When asked to write about the making of Homebound, I was excited to show how it developed from a difficult decision into something I am very proud of. It was testing at times and emotionally straining, but incredibly insightful. Not only for myself but for the amazing people who went on the journey with me. It all started when I had to present a film idea to my classmates. I decided I wanted to make a film about mental health, researching and focusing on other people’s stories about their experiences, hoping to provide insight into something that has affected me my whole life. With support from tutors, I realised the best way to truly make the film I wanted to make was to focus on my own experiences.
My grandmother was taken away from her three infant daughters, deemed too mentally unstable to look after them. My mother, who is possibly the greatest woman alive, I’m sure of this, has suffered with Paranoid Schizophrenia since I was 2 years old. She raised me and my brother as a single parent, struggling as she was unable to work a lot of the time due to poor health. But she is an incredible artist, painter, pottery and charity worker doing all of this for pure pleasure rather than capital gain. My fears of how society and my classmates would react to me delving into something I was ashamed of, due to stigma, terrified me. I explained my film idea to see if anyone wanted to help me make it. The reaction of classmates was incredible and a small lift of my judgement towards society shifted, as well as my paranoia towards the stigma.
We got a crew together:
Csaba Kondor, the cinematographer, a close Hungarian friend who’s English after four years in England is better than mine. I believe if the European Union stop him from living here they’re losing a great asset to the UK. And to my overall happiness.
Helene Olsen Thunem, producer/editor, a lovely Norwegian girl who is the definition of hygge.
Alice Houston, the sound designer/sound recorder boss lady, from England. The definition of calm, proud to stand by who she is and what she wants.
And me, a nervous wreck taking them on a journey of what the hell am I making, why am I putting us through this.
All professional crew in spirit.
The initial idea was to revisit my diagnosis and interview the doctors and social workers who helped me. Then to present all the findings to my family and film their response, and any new ideas they have towards mental health. This being the whole film. Beginning, middle, end. I start working out how to track them all down. I realised the only way to follow the mental health bread trail was to go through my old social worker, Mike. Me and Mike are actually still pretty good mates, go for a couple of pints every now and again, he even invited me to his wedding last year. So I didn’t feel weird asking him if he could put me in contact with the doctors and early intervention team in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
I thought it would be interesting to see if I could gain access to my old diagnosis, as I was never really sure what I was diagnosed with or what pills I was taking and the effect they had. All I could remember was the doctor visits. How are you? Still having weird experiences? And the all-time favourite questionnaire relating to mood, thoughts and self-harm. I came in here feeling alright and now feel worse. Think maybe I need other pills, can we try a different one? Good news though - I found out that you can legally reclaim a diagnosis! Amazing, I was so happy. So, I emailed a lady whose contact details I found, emailed saying, I’m making a film and I need to gain access to my old medical records please. The lady emailed back so quickly saying yes, sounds very interesting, and I thought maybe not too many people propose this on an Autumn afternoon. Amazingly all I needed was a passport photo, and a photo of me holding the passport to get a printed copy of it. It took two weeks to arrive.
I honestly waited like I did for presents on Christmas Day as a child. So, excited, I finally opened it and was astonished by the diagnosis. Paranoid Schizophrenia. Followed by notes about changes in medication and possible personality disorder. The feeling of Christmas soon faded. But I was OK. This is closure. At that time, I was diagnosed with these disorders and so that’s what I was assumed to be. Trust me if you have a mental health disorder, you’re worried that the label defines you. Luckily that’s changing now.
Meanwhile, I am explaining in a confusing mess what I was discovering to my crew. They were asking what we should be looking for in terms of references, ideas, visuals etc. I still had no idea what the film would be, visually, narratively, and had no idea really how to make a film.
Despite this we pushed on and organised the interviews. All went well, until it came down to shooting the interviews. By this point I am so nervous. What am I doing? I don’t know how to do an interview. I certainly don’t know how to do an interview about this topic. This is a stupid idea! The first interview goes terribly. A logistical nightmare, I decided I want to interview Dan, an old social worker I tracked down in Suffolk, in my old bedroom. Then interview the team in London, before returning to Suffolk to interview my family. Stupid idea logistically. But it was a blessing. In the first interview, I had Csaba in the room, Alice sound recording, Helene was also there. Either way, I hate talking in front of people and was so nervous. So it failed miserably. I was a blubbering, mumbling sweaty mess. I thought it probably best if we set up, then everyone leaves the room.
So we decide as a team to do the interviews with Dr.Eranti, Mike and my family with just myself in the room. More intimate and we will get the response we need. Plus, those guys can set up whilst I prep the interview with my family.
Whilst shooting, we learnt a lot about daylight, moving curtains, blinds, and how to use strange camera effects we had been practising in previous weeks to get exactly what we wanted. To create the right atmosphere for the subject matter. What I can say is that I had an amazing team around me. All of them helped bring Hygee, great food, laughs and a completely different film to what I could have ever imagined.
They turned spirit and professionalism into a film nominated for this award. So, it’s testament to dedication, trust and overall Hygge. I think that’s what the process of this film was about. And I hope other people can take from it what I intended.
Moving, comfortable and rewarding to watch.
Homebound is nominated for Best Student Documentary at The Grierson Awards 2017
Tom Jeffery for London College of Communication; first shown: University/College screening.