Going back to early 2013, we would never have imagined the journey we have undertaken to get to where we are now. When I joined the project in mid-2013, the team already had a good idea of what they wanted to have in the film. On my first meeting, Busola presented the team's storyboard and gave an overview of the character John, the film's protagonist.
I had joined just as the team were putting together the scripts for the scenes. In order to get some realistic dialogue, we did some role-plays; imagining ourselves as either Stacy, John's friend who is concerned about him, or John who perhaps hadn't come to terms with the idea that he wasn't well. Putting ourselves in the characters shoes was interesting; we tired to imagine him as an "everyman", i.e. a stressed office worker who has had a "short fuse" for a while. However I feel that once we began to draw for own feelings and experiences, we started to get some good dialogue, and I hope this helped to make John not just relatable but also realistic. We deliberately went with someone who did not have severe depression, as wanted to emphasise the need to seek help sooner rather later. We also realised that we could not possibly represent everyone's experience of depression as it is unique to the individual.
Once we had the scenes and scripts finalised, we started to think about filming locations. Naturally this meant an afternoon of exploring Newcastle for appropriate locations, looking for a suitable a café and an appropriate "atmospheric" place for the opening scenes. Each suitable location was noted and we spent the next couple of weeks choosing our preferred locations, ready for filming in early 2014.
Before we could start filming, we needed to book rooms and get props. The café scenes were pretty straightforward in this regard (excluding the flood that occurred over Christmas 2013!) as all of the necessary props were already there. The GP scenes were a different story. We chose to film the GP scenes in the School of Computing Science, as they have a good selection of meeting rooms that could double up as a waiting room and a consultation room, and also since I'm a student there, it made it easier to book the necessary rooms. With the rooms booked, I scavenged various NHS websites for appropriate posters for the waiting room, and acquired a spare computer and various other items for the consultation room. We particularly wanted to make the scenes as realistic as possible. Aoife kindly sourced some extra medical books to complete the scene. All of the preparation work paid off well, as we were able to film all of the GP scenes in just one day. Dr Dave Tomson, who plays John's GP, was brilliant on the day and provided some excellent dialogue to the scenes. Steve and Kev, from Newcastle University's Digital Media services, did the actual shooting and sound recording with their vast array of equipment. At some points in the day, it really did feel as though we were shooting a bonafide medical drama, it was quite a surreal experience.
With the café and GP scenes completed, we assumed that the bulk of the work was now done. As you are probably thinking, we were totally wrong! The next big tasks were the narration and filming Darren's introductory scenes. For this we would head over to Digital Media services, where they have their very own TV and sound studios. It was probably around this point in the project when we started to get a feel of the enormity of the project. We had gone form a small meeting room, discussing ideas for scenes and doing some role-play, right to standing in an actual TV studio, ready to film the next scenes for the film. I didn't envy Darren having to sit in front of the camera, dwarfed by large studio lights and a white backdrop that must have been 3 stories high.
Chris's narration was recorded in the sound studio further down the corridor. Kev did a very quick turnaround with the sound files and we all huddled around his Mac to hear the recordings. For both Daren's and Chris's segments, we only needed a few takes before we were happy with the results.
As the summer rolled in, we had our first public preview of an early cut of the film. With our SDM t-shirts on, we hosted the event in the Great North Museum to our family members and number of University researchers and representatives of the local mental healthcare community. To see our film up on the big screen was an enthralling experience, and the feedback from the guests was very positive.
Soon after the event, we arranged to meet again at Digital Media services to re-edit a couple of scenes. In the meantime, Darren had been working behind the scenes to the team's amazement, he introduced us to Frank Bruno on the filming day, who had visited the University to film some extra scenes. Meeting Frank was an amazing experience, and everyone there was star struck, however Frank was really down to earth and did some brilliant scenes for the film.
So it's March 2015 right now as I'm typing this, and we are still working hard to get the film ready. All of the scenes are done and it is just the final edits that are outstanding. It has been an incredible journey, from our initial meetings, all of the planning, the filming, and right through to meeting Frank Bruno. At the beginning, none of us would have imagined that we would have done all of this. Now that we are starting to reach the end of this journey, we hope that the film is helpful to others - even if it is helpful to just one person, it makes all of our hard work worth it