Back in April I was lucky enough to meet up again with Charlie Ryder who, after seeing my Weather Film, asked for me to contribute to his documentary Stories of Healing. The documentary explores how art, with emphasis on puppetry, has helped people who have suffered trauma to process and heal what they have experienced.
Charlie Ryder is a filmaker, performer, writer, presenter, dancer, song writer, puppeteer artist, outreach worker at HMP Wordmwood Scrubs Community Chaplancy and has featured on Channel 4 News to debate art in prisons. He also is quite an awesome guy, with a lot of ideas and generosity towards his own art and others. Charlie has used puppetry to explore his own experience of being sent to prison after he took part in a protest to shut down the BNP headquarters.
After throwing a few ideas around, we finally settled on Charlie commissioning me to create a piece of puppetry exploring my own experience of trauma – namely my battle with anxiety, agoraphobia and depression.
As some of you have already come to know, I’ve been exploring a lot recently about how puppetry can be used as a way of communicating and engaging with mental health problems (Something you can read more about here)
What is strange is I have encouraged people to share their experiences of mental health, particularly using metaphors, as material for me to use in my experimentations. However, I had never explored at length with my own biography and partially how my life was effected by my anxiety. I’ve always been so open with my own story but maybe translating it using the raw power I had found puppetry. As I embark on developing the Do You Mind? project further into a potential performance, I believed that confronting my history with anxiety head on was something that would be incredibly beneficial to my work.
So, since then, I have been working, in-between my other projects, towards a 10 minute film for Charlie’s documentary.
I decided on an aesthetic rather quickly – I was going to use puppets using coloured acetate to represent myself and others the had been inflicted with mental health problems and traditional card shadow puppets for the ‘normal’ people (Although who is truly normal!) This is a style I have been playing about for a year (in fact I first tried it during the Puppetry and Biography workshop I assisted on which was led Raven Kaliana, who in turn introduced me to Charlie Ryder during a showing of both their films) and was a way I felt really conveyed my feelings of being invisible I feel sometimes when my anxiety is bad. I also knew that this was the metaphor I wanted to use. Finally, I had a reason to really explore these concepts that had been brewing in my brain!
I spent weeks writing and rewriting a text to base my film on, using techniques such as automatic writing and interviewing myself to find my voice. Alas, both attempts felt wrong – automatic writing brought out flowery prose and by interviewing myself I became too reflective of what happened to me. What was missing was my humour and the part of me that always persevered. So I then scrapped both these texts and wrote a script in an hour that I was completely happy with.
During this past week I have finally been happy enough with the puppets I made and the text that I had to record my film. I was lucky enough to get a good studio space from the Woodoaks Association. I ended up filming most of it during a thunderstorm a rather exhilarating experience even if it did get a bit stuffy.
Since then I’ve been editing, tweaking, recording voice-over, rerecording after it was too quiet, playing about with Apple Motion (a program I’ve now fallen in love with) trying to get the perfect movie. To be honest, even in it’s rough stages I found myself quite proud of what I had achieved. After months of mulling it over I’m so glad to have something that I can show. I’ll try and update a bit more as I toil away!
But for now here are some behind-the-scenes photo and more info on Charlie Ryder