Documentary, Female Directors, Female Filmmakers, Women in Film

Still Mountain goes into production

27th March 2019

Still Mountain is a new documentary from Big Buddha Films


Story outline

Irene set up Still Mountain, a ranch on the outskirts of Sheffield over many years with her Amish husband, Chris. They imported ‘cowboy’ horses from the USA and lived an Amish lifestyle, off grid, in their log cabin surrounded by wildlife. When Chris died of cancer three years ago, Irene was left alone, getting older, almost deaf and with no one to help her run the place. Her husband had managed most of her affairs in their very traditional marriage. She had no idea about the general running of things. The cost of maintaining the land and horses is huge and she is sinking further into trouble trying to survive and keep all the horses alive. Today, Still Mountain is no longer a viable business and has fallen into disrepair.

Luckily for Irene, a neighbour Alison, a retired university researcher, has been trying to help Irene find ways of making Still Mountain viable again. She has stabled her own horse on Irene’s land and is helping to maintain the place since Chris died. But there is way too much work for the two of them and nowhere near enough income to adequately look after the horses, some of whom are getting old and sick. So several months ago, sinking under the weight of it all, Alison placed an ad for help.

Steven is an ex cocaine addict from Newcastle with an extremely troubled past. Newly released from his latest stint in prison and in a perilous state, he was admitted to Phoenix House, a rehab centre in Sheffield. He has undergone an intense program of recovery. A friend told him about Alison’s ad in a pet shop that was looking for volunteers to help out at Still Mountain. Having always loved horses, Steven responded and Alison arranged for him to come and help. Steven quickly fell in love with the place and now comes every day. His connection with the horses is incredible. There is an unmistakable bond between them, a natural affinity. In addition to this, a close friendship triangle and deep dependency has evolved between Steven, Alison and Irene.

Steven hasn’t used drugs in over 18 months now and he swears the horses and Still Mountain have saved his life. He says for once he has a purpose, is needed and appreciated. He is relishing the opportunity to give back and help others after the chaos, sorrow and destruction he has created in the past.


As well as Steven, other recovering addicts from Phoenix House signed up to volunteer at the ranch, coming once or twice a week.

A few months ago, Alison discovered a horseman named Joe who trained in the America. He devotes his life to teaching both human and horse to develop a partnership. Joe visits Still Mountain weekly. Over the next few months he is planning to train Steven to ride ‘western’ and take part in competitions. Steven is currently doing the groundwork, using a technique called ‘The Feel’ building up to his first riding lesson. But this comes at a cost, so they are looking at ways to fund Steven’s training.


All of this is now in jeopardy. Still Mountain is in serious danger of being shut down due to the surrounding neighbours petitioning Sheffield City Council to get Irene off the land. They see the ranch and it’s motley crew as a blot on the landscape. There are huge class issues at play here.

So the Still Mountain community is now fighting hard to try and save Irene’s home, horses and the very essence of Steven’s world, the key to his continued recovery and healing. If the council closes the ranch, Irene will be made homeless and ten old, but much loved horses will have to be put down. This is having a huge impact on Irene’s mental health and she says that she often thinks of suicide. The only thing keeping her going are her horses and her new found community with Steven and Alison.


During the coming months we will see if the fight with the council is successful. What will become of Irene and Steven if they close Still Mountain down? They must do all they can to raise the stakes for the place, bringing in as much new business as they can. They have all kinds of creative plans for the place. This has to succeed. Their very lives depend upon it.

The Creative Team

Still Mountain will be Directed by Debbie Howard, Produced by Colin Pons. It is a co production between Big Buddha Films, Studio of the North and Sheffield Hallam University.


No bride, no groom, I do: Montana’s proxy weddings on film

23rd April 2018

Read about our new documentary, Absent From Our Own Wedding in The Guardian

US state allows marriages in which neither party is actually there, explored in documentary Absent from Our Own Wedding.


For some nervous betrothed couples a proxy marriage might sound too good to be true: if there really were such an easy way to avoid the stress and fuss of a wedding ceremony, surely everyone would do it?

But marriages in which neither the bride nor groom are present happen all the time, and not only in countries with very different customs and laws to Britain.

The award-winning British documentary maker and former actor Debbie Howard recently released the first film about a US duo who run a thriving proxy marriage business from their rural home in Flathead county, Montana.

Her film Absent from Our Own Wedding tells the remarkable story of the retired husband and wife team Tom and Teresa Kennedy, who conduct about 500 weddings a year for a fee of $750 (£530), without ever meeting a blushing bride or a gallant groom.

Montana is the only US state where double proxy weddings are legal and the Kennedys believe their business, Armed Forces Proxy Marriages, offers a useful service to couples who cannot arrange to be together on their big day.

Tom Kennedy said: “I stumbled on this law and now we just love doing it and we want to carry on. We are not doing it for the money. We are fine, because Teresa was a stockbroker and I worked in public service for around 25 years, including a long time in the fire department.”

The obscure Montana law dates back to the 1860s, Tom explained, and was initially a way to help out male miners. “All the women were on the east coast and it was not seen as proper to bring them to tough all-male mining communities to get married,” he said.

Teresa, 56, regularly stands in for either the bride or the groom, who can be same-sex, while a colleague steps up to play their intended. Tom will often conduct the ceremony.

In the past double, proxy marriage was possible in Montana for anyone who applied from anywhere in the world, but 10 years ago the law was changed. Now one of the two getting married must be a resident of Montana – or on active duty in the armed services.

“Outside of Montana very few people have heard of this,” said Tom, 66. “It is very obscure and even federal officials know nothing about it. The fact is, in Montana you do not even need to be a magistrate or a judge to marry people. You just have to appear to be of sound mind to those who are present at the time. You could even marry yourselves.”

Howard’s documentary, made by Big Buddha Films, was shot in Montana last year and is now showing as part of the Real Stories strand on YouTube.


Award, Award of Excellence, Big Buddha Films, Debbie Howard, Documentary, Female Directors, Female Filmmakers, Film Festivals, filmmaking, Impact Docs Award, Press, Still Loved

Still Loved documentary Wins ‘Award of Excellence’ in Impact DOCS Awards Competition

28th July 2017

Still Loved documentary Wins ‘Award of Excellence’ in Impact DOCS Awards Competition

Sheffield based Debbie Howard of Big Buddha Films has won a prestigious Award of Excellence, from The Impact DOCS Awards Competition. The award was given for Debbie Howard’s compelling documentary Still Loved, which explores the complexity and reality for families surviving baby loss. Giving an unexpected voice to bereaved fathers, who speak candidly for the first time providing an additional perspective to that offered by mothers, grandparents and siblings. This is a brave, inclusive and ultimately life affirming film, for anyone that has ever, or will ever, lose someone they love.

Watch the trailer

“We are thrilled to receive this award. Still Loved has been an incredibly challenging film to make due to the stigma and taboo surrounding stillbirth. Our team have worked passionately on this film for three years working closely with the seven families featured in the film. After being told many times not to make this film and that there is no audience for it, we released the film into cinemas last year to packed houses and many sold out screenings. We received fantastic reviews in the press and receiving this award is a great endorsement for us. Unless people see this film, attitudes towards baby loss won’t change, and it desperately needs to. We hope now that one of the national television channels will be courageous enough to broadcast this film so that it reaches a wider audience and breaks the silence around baby loss, which affects thousands of families every year. Thanks so much for this incredible award.”  – Director, Debbie Howard.

Ways to watch Still Loved


★★★★ The Guardian  “Remarkable Candour”
★★★★★ Vulture Hound  “Vital viewing”

Impact DOCS recognizes film, television, videography and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Documentaries were received from 30 countries, including veteran award winning filmmakers and fresh new talent.  Entries were judged by highly qualified and award winning professionals in the film and television industry.

In winning an Impact DOCS award, Big Buddha Films joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award including the Oscar winning director Louie Psihoyos for his 2016 Best of Show – Racing Extinction, Oscar winner Yael Melamede for (Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies, and Emmy Award winner Gerald Rafshoon for Endless Corridors narrated by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, and many more.

Rick Prickett, who chairs Impact DOCS, had this to say about the latest winners,The judges and I were simply blown away by the variety and immensely important documentaries we screened. Impact DOCS is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world from powerhouse companies to remarkable new talent. Impact DOCS helps set the standard for craft and creativity as well as power catalysts for global change. The goal of Impact DOCS is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve for their dedication and work.”

For more information about Still Loved
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For more information about Big Buddha Films
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New documentary goes into production – Editor needed

26th July 2017

Our new mid length, upbeat documentary, Absent From Our Own Wedding, goes into production in a couple of weeks.

The film will be Directed and Produced by Debbie Howard, Exec Produced by Gillian Mosley of MediaLab UK and Commissioned and Exec Produced by Adam Gee at Little Dot for the Real Stories Digital Platform.

We are currently looking for an experienced documentary Editor available to two weeks in September. You will need your own edit suite, with FCP, Premiere or Avid. Ideally we are looking for someone based in Sheffied, Leeds, Manchester or Nottingham. This is a paid position. Please contact us with your CV and showreel at



Award, Best Documentary, Documentary, Feature Film, Female Directors, Female Filmmakers, Festivals, Film Festivals, filmmaking, Screenings, Still Loved, Women in Film

Still Loved wins Best Documentary award

24th July 2017

We’re delighted that Still Loved won the ‘Best Documentary’ award at High Peak Independent Film Festival this weekend. With tough competition from some other feature docs, we’re thrilled to have been honoured with this award, giving recognition to the film and also to stillbirth and baby loss.

Big thanks to Festival Director Nicole Pott and her team at HPIFF 2017 for their hard work and hospitality at this festival.



Dogwoof Pop Up Cinema – book a screening of Still Loved

11th July 2017

We’re delighted that Dogwoof, one of the premiere documentary Distributors is now hosting Still Loved on their pop-up cinema platform.

You can now book a group screening wherever you like. Suitable for Film societies, Film clubs, film nights, baby loss support groups, midwifery training groups and others.

It’s simple and easy to do.  Click here to find out more about how it works.

Make your booking.



filmmaking, Publicists, reviews, Screenings, Still Loved, Women in Film and TV

In the Spotlight – interview with Debbie Howard and Women in Film and TV UK

30th May 2017

On the 30th May, Women in Film and TV UK featured an interview with Director, Debbie Howard about the making of her feature documentary, Still Loved.


We all know that getting a film made is not easy. But once you’ve achieved that part, what about the Herculean effort needed to get it out into the world?

Over the last few years WFTV has been keeping a keen eye on the progress of Still Loved, the debut feature-length documentary from former WFTV mentee Debbie Howard (above centre). The film explores the complex reality for families surviving baby loss. It’s a brave and moving documentary but – because of its challenging subject matter – it’s not an easy sell.

Undeterred, Debbie has used a number of different strategies to build an audience for the film and make sure its important message does not go unheard. So WFTV decided to catch up with her shortly after Still Loved‘s DVD release to find out how she’s done it and what tips she would pass on to fellow-filmmakers trying to get their film seen.

“From the very beginning I was told repeatedly not to make this film. People said ‘There is no audience. People won’t watch it. It’s too sad.’”

You can read the full article on the WFTV UK website here.


Still Loved on DVD

30th May 2017

Still Loved is now available to buy on DVD. If you would like to order a copy of this critically acclaimed documentary, please visit the Still Loved shop.

  ★★★★ Remarkable candour‘  The Guardian 
 ★★★★★  ‘Vital Viewing’    Vulture Hound 



Documentary, Still Loved, Uncategorised

Still Loved special screening for MPs in House of Commons

14th March 2017

We’re delighted that there was a special screening of our documentary, Still Loved for MPs in the Houses of Parliament on the 13th March at 7pm.

Organised by Will Quince MP  of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss and Tony Perkins MP, who are working hard to raise awareness of babyloss and hope to help us get Still Loved out to as wide an audience as possible and on TV.

Big thanks to Will and Toby for organising this event and let’s hope it helps to break the silence around stillbirth and baby loss. Thank you very much to all the MPs that attended the screening.

Here are some feedback tweets:

Will Quince MP @willquince
Please ask your MP to join me in writing to the BBC Director General asking that the BBC screen the @StillLovedDoc documentary on #babyloss

Greg Mulholland @GregMulholland1
Tonight I joined @willquince & MPs to watch @StillLovedDoc, a deeply moving & remarkable film on #stillbirth #babyloss. Show it @bbctrust!

Will Quince MP @willquince
@MarcusInStroud @StillLovedDoc @BigBuddhaFilms it really is very special, moving personal accounts from very brave people.

Mark Durkan MP @markdurkan
Viewed powerful @StillLovedDoc on #babyloss by @BigBuddhaFilms in HoC tonight. Back @willquince call on BBC to rethink screening refusal.

Will Quince MP @willquince
I will be writing to the BBC Director General to encourage the BBC to show @StillLovedDoc and help break the silence on #babyloss, will you?

Gill Furniss MP @GillFurnissMP
Very moving film thanks @willquince

Will Quince MP @willquince
It was my pleasure to host a screening of the hugely moving and important film @StillLovedDoc by @BigBuddhaFilms tonight. BBC must show it.

Alice Jolly @JollyAlice
@GillFurnissMP @willquince A sincere thank you for your support of @StillLovedDoc @BigBuddhaFilms We need MPs to help us #endstillbirths

Child Bereavement UK @cbukhelp
Thank you @willquince for inviting us to the screening of @StillLovedDoc. A powerful and moving film looking at the impact of a baby’s death

Victoria Morgan @victoriaRM6
Off to see #StillLoved – being screened by the APPG on Baby Loss. Tissues at the ready. Thanks for arranging @willquince #endstillbirth

Will Quince MP @willquince
@StillLovedDoc my pleasure, we must get this film screened on the BBC. It really is beautiful and so moving. #notadryeyeinthehouse