If you have been eagerly awaiting the new episode of Home Grow'n, I am sorry to inform you that the latest episode has been delayed. Not because I am experiencing mental health problems myself, but because I have been creating a film about mental wellness with the City of Rockingham. It's been a great project to have been a part of and I have learned a lot about about my own mental well-being in the process.
The project is called ReFrame and it is about reframing the conversation around mental illness by sharing the stories of recovery from people who have lived through it. I have been tasked with crafting a short documentary film about how their stories transformed into a mural to create more awareness around mental health in the community.
I was just in the middle of editing episode 9 of Home Grow'n when I got the call. The City asked if a documentary about mental health was something I would be interested in doing.
I'll be honest, since the pandemic I didn't consider creating films outside of my own projects as I was solely focussed on making content around sustainability, but something about mental health and wellness peaked my interest and so I decided to jump onboard the ReFrame Project.
With under a week to begin shooting, I had little time to pre-plan and to find out about mental health. So, I decided the best way to tell the story was to focus on the journey of those who experienced mental illness and how this project helped them. The only problem was I had a very short shooting window of just an hour to grab three stories with interviewees.
This might sound like a lot of time for a quick pow-wow of who you are and what's happening kind of news vox pop scene, but, for this to be impactful, the interviewees needed to share a vulnerable story and I had no idea how any of the participants might react, and even if they were comfortable about sharing their own stories.
It's quite a lot to ask of someone to forget there's a camera, there's a microphone, that it's all being recorded and will be seen by potentially thousands and millions of people... even thinking that just gave me anxiety. But, to make people feel comfortable there is no way around it - this takes time, which I had little to work with.
I hit record and we started rolling. At first it was a little rocky. I talked to the first interviewee and it was a challenge to get into a reflective topics about the whole journey. I only found out then, that the whole process has taken many months and so to get people to go back in time to a point that far back can be tricky without knowing any of the background.
Thankfully, I finally was able to find a link to their past by talking about the art they made that became incorporated into the mural. We talked about how they felt in the dark times and what impact that had on them emotionally and that the art were things that gave them happiness and hope and these were the things that helped them through the hard times. As I spoke to each participant it soon became clearer, and I realised their artwork pieces weren’t just things that helped them but they were all small things that we often take for granted like; a beautiful sunset, walking along the beach , or hanging with pets.
I never really thought about my own mental health. Nor did I have a certain idea of what mental health problem might feel like but, one thing that I could relate it to was my own experience through the pandemic. I had made some pretty drastic decisions in the past few years: my partner and I decided to buy a house and renovate it to be sustainable, we started growing all our own fresh produce, capturing water and I committed to work from home. All of this came about from reflecting on what was important to us. And you know what? When shit literally hit the fan, I wasn't thinking about what clothes am I going to buy, or how much money have I got. It was about sustaining ourselves and spending time with loved ones and our families. It was all the small things. The story clicked.
What was scheduled as 15 minute interviews quickly blew out to 40 minutes and before I knew it, the workshop I was meant to shoot was over and the sun was setting.
And although I didn't get the shots of the workshop, I did manage to give everyone enough time to feel comfortable enough to share their vulnerable stories and that's the backbone of a great documentary.
One of the big take aways has been hearing the stories from the people who have experienced mental health issues and how they found ways through it. I’ve heard mental health and depression many times before, but the thing that rarely gets mentioned is focusing on what people can do to help through those tough times. Something as small as enjoying a moment that make you smile right now.
The film will be released with the City of Rockingham’s grand opening of the mural at the end of the month. I’ll be sure to share it with you on our website once it releases.
Rest assured we will be releasing a new Home Grow'n episode soon.