Hope In The Valley

Through the eyes of Jonathan Leeper, Hope In The Valley explores how racism and bullying have a direct correlation with substance abuse and addiction within the African American community, leaving them with disproportionate rates of homelessness in the city of Los Angeles. Jonathan's story personalizes homelessness, and goes from highlighting his lifelong battle with substances to finding redemption through service of others.

  • Carly Sullivan
    Becoming, Creative Lite, The American Virus, Happy!, Blue Bloods
  • Carly Sullivan
    Becoming, Creative Lite, The American Virus
  • Johnathan Fernandez
    Gossip Girl, Lethal Weapon, Morbius, Together Together
  • Jonathan Leeper
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    16 minutes 6 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 26, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • International Black Film Festival
    United States
    December 2, 2021
    World Premiere
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Carly Sullivan

Carly Sullivan is a multi-hyphenated creative artist who works as an actress, writer and director. Born in Plantation, Florida, she moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Florida to study theater, where she trained at the Maggie Flanigan Conservatory and UCB. She began working in various commercials and voice overs, and eventually in film and series like Happy!, Blue Bloods, and the Carrie Diaries. She has starred alongside on-screen talents like Christopher Meloni, Ritchie Coster and Debi Mazer.

She began exploring her desire to direct after shadowing a director on her off days while recurring on the Syfy series Happy!, which only solidified her desire to step into the directorial role in her next project, Creative Lite. Creative Lite, a four episode docu-series that explores how creativity influences and transoforms the modern world, got a distribution deal and a nomination from Women In Film as a rising an up-and-coming actress/content creator.

This nomination got her access into an elite mentorship program with five other women, and gave her access to highly-respected female mentors like Disney's casting legend Judy Taylor and Mai Ling.

Continuing her journey in front and behind the camera, she wrote and directed two short films in 2020: Hope In the Valley and Becoming. In addition, she was offered a development deal for a true crime series she created, and was asked to join the production team for an all female production team on the documentary The American Virus.

She is incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities she's had thus far in her career and continues to push the pendulum forward as a 360 degree female creator. Every project, every story, and every role she Ms. Sullivan dives into continues to align with her artistic mission: to share thought-provoking , truthful narratives around the marginalized or forgotten parts of society, that are deeply transformative and healing.

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Director Statement

At the age of three, I found myself creating and sharing stories. My creative spirit has always had an intrinsic passion for story-telling; whether through dance, music, or film. I have always been guided by the powerful energy of narratives, driven to participate in stories that initiate change, transformation and ultimately-healing.

When the pandemic hit last year, I decided to take all of the anxiety and fears I was feeling and put it to use. I innately guided to this story and despite not having any logical idea of why I had to tell it, just knew to trust my instinct to tell it. I can say the lessons I learned shooting during a pandemic were incredible and led to Hope In The Valley being born.

I met Jonathan Leeper, the star of the film, volunteering at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in 2019. His spirit and authentic nature were undeniable and his passion to take his life lessons and transform them to serve and help the homeless in his community were inspiring. I have a clear mission as a female filmmaker: to create stories that focus on marginalized or misunderstood sectors of society; highlighting narratives and hone in on meaningful and relatable themes. I believe that all art is healing, and my projects tend to focus on this very core idea-- that through stories, audiences can take away important life lessons and hopefully, find some healing within the story and characters. I certainly believe Hope In the Valley does just that.

I believe that Jonathan Leeper is not only a beacon of light, but his courageousness to authentically open up about his battle with racism, addiction and homelessness will give others the courage to do the same. I believe many of the relevant issues and topics the film explore highlight many of the difficult issues that came to ahead last year, and that racism's effects can completely change the course of the victim's life in ways not fully yet studied and understood.

Through Jonathan's eyes, the film explores themes of how vicious cycles of racism, addiction, and homelessness form and ultimately influence each other. Growing up with a father in the military, Jonathan spent his younger years living in Japan and eventually the states, where as a young African American experienced racism and bullying amongst his peers and teachers. After years of trying to escape and run away from this feeling of seclusion, Jonathan found himself addicted to drugs and alcohol. We see his dark journey down the rabbit hole that ultimately results in homelessness, but we also see his discovery of true freedom and redemption. Jonathan's story highlights the true power of love to heal and transform, and reminds us that behind every homeless person is a human, who is in every single way, just like us. They have a story to tell and it is our job to leave our judgements at the door, and greet them with understanding and love.

While I have not directly dealt with many of Jonathan's hardships, I can relate deeply to feelings of being misunderstood and coping with those feelings through escapism. On a personal level, I have had very close family members deal with addiction and substance abuse problems, and have seen some of them go from prosperous, healthy lives to addiction and homelessness. I understand innately how one wrong step, one unresolved traumatic event can start a domino effect that spirals out of control. At the end of the day, it could be any of us. It was important for me to humanize and personalize this topic in a way that went beyond a general story about homelessness; but to to give it a name and a face.

My mission as a female filmmaker is to give those without a voice a space to tell their story; to give those forgotten or thrown aside, a safe space to share. I believe the time is now to tell powerful, transformative and healing stories that promote real change-- whether it be internal or external, large or small.