Reaction Theatre Makers were commissioned by Severn Arts to create this short film. We took up the challenge because we had just started running online drama sessions in response to Covid and it was great to have a goal to work towards. Reaction Theatre Makers are based at Malvern Cube and we run a programme called Inter-Act. One of the groups within this is specifically for those with learning disabilities. Another group is for those experiencing recurring mental health difficulties. Inter-Act is run by Emmi Allsop, Connie Moore, Caitlin Morgan and myself.
At first, we thought the work would be quite different. We wanted to create something physical. We imagined a piece where gesture was carried through a simple narrative by each performer. We also anticipated using a British Sign Language interpreter. However, the process proved to be enormously challenging! In addition, some of our students were unable to access our sessions due to not having internet access. Plus, there were issues of security and the inevitable technical challenges of joining online sessions. Fortunately, we have a great team.
I had seen a piece of writing that grabbed me on Facebook. We shared it with our students across the two groups and agreed it was a suitable piece for performance. The writer, Nancy Kohn Raven, gave us permission to use her work. She is a Native American Indian and it has been fascinating learning more about their traditions.
This is the first film our team had ever embarked on. I am a theatre maker first and foremost, so I was slightly nervous!
It seemed a good idea to work in black and white since this was really the only control we could have over the colour palette as everyone was in their own homes and in their own clothes. Colour is really important to me when I work on the stage. I chose the blue colour for the subtitling as I saw a grey horse with a turquoise halter and thought it looked perfect.
One day I drew a heart on my hand and it was well-received. We asked everyone to do the same and the following week most of them did. The heart theme emerged and everyone chipped in with various ideas, such as Emmi’s beautiful hand heart in silhouette and Caitlin’s incredible two-pen heart drawing (brain-wave of Connie’s!).
Filming on Zoom is pretty limiting, but in some ways a good way to start film-making as working within boundaries can be helpful. Caitlin and I have always loved the use of text in theatre and film, so we were very happy to hand-write bits here and there. Our already diverse cast was made even more so when I asked my Dad to take part. I knew that he would do a fantastic job, and indeed he comes across as a seasoned actor.
I couldn’t quite believe how long the editing process took. We had hours and hours of film and needed to find the bits that would make it work in just over three minutes! Ebony, who did the splicing of the film, had to use some of the tiny Zoom squares and blow them right up. A three minute film actually involves an enormous amount of work.
We all loved the finished product and the message it holds, as do the actors within it.