Clearing 2021
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Theatre Arts alumni win award for lockdown drama

  • Date

    Thu 4 Mar 21

A short film, written and directed by East 15 Theatre Arts students during lockdown, has won a national award.

Happy Together, a 15 minute drama shot entirely on Zoom, charts the attempts of a married couple, Harold and Dot, to stay connected during an enforced separation. With Dot unwell and seeking medical treatment, the couple’s humour, and concern for each other, is mixed with frustration at the faltering technology.

The film was produced during the first national lockdown and is raising funds for Age UK. It has already enjoyed success, picking up an award at one film festival and being recognised at a further two.

We caught up with Director Oscar Hewitt and his co-Writer Ethan Booth.

What inspired you to make Happy Together?

Oscar: “I came across a post online that had gone viral of an elderly couple in Connecticut who were having to celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary through the window of a nursing home. I was so inspired by this touching story and it just made me realise how the older generation were struggling in ways I hadn't even imagined.”

You seem to have developed it very quickly. Was it an easy film to write?

Oscar: “We knew that this wasn't something that we could afford to be writing for months, or even years, it was a story that needed to be told right now. Once we had the characters down and knew their relationship in and out, the dialogue came quickly.”

Oscar and Ethan used their acting training to develop dialogues through improvisation.

Ethan: “Both Oscar and I know older generations who are living in lockdown and so we could draw from that.  We also made it a point to allow our actors to improvise if they felt our words did not reflect what they thought would be more genuine."

There are clearly challenges to making a film in lockdown. What were the main ones you faced?

Oscar: “The biggest challenge was that you can only work with what you've got. I knew I wanted to work with (actors) Geoff and Julie, which of course then meant that I had to work with Geoff and Julie's homes, outfits, internet, technology and the props that they had available to them.

Ethan: “At one point in the creative process we had a script where there were two timelines. One where Harold and Dot were young and meeting and growing closer, which contrasted with the modern day of them feeling far apart. Ultimately this would not have been possible and so we focused more on what was practical.”

Oscar: “Zoom certainly brought its own challenges and frustrations, with many different technical difficulties ruining takes, such as my WiFi dropping out, only to come back in at the end of a really emotional scene... for me to then have to tell the actors that I didn't get the take.”

At the end of the film, you ask people to donate. Who are you fundraising for?

Oscar: “Yes, so I'm raising money for AgeUK, but specifically the branch that covers Lincolnshire, as that is the region that I grew up in, and is also coincidentally where both of the actors are from. It just felt right to give back to our community and help the elderly who were struggling.”

Oscar and Ethan both completed East 15’s Certificate of HE Theatre Arts in summer 2020.

Did you enjoy your time at East 15?

Ethan: “I did enjoy my time at East15 greatly. I met Oscar and so many other creative minds.”

Oscar: “Studying on the foundation course at East 15 was the best year of my life to date. It was so refreshing and humanising to finally be somewhere where you're encouraged to explore and play and create, when my whole life I've been in an education system that purposefully tries to squeeze creatives into way too small a box. Being at East 15 and being surrounded with like-minded students, and also the incredible tutors that work there was such a relief. I'm really hoping to continue my training at East 15 on their BA Acting course.”

What are your plans for the future?

Oscar: “I'm currently writing a new film that focuses on mental health problems in younger men, addressing very relevant themes of isolation. All profits and any money raised will be going to the charity Mind.

Ethan: “I plan to continue writing as I’ve also managed to publish a book in lockdown. But my true passion has always been acting which is why I’m continuing to audition for drama schools (to be accepted onto a BA course). So who knows, perhaps I’ll be back at East 15 some day.”

Happy Together won the Best Short Film on the Global Pandemic category at the The London Arthouse Film Festival 2020. It was Runner Up in the Best Film (Audience Choice) category at the London Rocks Film Festival and received a Special Mention at the UK Seasonal Short Film Festival in Autumn 2020.

You can donate to Age UK at happytogether.link/donate