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Writing as Therapy: A Conversation with HYPOCHONDRIAC Writer-Director Addison Heimann

Addison’s freshman feature HYPOCHONDRIAC is not only entertainment but a lifeline for those who might not know what direction to turn in if they have similar issues that are interfering with them leading a healthy, progressive life.
Zach Villa as Will in the horror/LGBTQ+ film, HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films.

Zach Villa as Will in the horror/LGBTQ+ film, HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films.

If Addison Heimann isn’t on your radar, he should be. His first feature HYPOCHONDRIAC premiered at SXSW this year and created quite a buzz. In the vein of Donnie Darko, the protagonist Will’s subconscious manifests in eerie, dangerous ways. His childhood trauma rises to the surface and has an adverse effect on him. It’s a living nightmare. At the heart of his unraveling mental health is his mother, who physically, psychologically and emotionally abused him when he was a kid. When he sees she’s contacting him, it brings back a flood of old memories and removes the scabs from his emotional wounds. He’s forced to face his inner demons and reckon with his unhealthy relationship with her. According to the CDC, more than 60% of adults grapple with childhood trauma, which creates daily horror for some.

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Mental, physical, and emotional functions are impacted by childhood abuse. Anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, shame and guilt are just a few of the symptoms adults can suffer from. Recently, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was announced as a national resource for those suffering from a mental health crisis. Addison’s freshman feature HYPOCHONDRIAC is not only entertainment but a lifeline for those who might not know what direction to turn in if they have similar issues that are interfering with them leading a healthy, progressive life. 

The movie is slated to be released in theaters on July 29, 2022, and will be On Demand and Digital August 4, 2022. The stellar cast is comprised of Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Paget Brewster, and Marlene Forte.

[L-R] Zach Villa as Will and Devon Graye as Luke in the horror/LGBTQ+ film, HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films.

[L-R] Zach Villa as Will and Devon Graye as Luke in the horror/LGBTQ+ film, HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films.

Addison recently took a moment to chat with us about what this film and writing means to him.

What drives Will?

The idea of stasis, wanting to be okay. It’s a stop gap, though. There’s a difference between embracing self or living the status quo. Everything he does is to shield people from seeing him.

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How did you get your start in filmmaking?

Initially, I was a playwright. I liked watching shows like X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote something I was interested in. You have to start with yourself. First, I did a web series.

What was the name of that?

Kappa Force. It presents irreverent college send ups.

What was after that?

I did some short films. Then I had a nervous breakdown…!

How did Hypochondriac come about?

Writing it started as therapy. What I figured out is that just because an event happened doesn’t make it interesting. I learned that my hypochondria was a symptom of something deeper. Trauma. This story became an emotional retelling of my breakdown. I lost functioning in my arms. My mother didn’t do the physical things, but she did a lot of the psychological things, like leaving voicemails telling me not to trust friends. Going over transcriptions with Marlene Forte, the actress who plays my mother, was moving?

Addison Heimann

Addison Heimann

What’s your writing routine?

I have a series of things I do. I focus on my mental health, which writing helps me address. I’ve been learning Japanese. I keep a journal. I meditate. I play brain teaser games. When I write, I don’t write for hours on end, usually only two or three.

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Are you good at pitching stories? If so, what’s your method?

I think my pitching skills come from majoring in theater. I’m a song and dance man, so I like having to sell an idea. I usually start off with soft pitching, like at film festivals. I find that when I really believe in the idea, it comes out easily.

What are your currently working on?

A spiritual sequel to HYPOCHONDRIAC...the protagonist asks for help and help dealing with trauma so that he can break through and just start living life. 

HYPOCHONDRIAC will be released in theaters on July 29, 2022, and will be On Demand and Digital August 4, 2022.


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