Otterhayes has been in a strict lockdown over the past six months as a result of having vulnerable residents living there. Things have gone well with no Covid cases on site. This is good news given that the group home continues to be under scrutiny from the CQC. During the course of the lockdown I have been working on set items at home and have recently visited Otterhayes again in order to install those same items.
Having recently experienced the studio environment practically, it is evident that we would not be able to work in the studio for filming proper. The numbers would be 5 or 6 residents / actors plus the videographer and myself and possibly two outside actors which makes up to 10 people gathered in what would have to be an unventilated film studio. Not possible! If I or anyone was unknowingly shedding the virus then we would all be at risk of being infected. I and everyone involved have been waiting to see how things unfold with pandemic but, realistically, it will be well into 2021, before we could even contemplate filming again. This sadly means that we will not be able to finish the film. This is such a pity after all the painstaking and hard work that everyone has put into this project.
It is a great pity about this situation but practically we cannot continue to tread water until some indeterminate point in the future when it might be just possible to continue. The next best thing is that we produce a documentary about the project with the actors and as many other contributors included in the process as possible. We will then have this in place as a contingency and also the graphic novel of the story to give to those involved.
The managers now want the residents to safely connect with the world at large again and I negotiated a start date at the beginning of September. It has been good to see everyone and also to get my head around the ‘new normal’ of working safely. For the last two weeks I have been working with one small group at a time in socially distanced and safe ways. During the first week I passed on that we could not continue the film which was disappointing for everyone but the actors took it on-board reasonably easily and everyone was up for doing some interviews. So, the current plan is that Simon, our videographer, will begin some filmed interviews on the film set with a few actors at a time and with the doors open to give some ventilation.
Everyone feels sad at having to let the project go after five years work. We keep needing to remind ourselves that none of what has occurred is anyone’s fault and that we have all done well as an ensemble. We have some of the brilliant-ist, nicest people on board and the group themselves have been excellent through-out.
Everyone involved has taken the trouble to engage and create good relationships with the actors which has been valuable for all concerned. It is just a pity that we did not create the end product of our planned film! There is no doubt that at some point a group of people with learning difficulties somewhere will release an original film which they have had a hand in creating for themselves. And why not? Hopefully we have made our mark and have affected the residents’ lives in a good way. It has been an ambitious project but we have also had a huge amount of fun! The next stage is to create our documentary – watch this space!