Featured image credit: Paul Sullivan
We talk to Paul Sullivan about WOVEN THREADS - STORIES WITHIN.
What inspired you to create this production?
We realized that we had the ability to share stories in a unique way about issues that people often don't discuss after the success of our first series on Refugees. Whilst making the first series, our director Michi Marosszeky, had first hand experience with her daughter Olive who was suffering severe Mental Ill Health. It was during this time that Michi decided we could do a series on Mental Health, as she felt quite isolated in her personal experience and wanted others to know they weren't alone. Mental Health doesn't have any boundaries and someone you know, or will know will experience it at some point in their life. Breaking down the stigma surrounding this topic is incredibly important and at Woven Threads we are happy to become part of the solution for happier outcomes within the Mental Health sphere. We began the process by meeting with Mental Health experts and thus partnered with Black Dog Institute who came on board to make sure that our stories we safe for viewers to watch, and appropriate for the education system.
What challenges did you face in creating this production?
Whilst working on this series we experienced as did the rest of the world, the COVID epidemic, and were able to continue working through it and make sure that our stories were heard. Exploring and researching the stories that we wanted to tell, resulted in us realizing just how many people are suffering and alone with their own experiences. Understanding other's life journeys became a part of our experience, and it wasn't always easy to hear some of the difficult things that have happened to people in their lives. Selecting a small part of their story was particularly hard for Michi the director because she often wanted to share much more, but the editing process, although difficult, was integral to making sure that an honest account of people's Mental Health journey was told.
What are you hoping audiences will take away from watching this film?
Each series of Woven Threads is comprised of eight animated episodes dedicated to telling stories of our shared humanity. In these five-minute episodes, these human stories come to life in beautiful and powerful animations, designed to elicit empathy and understanding. It is the human and not the experience that is central. We believe empathy is the key to understanding and understanding is the key to accelerating change.
After creating series one, we were excited to take our filmmaking to another level. Not only are we creating entertainment, but our films are also being used for educational materials. We have started to work with Clickview who will distribute this Mental Health series into all forms of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education. We have started working with Black Dog institute who are starting to do research on our series so that we can have tangible evidence that supports the outcomes we are hoping to achieve by doing this work. We want audiences to come away from watching an episode and recognize elements of themselves or somebody else who may need help. It is our hope that this can start a conversation and lead to early intervention with people who may be experiencing Mental Health issues but not quite understand what is happening to them.
Our key successes listed here don’t include the numerous Festival acceptances and wins or the AACTA nomination we received in 2019:
• Primary/Secondary/Tertiary Education - reached in excess of two million students and is increasing every quarter;
• 18-35 Market through Pedestrian TV, which reaches more than 4 million Australians each month;
• ABC iVIEW achieves 1.3 million views weekly across the 18-35, plus older demographics
• SBS screening series one and two, 6 million views a week
Woven Threads also had the distinct honor of screening Episode 1 of Woven Threads: Stories from Within as the short film before the feature presentation at the Disney+ Open air cinema screenings across Australia during the 2020/21 Summer period. This was an amazing experience to collaborate with Disney, and we are pleased it will occur again for the 2021/22 Summer holidays. The Disney + Open Air Cinemas reached upwards of 500K people across multiple screenings in NSW/VIC/QLD aged from 5 - 65.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring documentary filmmakers?
No matter how hard things are, if you believe in what you're doing then never give up, and always keep your mind on a higher image, rather than a lower concern.