One thing Clare Wolf Behringer ’18 (MBA) has learned is the importance of the community around you. That’s why – at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, 2023 – the Charleston-based founder and owner of Unflappable Studios is premiering her debut independent short film Vulnerable at the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre in a one-night-only event benefiting local mental health nonprofit organization, Mental Health HEROES.
“We really need to give back to the community, so all of those proceeds will go into the community that I love so much,” says Behringer, who wrote, directed and produced the film with the help of a team that includes fellow College of Charleston students and alumni. “I wanted to do a private showing here and give back to the community.”
Clare Wolf Behringer
Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to debut the film, which shines a light on the struggles, fears and hopes that people dealing with mental health issues experience and aims to inspire conversation and save lives.
“Hopefully this is a film that will help people realize that they are not alone, that there is hope and that we need to continue having important conversations about mental health within our communities,” says Behringer. “In a nutshell, I really want people to walk away from this film feeling inspired to live and to help other people do the same.”
The film was inspired by Behringer’s own personal struggle with mental health at a time that she found it nearly impossible to reach out for help. But, when she finally did, she was moved by the support she was given and the bravery that it took – both on her part and on the part of those who helped her.
“All it takes is an inch to reach out to someone who loves you, but that inch is the hardest distance for someone who is struggling,” she says. “So this film is a love letter to both the person who is struggling and the person who is watching someone struggle. I want to address the person who’s on either side of the phone: the person who’s trying to reach that extra inch and the person who answers the phone. Because looking back, the only reason that there was only an inch for me to reach is because of the tremendous efforts and love that I was receiving from other people.”
The supportive efforts of one’s community didn’t just serve as the inspiration and the subject of the film: It served in the making of the film, too.
“Every single person that has worked on this film has input a ton of their own thoughts and their own person,” she says. “Initially, the main character was based off of my life, but ultimately, she became her own person.”
That is thanks in large part to Caroline Magee, a graduating senior double-majoring in theatre and English at the College of Charleston, who plays the starring role.
“Working on Vulnerable was an incredible experience and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it,” says Magee, who acted alongside fellow CofC graduating senior, German major Bri Fabian. “I feel so lucky to have gotten to work with such a fantastic team. Clare built such a strong sense of community and support on set, which was especially important considering the heavy topics explored in this project. Everyone supported one another, which is especially vital on a project that requires such vulnerability. They walked me through the processes of filmmaking that I hadn’t encountered before and helped me to prepare myself to handle the heavy content of the story.”
Seeing Magee and Fabian – and others – grow on set was one of Behringer’s favorite things about making the film.
“It was amazing watching them go from being really nervous or afraid to do something wrong, to being really confident,” she says, adding that she feels a certain amount of pride being able to work with Magee and Fabian at the very start of their professional acting careers. “Inputting all their information into IMDb was really cool, because I truly believe they’re going to go far.”
Indeed, Behringer was floored by the talent she found in both Magee and Fabian, and says she owes a huge thanks to David Whittington ’15, who not only acts in the film, but helped her with casting.
“My background in the corporate space of film was not scripted talent, so I didn’t know how to cast people or how to coach them on acting,” says Behringer, who worked on unscripted television programming for Hearst Media for four years prior to opening her own studio. That’s why she turned to Whittington, who she’s known since childhood. “We go way back. I trusted him immediately.”
She also put a lot of trust in award-winning cinematographer David Navarro, who co-directed the film and – more importantly – played a huge part in encouraging her to make it.
“I had told him about my idea, and he was like, ‘OK, great. Let’s start lining up the pre-production schedule and get this underway.’ And I was like, ‘I guess we’re making a movie,'” she laughs, adding that she knew when Navarro flew himself from Los Angeles to Charleston to make the movie that the subject matter must have spoken to him – something she saw happen time and time again. “A lot of people volunteered to help on this film. I did not ask them to – they just heard about what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it. I think making this film taught me a lot about what people value. And just hearing all of their different perspectives and stories, and learning what people hold important: That’s a really, really beautiful thing to witness.”
And so she wants to share that beauty to an audience at the College of Charleston – a place that gave her the tools she needed to get her where she is today.
“I was able to take a lot of the skills and nuggets that I learned in the MBA program and apply them as needed into everything I’ve been doing. So, I would say I use what I learned every single day,” she says, adding that she started Unflappable Studios to highlight independent creators and tell stories that mean something. “The best tool my MBA gave me was confidence. Because there’s so much to learn starting a business, you’re never going to go into it knowing everything. But my MBA did give me the confidence to know I could figure it out. And I think that’s something that’s really important, especially in this increasingly complex world.”
That confidence has allowed her not just to start her own studio, but to reach out when she knows she needs help – a message she hopes everyone can take away from her film.
“I believe the message is bigger and more important than anything I have personally gone through,” she says.
And so Behringer welcomes not just the College community, but the greater Charleston community, to come watch and discuss Vulnerable. A brief discussion will precede the 20-minute screening, and a Q&A panel moderated by School of Business alumna Chynna Chan ’19 will follow. Get your tickets today!