A solemn middle-aged man enters his living room. He sits down, takes a deep breath and looks directly at his daughter, seated across from him.
“Tell me it’s a joke,” he says, holding up her suicide note. “It’s gotta be a joke; it can’t be real.”
She doesn’t answer. Instead, she listens, as he shares what his life would be like without her.
This is the opening scene of Mattituck High School senior Lucas Kosmynka’s latest short film, “You Matter,” which stars high school custodian Michael Fedele. The four-minute video was written and filmed by the duo.
“My way of communicating to other people is through my camera,” Lucas said. “I thought it would be appropriate to make a film about suicide and mental health and bring awareness to it … Sometimes, your closest friends, your family members can be going through it, and they’ll be doing their best job of hiding it and keeping it away from you.”
Mr. Fedele, 56, a custodian in the district, said he’s lost friends to suicide, so he was eager to act in the short film, which resonated with him.
But this isn’t the first time Mr. Fedele and Lucas have partnered on a project.
About two years ago, Mr. Fedele said he and Lucas bonded at the school over their mutual love for filmmaking.
“We shared our ideas, our dreams; we still do,” Mr. Fedele said. “We talk about different shots and about how things transform on film and the creative process. We help each other out.”
Where Lucas struggled to formulate his creative ideas on the screen, Mr. Fedele helped him out by putting his ideas into imagery and writing, he said. Lucas always has an idea for him to play with.
“Lucas doesn’t realize he’s given me these ideas that are hard for him to spell out, then I can channel those ideas,” Mr. Fedele said.
From there, the pair formed a tight bond. Mr. Fedele has acted in two other short films that Lucas has shot: “Reflection,” about a man who is being chased by himself, and “Emissary,” about accepting the loss of a loved one.
“If there’s an opportunity for something to be said, he uses the camera as the means to present that,” Mr. Fedele said. “It’s really his talent and his gift to be able to send a message.”
Mr. Fedele attended acting classes at the HB Studio in New York City. After jumping around to different acting gigs on the East Coast, he joined the district as a custodian, where he has been for nine years.
Lucas said he had a rough cut of the short film completed an hour after shooting, posted the video to Instagram and received positive feedback from people as far away as Florida.
“That feels special,” he said. “To the point where I don’t even know them, but I made an impact on their life. That’s something I want to stick with.”
The high school senior aspires to study filmmaking in college and to stay in touch with Mr. Fedele as his career continues.
Mr. Fedele said he knows the power of social media can make waves. He said he hopes the video prompts people to understand and consider the theme of the video.
“As a parent, you have to be aware of [suicidal tendencies],” he said. “My message to anybody is this: We’re all important. And that’s what the video is really about.”
Lucas’ published work is available on his YouTube channel, Lucas Tran.
Photo caption: Mattituck High School custodian Michael Fedele worked with senior Lucas Kosmynka on Lucas’s latest short film, ‘You Matter,’ which addresses mental illness.