Posted May 7, 2012

Film grad hopes her work will change perception of OCD

Kevin Cook

For Alyssa Lomuscio, the April 26 premiere of her short film “A Jaded Life” was a watershed moment, the culmination of a string of victories in filmmaking, fencing and life that have defined her college career.

Lomuscio’s senior year has been a whirlwind of details and deadlines, long days on the set and sleepless nights in the editing room working on the film, which she wrote and directed for her senior thesis project. And while leading a creative project of such magnitude would be a challenge for any student, Lomuscio did it while also competing as an All-American on Temple’s fencing team, including a third-straight appearance this year at NCAA national championships.

Months of sweat equity paid off for Lomuscio when “A Jaded Life” was shown as part of senior project screenings at the Pearl Theater at Avenue North. The film chronicles a young man’s struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a common anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and forced rituals.

Making the film was a sort of coming out for the Clinton, N.J. native, who has struggled with the condition since childhood. Even as production began, most members of her crew didn’t know of her direct personal connection to the film’s subject matter. Only when it came time to shoot a critical scene in which the main character, played by Temple Theater alumnus Josh Arnold, breaks down from his rituals, did she reveal her secret in order to offer first-hand direction on how the character might behave.

While popular portrayals of people with OCD depict comedic neat freaks such as TV detective Adrian Monk, Lomuscio hopes her work can show another side of what can be a debilitating disease.

“In a lot of media, people with OCD are portrayed as the funny person who washes their hands a lot and has color-coded closets,” said Lomuscio. “I wanted to show people it is a serious disorder and not a laughing matter. I really hope that I can give people a new perspective on it.”

Like “A Jaded Life’s” lead character, Lomuscio has gone through stages of denial, anger and acceptance in dealing with OCD. Fearful that medication could jeopardize her NCAA eligibility, she has forgone medication, choosing to confront the condition head on.

“For the longest time I tried to hide from it,” she said. “Working on the film definitely has been kind of a release. After it was out there it was a big weight off my shoulders.”

She credits the support of her fencing teammates, and the guidance of Temple faculty with helping her achieve this remarkable goal.

“At first I didn't want to do the senior project,” she said. “But now I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. It really educated me. It takes a lot to sit down and focus (the content of a film). My professors have really been the ones who have guided me through.”

Now, with work on “A Jaded Life” complete, Lomuscio hopes to market the film more widely. She has been submitting it to festivals and is working to garner interest from OCD support organizations so that it might be shown at conferences.

For her part, she hopes to move to New York soon after graduation to find work in the film or television industries. With the experience of developing a professional-quality production behind her, she believes she is well-prepared.

“Since doing this project, I have fallen in love with directing,” she said. “Whatever I’m doing, I’d like to find something that helps me pursue that goal.”