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Yonkers Filmmaker Shines Light On Mental Illness In 'No Alternative'

"No Alternative" is an explosive teen drama that confronts mental illness while blasting open the world of suburban American teenagers in the early 90’s.
"No Alternative" is an explosive teen drama that confronts mental illness while blasting open the world of suburban American teenagers in the early 90’s. Video Credit: William Dickerson
The cast of "No Alternative" starring Harry Hamlin. The film's director and writer, Yonkers-born William Dickerson is in the back. Photo Credit: Submitted
Filmmaker William Dickerson shooting "No Alternative" in Yonkers. Photo Credit: Submitted

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Yonkers-born William Dickerson has made three award-winning independent films, among them "Detour," and "The Mirror," but none are as close to his heart as his latest, "No Alternative."

The movie, which was shot in various parts of Southern Westchester, is an extension of the novel of the same name that was published in 2012. Dickerson said he started writing the story as a screenplay in 2007 after one of his sister's suicide attempts.

It wasn't until his sister, who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, died in 2014 that he really pushed to make a movie out of her story, which in many ways, is also his family's story.

"No Alternative," he explained, is more than just a movie; it's a mission. "For me, there's no better way to bring Briana back to life and honor her brilliant, but troubled, spirit," he said.

"This is as much a passion project for me, as it is a charity for socially conscious filmmaking."

His goal, he stressed, is to de-stigmatize mental illness.

The movie, which stars Harry Hamlin of "LA Law" fame is about a suburban teen who becomes so obsessed with starting a band in the wake of musician Kurt Cobain’s death that it blinds him to his sister’s mental instability.

The story is a fictionalized narrative of Dickerson’s own teenage years growing up in Yonkers in the 1990s (his family still lives there) when he himself was in a garage band (those tunes are used in the film). Hamlin plays the father in the film while newcomer Michaela Cavazos plays the main character.

Using Westchester as his inspiration -- it "epitomizes the suburbs," he said -- much of the film was shot in Yonkers at his friend's mom's house in Colonial Heights. Parts were also filmed at the Boy Scout Field near the Bronxville border, Asbury Church, Riverside School on the Hudson River, Eastchester Music and Garcia's at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.

"We really wanted to shoot at Slave To The Grind in Bronxville, and we had the owner's permission, but the city made it extremely difficult for us to shoot there, unfortunately, so we cheated Slave To The Grind in Brooklyn," he said.

"I grew up going to the coffee shop, and it would have been wonderful to shoot at the real location in the film, but sometimes the logistics of making a movie are too cumbersome for the surrounding area."

The movie is presently in the editing process (shooting ended Nov. 12, 2016) with the hopes of being wrapped up by April. That's when he plans to start applying to film festivals.

So far, the entire project has been a grassroots effort with most of the money raised through crowdfunding (via Indiegogo) and private investors. The plan, said Dickerson, is for the movie's producers to look at selling "No Alternative" to a distributor who will release it theatrically nationwide in late 2017/early 2018.

Dickerson raised over $50,000 online and attracted support from the likes of Ted Hope, the head of Amazon Studios, to publications like Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Moviemaker Magazine.

To maintain control over the movie, he currently has another crowdfunding campaign through which he's trying to raise more funds to complete post-production. It is through his fiscal sponsor, From The Heart Productions , and every contribution is tax-deductible. Go HERE for details.

While he has a host of other screenplays to sort through and projects to deal with, the Los Angeles resident said "No Alternative" is his primary focus.

Stressed Dickerson: "This has been the movie I have always wanted to make; I'm not sure there will be another film as important to me in my career as this one."

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