Talking Pure O With Dillon Tucker

We sat down with the filmmaker to discuss OCD treatment, depicting mental conditions, the power of vulnerability, and more.

Written by Esther Fernandez

Talking Pure O With Dillon Tucker

01 Dillon Tucker is a filmmaker with Pure OCD. Inspired by his own mental health journey, he decided to make a film that accurately portrays the OCD experience.

02 In partnership with Made of Millions, Pure O will be screened at the Laemmle Monica Film Center on April 11th.

Hi Dillon! We’re excited to discuss your film, Pure O, ahead of our screening. To start, why did you decide to make this film? How much of the film was inspired by your personal journey with OCD? 

​​When I was in OCD treatment, I attended therapy groups. At the end of our sessions, we would always find ourselves saying, “Someone needs to make a movie about this!” However, the group didn’t think any non-OCD sufferer would actually get what OCD looks like. I kind of took that as a challenge, and decided that mining my own experience would be the best way to do it. I don’t always write from an autobiographical place, but I felt like the more specific to my experience, the more universal it might feel to other sufferers.

That’s an interesting way to approach filmmaking, especially when it comes to the topic of OCD. We’re always scared that our struggles and stories are unique to us, but in reality, it’s more relatable than we think.

What did the process of making this film look like, between scripting, casting, filming, etc?

Pure O definitely felt like a family affair. We made the film at the tail end of the pandemic, so it was an intimate shoot among long-time friends and collaborators. A lot of us wore different creative hats and did whatever we needed to do to get the film made. Indie filmmaking is not for the faint of heart, but luckily, we had an incredibly talented group of people who believed in the story I was trying to tell.

Taboo OCD content can be pretty intense if you’ve never heard of it before. What was the crew and actors reaction to the content of the film? Why did you think it was important to include such an honest depiction of OCD? 

An honest depiction was the goal all along. I felt like naturalism was the only way to really let other people experience the trials and tribulations that sufferers go through. That being said, it was a difficult task to show visually, because Pure O is a mental condition. I ended up making the decision of resisting cutaways and visualizing obsessions. There is surely a great film to be made about OCD using those techniques, but for me, I wanted to keep the story grounded in reality. It was a creative decision that I felt would be most impactful for the audience. 

Regarding the taboo nature, I think the screenplay spoke for itself, and I was lucky to have open-minded collaborators who understood the condition through reading the story. Ultimately, the movie will have to stand on its own.

How did the making of this film affect your mental health journey? Was it validating? Cathartic? An exposure? 

I thought about that a lot as we were nearing production. I didn’t know how I was going to feel, and dealing with that uncertainty was kind of like an exposure. But once I passed the story off to my actors, I really encouraged them to bring as much of themselves into the roles as possible. It gave me a separation from my own experience during filming, which was pretty cathartic. It also allowed me to see clearly how far I’ve come on my own recovery journey, from being completely debilitated in my daily life to making a feature film about it. It felt very full circle. 

Wow! I didn’t even think about how having actors take on your story could help give you some separation. That feels like such a creative way to process your experiences. 

I thought it was interesting that you included the perspective of loved ones. What advice would you give to people who are trying to support someone with OCD?

Well the first thing I’d tell them to do is to watch Pure O! It was actually a major motivator knowing that this film could be used to help loved ones see OCD from the sufferers perspective. So many people with OCD, myself included, talk about how difficult it is to explain what they are going through without feeling judged. 

I would also direct them to the book “When A Family Member Has OCD” by Jon Herschfield MFT. I had my entire cast read it. It’s the best book I’ve found that explains the OCD experience to non-sufferers.

You also decided to include topics of addiction and grief. Can you touch on why these themes were important to highlight?

I was working at an addiction and recovery center when I received my OCD diagnosis. As I was going through treatment, I was keenly aware of the parallels between the two recovery journeys. I wanted to illustrate some of those similarities in my film, and found it interesting to explore a lead character that is battling his darkest hour, and at the same time, is helping other people battle theirs. 

What is your favorite part of the film? 

There’s one scene of a group therapy session, where a sufferer shares about an OCD spike he had that week. This moment really holds the full spectrum of OCD: the frustration, the laughing at yourself, the piercing self-awareness of how insane it all feels, the heartbreaking reality of how truly exhausted you are. The actor in that scene, Clint James, brought such a depth of humanity to his performance. We shot the scene early on, and it’s what gave me the confidence that people were going to be able to understand what OCD really looks like.

What do you hope people will take away from watching this film?

I want people to understand that helping one another is what life is all about. As Charles Bukowski said, “You begin to save the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romance or politics.” 

By giving your energy to helping someone, you actually end up helping yourself. This goes back to the parallels I was speaking about between OCD recovery and addiction recovery: for any major shift to happen in a person’s life, it has to start with the ability to connect with others. 

This is a lesson I took away from my own OCD journey, and something I truly stand by. Vulnerability leads to more insightful communication, which in turn leads to reduced conflict and a greater understanding of one another. To quote a line from Pure O, “Vulnerability is the greatest form of courage.”


If you're in LA, join us for a screening of Pure O on Thursday, April 11th 7 PM PST at Laemmle Monica Film Center. The screening will be followed by a panel hosted by Made of Millions copywriter Esther Fernandez, and film director Dillon Tucker.

Click here for tickets.

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