We’re really pleased to announce the launch of A Support Net - an interactive film experience that we’ve created for the Open University, in collaboration with our good friends at Elucidat. It’s a campaign about wellness, where users can intervene into the lives of four people suffering from different mental health disorders, with the challenge of improving the sufferer’s circumstances.
Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK at some point in their lives. Even if you haven’t experienced mental illness yourself, then there’s a strong chance that someone close to you has. And with the historical social stigma that surrounds depression, it’s an issue that often gets swept under the carpet.
In his Ted Talk, writer and comedian Kevin Breel says that “if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way”. However things are starting to change. Kevin Breel’s speech is part of a growing trend for online content and social media that is focused on wellness issues. And with government initiatives, and even Prince Harry speaking out about his depression, the tide has started to turn. People are at last beginning to talk openly about mental disorders.
This is where A Support Net comes in. It’s aimed at anyone in the 16+ age group who has an interest in the subject of wellness and clinical psychiatry, with the purpose of steering them towards relevant Open University courses. Users are greeted with four protagonists, each suffering from a different disorder – anxiety, depression, alcoholism and psychosis – and are tasked with diagnosing the illnesses and improving their lives.
For example in the anxiety scenario, a schoolgirl (Lily) at first appears to be an unruly, moody teenager. We meet her as she slams the door on her step-father, then skips school and heads into town. When Kitty – a temp at Lily’s school – sees Lily hanging out at a seafront shelter, she decides to intervene. Users take the role of Kitty, controlling the conversation through periodic multiple choice screens, and there’s a gauge to show whether the conversation is impacting in a positive or negative way. It’s kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure – at the end of which, users are presented with feedback on the decisions they’ve made.
Elucidat created the interface , and Tilt produced the content. From the off, we worked closely with OU subject matter expert Mathijs Lucassen to formulate scripts that were factually accurate and that would hit all the learning targets. With eight possible routes for each of the four protagonists’ stories, it was easy to underestimate the scale of the production, which totaled over an hour of edited footage.
We shortlisted eight key actors from the hundreds that applied, with accents covering all four UK countries. The scenario that deals with depression features two brothers sparring in a boxing gym, and you might recognise actor Jonathon Nyati playing the role of Joe – he’s Mark Watts in a well known Halifax commercial.
To keep to budget, we made the decision to shoot everything in and around our hometown of Brighton, but steering clear of any Brighton stereotypes – the Palace Pier, The Royal Pavilion etc. Instead, we managed to secure interesting, but more ambiguous locations like the fantastic modernist Embassy Court, or the historic underground Brighton and Hove ABC boxing gym owned by former UK heavyweight champion Scott Welch (The Brighton Rock) , who we nervously persuaded to make a cameo appearance. This was not Scott’s first acting role – he once played Horace ‘Good Night’ Anderson in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch where he’s seen battling Brad Pitt, and famously sends the Hollywood actor skyward.
With a total of four shoot days, eight actors, seven extras, twelve locations, thirty-two scripts, two x 4am starts, torrential rain, and a small crew of six, this production was no mean feat. However, the results are an impactful and informative crafted set of films, and the client agreed:
“We have been delighted with We are Tilt’s and Elucidat’s innovativeness, proficiency and enthusiasm shown throughout the making of ‘A Support Net’. The team displayed a great working knowledge of some of the sensitive subject areas raised and approached these in a responsible way. They were also receptive to feedback and a joy to work with. The end result is a beautifully shot, thought-provoking and immersive interactive. I would have no hesitation in recommending them to other businesses.”
Georgia Axtell-Powell MA, BA (Hons)
Online Project Producer (OpenLearn), Open Media and Informal Learning