Black Canadian writer and director Sasha Alexander, aka Jade Stone, decided this path would be her journey. She attended Ryerson in Film and Television and now has a production company under the moniker Rire Au Cinema. After unsuccessfully applying for grants and project support, she decided to take charge and independently produce her dark comedy, Lost Jen. Inspired by a Reddit subreddit, the title is a play on the words of a ‘lost’ generation of millennials and how life moulded itself for them during and after the pandemic. While reading the subreddit, Alexander noticed some people had shared similar experiences with her. So she wanted to be a voice and bring their perspectives to life.
“I thought maybe I could create this into a relatable television series because so many people have the same experiences that I’ve had who are my age. There's nothing else like that out there right now,” says Alexander. And her vision has culminated into a 12-episode dark comedy about a character, Jen, who has found herself in a predicament or two (to put it lightly). She is on the heels of being evicted from her condo, where she cohabitates with her money-splurging boomer father. Jen is unemployed, and her father is retired, but his nest egg no longer exists (for mind-blowing reasons). Take note; this is in an economy where some of our parents cannot retire anymore because of the cost of living and the economic downturn. Without giving too much away, because of a father-and-daughter bet made in the first episode, I’m curious to see where this goes next. I can already see the potential of things unravelling post haste.
When going to print, Lost Jen will come upon its fourth episode. Every week, Alexander has either an episode or a behind-the-scenes look at the series. So there is always something up to keep you engaged. But there’s also something else that caught my attention. Jen suffers from a disorder which makes it difficult for her to obtain a job. In episode two, an insensitive and cringe-worthy exchange is an eye-opener. In this case, it’s art imitating life because, since 2006, Alexander has been affected by it too. Schizoaffective disorder combines depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia, three challenging conditions to work through.
I asked Alexander how she copes and how it affects her life, but chatting with her, I can already feel that she’s a spirit that keeps going to the best of her ability. “So if you know what those three main ones are, you know, the gist of what I go through. It's a lot of moods. It's also a lot of not being able to express emotions correctly or at the right time because it takes a lot of effort. Facial expressions, or emotions like being happy or angry,” says Alexander.
“When I'm angry, people don't know I'm angry, and they'll try to make me angrier, but it just won't show. I actually [experienced] this with a career coach, which is in my series for episode two. And multiple people did that. I combined it into one person for the show, but I had multiple people doing the same thing. So many people don't know how to deal with people with disabilities or neurodiverse issues. And, on top of that, I'm Black.” (laughs)
Putting a spotlight upon a lesser-known disorder while accomplishing your dreams is a crash course in creativity and enlightenment. Alexander wasn’t correctly diagnosed until 2016, but over the years, she’s learned to take things slowly and at her own pace rather than get burnt out and spend days in the hospital. Unfortunately, for a time, the schizoaffective disorder also dampened her creative being. It stripped away her thought process, mental functions and memory. Nonetheless, being the fighter Alexander is, she persists. Her love for creating is engrained within and gives her an outlet to bounce back from an episode. Most importantly, she’s now trained to understand her limits and boundaries, which assists with laying out a course for her creative ventures.
Incredibly, Lost Jen was created on credit cards and a part-time job that Alexander was laid off from. She has also managed to budget and bring down her costs by astronomical numbers. Jokingly, I mentioned she should start a course for creatives on budgeting because she has been able to reap the benefits of her number crunching in many ways. Alexander has nine projects in the pipeline—four films, four web series and another that she has been sitting on until now. “I'm launching a paid monthly subscription channel. It's going to be on my website next month. It will be a dollar per month. As I build all the content, I won’t raise the price. It will still be one dollar. It's one dollar now because I don't have much content. I did surveys for people to tell me if they would pay for it, and they said they would. So, I'm hoping that works out. Also, I'm hoping to produce not just my own stuff but other people's productions in the genre of dark comedies. I'm hoping that once I get Lost Jen up and going, like with the last episode, I can apply for awards and funding with it and then invest in other projects and into Lost Jen’s second season,” says Alexander.
As you can see, Alexander is moving along full steam ahead—no excuses allowed. She continues to pave her way with a determined and tenacious fortitude. Her advice for those on equal footing? “Don't give up. I've given up twice, and every time I'm like, I'm not doing this again. You don't want to do anything! It's so hard to be motivated, especially with this disorder, but you have to motivate yourself. You have to get out of your comfort zone.
If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. No one else is going to make it happen for you.”