The initial storyline is a composite of hundreds of true stories which I have witnessed in my years as a practicing physician. What makes this story ring so true is the reality of Mary, beautifully played by Kim Harsch, as she interacts with her therapist, played by Connie Cowper. Connie absolutely captures the therapeutic relationship and in auditions, actually outshined the actual psychotherapist I had otherwise been considering for the part.
The process of creating this film differed from the classical pattern we learned in school, starting with the script. The secondary characters are modeled after the personality disorders described in the DSM-IV psychiatric manual. I then assigned each of the characters, including Mary, a specific combination of personality traits according to the 5-Factor Personality Model. Using the well studied traits and flaws of these characters, their interactions ring very true indeed. Mary has depression and crippling headaches, Mike and Hal are sociopaths, Claire is a borderline, Darla has a passive dependent personality and the sexy Lola has a histrionic personality disorder. The chemistry of these characters leads to strong interactions when they are brought together.
Since Mary is the catalytic character, I wrote many of her scenes with parallel dialogs and behaviors, to see which combination of traits would be more dramatic in front of the camera. The final movie was to have about 130 scenes but I wrote and filmed about 200 scenes.
Every scene was carefully storyboarded, right down to lens settings and shadows, so my DP and crew could see what I wanted while I spent my time working with the actors during the setups. The action produced surprising results when we ran the parallel scenes. The other actors had the same dialog each time but Kim's parts were quite different in each version. Kim is in every scene of the movie and had to rapidly switch to different versions of Mary's personality and not lose the subtleties. I will forever be grateful for her enormous efforts. She would go off on her own and rethink Mary's behavior when we shifted between parallel scenes.
This remarkable versatility allowed her to deliver wonderful shifts in the chemistry of the scenes, as you can see in the movie. In post production, I had the luxury of selecting the different facets of Mary's personality for greatest effect. Unfortunately, because alternate scenes were discarded, many wonderful performances will remain unseen. Some of these scenes were salvaged for use in medical education, since they were so solid and believable and many of my medical colleagues could not believe these were actors.