During quarantine, Caleb and Amelia capsized while canoeing on their first IRL date. A few days later, Caleb feels compelled to call Amelia to share his concerns regarding his health, fearing imminent death. A quintessential corona rom-com, writer/director Paavo Hanninen’s I Think I’m Dying examines what happens when two adults connect emotionally, over a surprisingly dark conversation, and feel comfortable sharing their innermost fears and anxieties, all with a hilariously nonchalant tone.
“My mind immediately latched onto the possibility that we could have contracted the brain-eating amoeba”
With a story as neurotic as this one is (takes one to know one), it came as no surprise when Hanninen shared with us that I Think I’m Dying is based on a personal experience involving a canoe capsizing and his own hypochondria and anxiety triggered by the incident. The brain-eating amoeba (or Naegleria fowleri) referenced in the film is not very common, but every time a case is reported in the news it personally sends me in a tailspin and it seems as if Hanninen is the same.
“In the aftermath of this canoe incident, my mind immediately latched onto the possibility that we could have contracted the brain-eating amoeba”, he explains. “The odds of getting the amoeba are extremely, extremely low – only a little over 130 cases of it have EVER been documented – but the mortality rate for it is 99 percent”, the filmmaker adds. So however unlikely it was that he’d come into contact with it, you can kind of understand why it’d be in his thoughts.
The irony of experiencing this obsession in the middle of a pandemic was not lost on Hanninen though. “I realized how morbidly humorous it was that after spending months in a state of unrelenting dread about the Covid virus, the one time we took a chance to go out in the world, I became convinced that an even WORSE illness had befallen us”, he reveals as we discuss the motivation behind I Think I’m Dying. Driven by the desire to make a topical comedy based around his own thought process, he blended his own personal experience with ideas around self-involvement and self-awareness to create a clever and surprisingly relatable short
Hanninen’s film falls into this new category of “corona shorts”, as the pandemic is part of the plot and also affected the production. Yet, I Think I’m Dying proves that even by complying with the rules, a film can be structured in a way that serves the story and still feels authentic. The phone conversation is a format that allows that, and at the same time, it’s also used as a narrative tool, with what they say to each other and what they are actually doing fleshing out the narrative.
The elements of production all come together to help create the film’s general vibe, with the score and the cinematography, in particular, playing a major role in that off-kilter atmosphere. The two actors, Jamie Neumann and Yamil Rodriguez, are also vital in fostering the perfect tone to make the screenplay land, their nonchalance expertly feeding into the absurdity of the film. Their chemistry over the phone is instantly engaging and even though they form a weird pair, you can’t help but root for them as their conversation evolves and they reveal who they truly are to the other.
We are excited to host the online debut of I Think I’m Dying on Short of the Week and thrilled to reveal the short is currently being developed into a pilot for a half-hour comedy series. Hanninen is also working on multiple long-form narrative projects, including a mystery series (based on true events) about his hometown in Alabama, a feature documentary about a secretive Mardi Gras tradition (that he’s been filming for six years) and another feature that looks at the South and the widespread belief in conspiracies.