The horror of mental illness

For those of you expecting an update on the shooting of The Ditch, there’ll be an announcement soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to explore an issue which has been on my mind for some time but which has been brought into focus by recent events. As some readers may be aware, there has been controversy in the last 24 hours, because the UK supermarket chain Asda has been caught selling Halloween costumes labelled “mental patient costume”. There’s a screenshot below.

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As you can see, the costume consists of a tattered, bloodstained white coat, a plastic meat cleaver, and a mask which appears to have been modelled on Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame. It’s a genuinely unsettling costume and one which would probably be pretty effective if you caught someone unawares on a dark Halloween night. But even if your intention was just to create an edgy, slightly troubling but fun costume which would have people doing a double-take before laughing, it would be a crude but enjoyable product to wear. After all, it’s exactly the kind of thing you expect people to wear when they go out to a Halloween party, and it saves you from finding a lab coat and tearing it up before dropping half a bottle of ketchup over it, then wrapping some bandages (or, in an emergency, some toilet paper) around your head.

But the costume has caused outrage on Twitter. Now, I know you only have to sneeze to cause outrage on Twitter, and the medium has a tendency to attract the thin-skinned and easily provoked. Nevertheless, a Twitterstorm has erupted and Asda has withdrawn the costume from sale (no word, at the time of writing, of who the manufacturer is or whether they too have withdrawn the product). If you need the reason for this spelling out, it’s because of the product description – “mental patient fancy dress costume”. (There’s some evidence, incidentally, that the product was originally intended to be called a ‘zombie’ costume.) To be brief, people have objected to the association of the words “mental patient” with a dangerous, out of control, homicidal person who appears barely human.

I, too, find this offensive, and I’m glad the product has been withdrawn (although I think I would have been content if it had merely been re-titled). Why did I find it offensive? Because, like one-quarter of the population, I have suffered from mental health problems. In my case it was suicidal depression which reached its peak about 13 or 14 years ago and came close to threatening my life. I was put on anti-depressants (largely ineffective) and given a year’s free psychotherapy on the NHS (partially effective – the therapy, that is, not the NHS which is mostly wonderful). I’m not going to go into the details of my illness, except to say that I’ve come out the other side now and I feel much, much better than I did back then. Had it not been for the professionals, however, I might not be here today.

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Bloody weather…

Sadly we were beaten by the weather…

Last year we had the worst summer in living memory, but September was dry enough for us to get two consecutive days of shooting without any interruption. This year summer was fantastic, but September has ended up being unsettled and wet. Oh, the irony.

We’ve had to postpone the shoot. The forecast got worse throughout the week, and even now it looks like there’s no way we could have got everything we wanted on film. We can’t afford to go back to the location again, so we’ve decided to pull the plug for now and try to fix a new date for the rest of the shoot. We don’t yet know when that will be, but we’ll keep everyone posted. It may be we have to come up with a new way of getting this film finished…

Keep an eye on this blog, on our website, and on our Indiegogo page for updates on how we’re getting on.

One week to go, and the rain is falling…

It’s been quite a good summer, hasn’t it? Certainly in London we’ve had a pretty good few months – dry, sunny, warm, sometimes very warm. Often too hot for comfort, if truth be told. But let’s not complain, especially after last year’s washout.

Yes… last year. After a summer when it looked like the jet stream was going to bathe us in its gentle/stormy waters for the entire season, the weather unexpectedly improved towards the end of August and everything was dry for the two days of our shoot in September. This year, the summer has been (mostly) glorious and now, as the next shoot approaches… things are going downhill. As I write, the skies above are so grey it’s like someone took a dark pencil and scribbled all over the air. The rain has been falling (well, that’s what rain does, it doesn’t go any other way) in varying degrees of heaviness and, while the flowers are enjoying a respite from the recent baking heat, I’m sitting thinking I’m glad we weren’t shooting today. But I’m obsessing over forecasts, all of which are as much use at this stage as a cardboard gazebo, and which ALL SAY A DIFFERENT THING. It’s going to pour down on Friday. It’s going to pour down on Saturday. It’s going to pour down on Sunday. It’s not going to rain at all (thank you, BBC Weather, keep it up).

This had better be right.

This had better be right.

Obviously there’s no way of knowing what’s going to happen until we’ve turned up, set up, started rolling and sat back (what am I saying? You never sit back on set, there isn’t time). But we have to pack anoraks, umbrellas, covers, tarpaulins, tents, all kinds of wet weather gear – none of which might be used. But we have a lot to get through – this is only a short film, but it’s a sophisticated one with a lot of set-ups. The schedule is very tight already. We can’t afford any delay. There’ll be none of the cheery British, “never mind, it’ll stop in a few minutes, let’s go and sit in the car.” The sensitivity of a shoot like this to the rain is greater than a cricket match – not because of people being worried about getting wet (far from it, they’re a resilient bunch) but because of continuity. We can’t have Donna getting out of a dry car in one shot and then cut to her standing in front of a wet car.

So, dear reader, although you can have no influence over natural events at all, please help me – watch the skies!

(I see I wrote an almost identical post this time last year…)