-rock to his trademark blend of acoustic guitar with minimalist repetition, improvisation, and electronically-induced noise. Paul says he relates to composer La Monte Young, who also grew up in a rural setting and claims to have been able to hear the buzzing of distant power lines as a child.
In an abstract sense, Paul's work also buzzes.
"People are distracted," he says. "When you think about the amount of stimulus that's just drilled into a person in a single day, the society we live in is in a form of spiritual decay. I see that it's grasping at finding meaning and not really finding it and instead it's being replaced with products and consumerism. Why are we so unhappy even though we're this supposedly abundant society? There's something wrong, but we don't know what it is, exactly."
Paul sees mental illness as an inevitable by-product of our lifestyle. "I almost feel like, if you're not depressed in this country, then you're in some kind of denial."
Meanwhile, Adamides has moved to Hoboken, where she'll immerse herself in Wake Me Up's editing process. She expects to complete the film almost entirely at her own expense. Once finished, the uphill climb for distribution begins.
"I'm willing to give the movie away," she insists. "I'll shop it to schools, community organizations, anywhere that there's a possibility. I'll project the thing on the side of a building if it will get people watching and, hopefully, thinking."
Gregory Paul, Hinkley, Footage, and Old Sweethearts play Saturday, December 10, at the Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Avenue, at 9 p.m. $5. 454-2966. 21+. For more information on the film Wake Me Upvisit www.wakemeupmovie.com.