Premiere for film about teenage life during a pandemic

  • Date

    Wed 29 Sep 21

A new documentary film, charting the experiences of four Essex teenagers as they prepared to return to school after the 2020 lockdown is being premiered at the Lakeside Theatre next week.

We’re In This Too was filmed over several weeks in the summer of 2020. Co-ordinated by Nic Blower, from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, the project gave the 14- and 15-year-olds the chance to reflect on how being away from school had affected them, and how it felt to be returning to the classroom.

Nic armed the teenagers with professional filming equipment and training so they could record video diaries in response to a direct call from Essex County Council to help gather data about the wellbeing of young people.

The film, which was edited by Dr Elena Dirstaru, is now being used by Essex County Council to inform and stimulate discussion about the future wellbeing of young people. In June it won the award for ‘Most engaging communication of local area research or analysis’ in the Local Area Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) Awards.

It will be screened at the Lakeside Theatre at 7.30pm on 7 October and will be followed a Q&A with Nic.

“This was a challenging project. Due to the restrictions in place I had to conduct all my research over zoom which was difficult when building trust. Also, all the camera training and filmmaking classes were delivered online which adds an extra layer of complexity,” said Nic. “Fortunately all the contributors and their families were understanding.”

The result is a moving documentary that gave voice to the teenagers as they navigated the pandemic. It has also highlighted the healing benefits of talking about the instability and uncertainty of the pandemic.

“Having a camera, and walking around, being able to record whatever I wanted. Now that is, it’s amazing,” said one of the teenagers. “You’re having a conversation with yourself, but you on the other side isn’t’ saying anything back, it’s just sitting there listening.”

Another said “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s helped. I actually can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s helped.”

Nic hopes the project will influence the way adults interact with young people: “I really hope that after watching this film people talk to the young people they know and simply listen to their experiences.”

The project builds on Nic’s previous work on collaborative filmmaking: “This approach forms part of my ongoing research into new methodologies for empowering people in the community without a voice. It is new because it takes the video diary and fuses it with a very cine-literate post YouTube generation (the young people).”

The multi-disciplinary project involved academics from the Department of Psychology, School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Science, Department of Language and Linguistics, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies and Department of Economics. It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account.