When casual hook-ups become too debilitating, a man suffering from OCD seeks out different ways to purge himself of the consequences of the night before.

Director Christopher Macken presents a unique and candid perspective on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in his short film, “For the Safety of Theo.” The story follows a man grappling with the complexities of OCD, seeking unconventional methods to deal with the aftermath of casual hook-ups. Starring Darragh O’Toole and Kelly Curran, the film delves beyond the usual misconceptions of OCD, shedding light on the intricate and often painful reality of living with this condition.

“For the Safety of Theo” stands as both a creative endeavor and a testament to Macken’s dedication to raising awareness about the true complexity and pain associated with OCD. Through his artistic vision, Macken strives to dismantle the misconception that OCD merely involves a penchant for orderliness, instead showcasing the profound impact it can have on intimate relationships and the daily lives of those affected. By infusing the narrative with comedy while remaining faithful to the emotional depth of the condition, the film seeks to prompt conversations and foster understanding around the often misunderstood realities of living with OCD.

“For the Safety of Theo” is a deeply personal film that draws from your own experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Can you share how your personal journey with OCD inspired the creation of this film?

I wasn’t diagnosed and given the label until my mid-20s. Putting a name to my compulsive behavior and my distressing intrusive thoughts, stemming back all the way to my childhood, was incredibly freeing.

The life-changing relief I’ve found through therapy and support groups has forever altered the art that I make, and my mission as a storyteller to try and spread awareness and help others.

The film delves into the impact of OCD on relationships, particularly in the context of casual hook-ups. How did you approach depicting this complex and often misunderstood aspect of the disorder?

To drive this topic home, I knew I had to show how a person’s obsessions and compulsions affect their life on a larger scale in terms of their relationships, their families, their careers, etc. The person suffering isn’t the only one affected in all this. It can certainly have a domino effect and some real life consequences, which is important to acknowledge.

The film explores the concept of purging oneself of the consequences of the night before. How does this theme tie into the broader narrative and emotional arc of the protagonist?

This is all just a way to keep Theo’s mind very busy. Clearly things are happening in his life (dodging the constant calls from his mother) and he’s experiencing feelings that make him uncomfortable. This triggers his OCD and his grasping at some type of control over his life to feel safe and comfortable. I wanted to draw a comparison to someone hitting rock bottom in their addiction… Theo is flailing in life, specifically on this day after a one-night stand, and his obsession with finding some certainty or comfort only further leads him into trouble. By the end of the film, he finds the trouble he was manifesting all day.

The film’s tempo and pace play a significant role in conveying the emotional journey of the protagonist. Can you discuss how you approached the pacing of the film and what effect you aimed to achieve with it?

I wanted the audience to hop from compulsion to compulsion in a jarring, tunnel-vision like fashion to show the POV of someone lost in rumination. The urgent and abrasive energy conveys a lack of serenity and presence, jumping from one moment to another.

The visual style of the film is notable. How did you work with the cinematographer to create a visual language that complements the narrative and enhances the viewer’s engagement with the story?

Working with our film’s cinematographer, Kenzen Takahashi, we created a punk-inspired, gritty, and raw landscape for this film. Contrasting a seemingly controlled, sterile, and organized environment Theo has cultivated within in his apartment with the dirty and dangerous world outside his four walls. When Theo was seemingly “in control” and lost in his compulsions, we gave him visually a sense of stability and symmetry, but when out in the world filled with uncertainty, we pivoted to a more unstable, shaky vibe.

Sound design can be a powerful tool in filmmaking. Can you tell us about your collaboration with the sound team to create an auditory experience that adds depth to the film’s themes and emotions?

I’m so proud to have given this film the full Hollywood treatment, in regards to the sound. Our sound mixer and foley artist, Jorge Fernandez, created a very uncomfortable and squeamish soundscape which fixated on the specific compulsions being carried out by Theo. Everything was amplified to an exaggerated degree… essentially what OCD thinking is. The sound design was paired with an anxiety-inducing, punk score composed by Erik Groysman, to build the intensity and trigger feelings of unease and panic in the viewer.

What message or takeaway do you hope viewers will have after watching the film, and how do you see it contributing to the broader conversation about mental health and relationships?

Overall, I hope it starts a dialogue and contributes to making these specific subjects around OCD less taboo, because it’s way more common than we think.

I also hope viewers who suffer with this type of OCD and don’t realize it, can find relief in knowing they are not alone. This film has the potential to help put that name and label to someone’s behaviors and push them to seek help.

And, of course, I hope it influences people to have more compassion and empathy for people struggling… especially in relationships. Having more room for patience and understanding.

What are the films and or directors that inspire your filmmaking style?

Director-wise… I’d have to say Gaspar Noe, Edgar Wright, and Darren Aronofsky. Tough, thought-provoking subject matter paired up with punchy editing and a killer soundtrack.

Film-wise… Noe’s LOVE & ENTER THE VOID, Larry Clark’s KIDS, man I could go on and on.

Finally, can you tell us what are your all-time favorite short films? And if there are any current ones that you’d suggest to see?

I think my favorite short of all time would be VALIDATION (2007) directed by Kurt Kuenne. Never fails to put a massive smile on my face. And NURSERY RHYMES (2019) directed by Tom Noakes is incredibly powerful and expertly directed.

As for current shorts, I was blown away by so many on this year’s festival circuit. Ryan Noufer’s THE HEREAFTER (coming this week on FS) and SHUT UP & FISH by the directing duo Cliqua specifically.