Film and TV

Said Abusaud Created Pucker Up, a Short Film About Mental Illness

The cast of Pucker Up.
Amanda Bayacal
The cast of Pucker Up.

Dallas visual artist Said Abusaud believes art should never have an answer and that it should always be in the form of a question. He carries this theme in all of his work, lacing hidden messages in each piece. Viewers would be smart to keep that in mind when they attend the premiere for his short film Pucker Up at Double Wide on Feb. 15.

Abusaud, owner of Afterglow Gallery, a visual arts organization, says if his work can be described in three words they would be weird, raw and vintage. The artist maintains that he never hands any work out, with all pieces intended to be experienced as opposed to owned. For Pucker Up, he tackles the crisis of mental health and the isolation caused from the stigma mental illness bears in our society. The film, running roughly nine minutes, is a new adventure in expression for Abusaud.

“I wanted to do something different,” Abusaud says. “I wanted to give it a twist of Twin Peaks, because I’m such a huge fan of that show, but I also wanted to mix in mental health. So when you’re watching this film — it’s one of those films you need to watch more than once.”

“I wanted to give it a twist of Twin Peaks, because I’m such a huge fan of that show, but I also wanted to mix in mental health." — Said Abusaud

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The idea for Pucker Up came to Abusaud in a dream. Waking up in the middle of the night, the artist scrambled to write down what happened, making sure not to forget any important details. At the time of Abusaud’s dream, he was taking a break from creating any new art, needing time to recharge his batteries from a feeling of being burned out. The ideas from the dream inspired him to jump out of his hiatus, but still, there was an important matter he would have to tend to before considering going forward. The film hinged upon the involvement of lead actress Carine Rice.

“I told myself, I’m going to ask Carine if she’s interested in playing the lead role,” Abusaud says. “If she is, I’ll do it. If she’s not, I wasn’t going to do it, because in my head I’m like, ‘I know she can portray this the way I want it portrayed.’ And she honored me and said yes.”

After receiving his yes from Rice, Abusaud was quick to pull together a group of local artists and talents he trusts after many projects together to undergo the process of creating Pucker Up. Those early conversations were in August, and by the end of January, the group called it a wrap on the finished short film.

After Pucker Up screens at Double Wide, Abusaud's frequent musical collaborators featured in the film — Gezebel, Nite and Sudie — will perform. And the screening at Double Wide won’t be the only chance to see Abusaud’s film. Starting Feb. 18, Pucker Up will be on the Afterglow Gallery website via YouTube for one week.

“I’m very particular with my work,” Abusaud says. “It’s always a limited-time kind of thing. I don’t do it for the views. I do it because this is how I get by as an artist. This is how I get by. I have stories to tell, and I want to continue telling them because I care, and hoping that it inspires people and helps people at the end of the day.”

Abusaud shows no signs of stopping or slowing down anytime soon. He’s currently balancing his time between a music video for Nite, a new movie to shoot and a limited-series podcast.

No matter what project comes next, for Abusaud and the artists he teamed up with on Pucker Up, the act of working on something together, of creating something new, is more important than any reward for the final product.

“I always tell myself I’m not for hire,” Abusaud says. “Only in very special situations. I work alongside Sudie and Nite, and we do projects for one another. We help each other as far as projects go. We never charge either one of us. It’s a beautiful relationship to have with these musicians, and I’m very blessed to them even seeking me and I seek them. It’s like a beautiful family.”

Tickets for the screening are $7.