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.

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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

Documentary, Festivals, Film Festivals, Screenings, Still Loved

Still Loved at i Docs in Beijing, China

27th November 2016

Written by Debbie Howard.

Still Loved was invited to screen at i Docs International Documentary Forum in Beijing, China on Tuesday 15th November 2016 by festival Director Cherelle Zheng.

It was with enormous excitement that I travelled to China on 13th November, leaving straight from Cork Film Festival in Ireland where Still Loved had screened the night before.

After a long flight I was greeted at the airport by one of the volunteers from the festival and taken to the hotel in a traditional hotong of old style Beijing. I had already missed the first few days of the festival, due to the screening in Cork Film Festival, and was jet lagged and exhausted on arrival. After a quick nap I met up with one of the other filmmakers who was in the hotel, Karen Guthrie Who’s film The Closer We Get was screening that night. It was great to meet Karen and she escorted me down to the Beijing Film Academy to meet the team and all the other film makers from around the world.

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A beautiful banquet had been arranged for everyone at a nearby restaurant. What an incredible first night treat this was, with exceptional food and great company. After that I went to see The Closer We Get, a moving, beautiful film about her family secret that was both funny and sad and wonderful.The following night was the screening of Still Loved. Nothing could have prepared me for this experience. Over 1000 people turned up to see Still Loved, crowded into the packed cinema, it was quite an experience! Watching the film subtitled into Mandarin and listening to the reaction of such a large audience was very moving.

The Q&A afterwards was an experience I will never forget. A Q&A with so many people is quite complicated, especially with a translator and language issues. This lasted about 15 minutes because the next day was a much more in depth discussion about the film in a two hour masterclass. After the screening, several people waiting behind for me to sign their tickets as memorabilia.  The following day the masterclass I gave was hosted by Melanie Ansley Of China Hollywood. A filmmaker from LA that works in both the US and China. This was an extensive discussion about the making of the film and gave hundreds of people the opportunity to ask more in depth questions, again via two translators and also Melanie was able to clear up any misunderstandings that were still confusing.

​Still Loved was very well received, but it was very interesting screening to this audience with such a difficult cultural frame of reference. Some people had said how much they had cried in the film, others were very angry and others confused. For a culture that until recently had a one child only policy, termination is common here and especially the termination of girls. So I was told that they don’t really bond with the baby until it is born, and that a baby that has died would not be considered a human being. So it must have been quite hard for them to understand the feelings of the families in the film.

This was not the case for everyone though. Some people were clearly very moved and it maybe brought up feelings about their own terminations that they had chosen not to give much thought to until now.

Many people stayed behind to ask personal questions after the masterclass had finished. Someone told me her friend had recently had a stillbirth and asked how best to support her. There were many personal questions and I could see that for some the film had really moved them, and for others they were angry, but this was also useful I thought because it had opened up a debate and started a thought process, which is always the beginning of change.

We had an expression of interest from a Chinese documentary distributor who is very interested in buying the film for a Chinese audience. We’ll be passing this onto our international sales agent CatnDocs.

It was a complicated and difficult experience, but one that I very much am delighted to have had the chance to have. One indeed, that I will never forget.

I then enjoyed several more days of films and masterclasses from the other filmmakers.

 
I’d like to say an enormous thank you to Cherelle, Lulu and Candice and everyone at i Docs for inviting us. It was wonderful to meet them and all the other filmmakers from around the world. What an incredible experience China has been and I’m thrilled that so many people came to see Still Loved there.

Once the festival ended I stayed on for a few more days getting the most out of my opportunity to be in China. I packed in as much as I could visiting the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, Houhai Lakes, Tiananmen Square, The Lama Temple and exploring the hotongs and markets.

Still Loved is now available on Vimeo on Demand. You can watch it HERE

Documentary, Festivals, Film Festivals, Screenings, Still Loved

Still Loved at Cork Film Festival, Ireland

27th November 2016

Written by Debbie Howard.

Cinema, Documentary, Female Directors, Press, Publicists, Release, Screenings, Still Loved

Still Loved documentary on tour

27th November 2016
Written by Debbie Howard.

I’ve just completed the Still Loved Tour and I’m writing this blog to let you know my thoughts and how it all went and give some useful tips and advice to independent filmmakers out there who are self distributing their own films. We have an international Sales Agent, CatnDocs, but we split rights with them right at the beginning so we could do the UK ourselves. So this relates to our UK release only.Throughout the making of this film we’ve been told there is no audience. No one will want to watch this film. I always knew that was wrong, but the tour has proved that, which makes me very happy.

As this is the first time I have released a feature length documentary, I learned a huge amount along the way. Firstly,  how important it is to have a budget for your release. Because we struggled financially to complete Still Loved we had completely run out of money for this part of the process. So make sure you budget for your release. Luckily, we were given a grant of £10,000 from a very helpful charity called the Jessica Mathers Trust, due to the subject matter of the film. Without this, we couldn’t have done this, so my thanks goes out to them.  £10,000 may seem a lot, but there is so much to pay for to get a film out there.

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Firstly, we hired a booker, Martin Myers of Miracle Communications, who we met when we attended the incredibly useful Distribution Rewired at Edinburgh Film Festival in June. Distribution Rewired is all about self distribution and new ways of doing this. Ran by the wonderful Beatrice Neumann. I would highly recommend attending for great ideas and advice. Martin is very experienced at booking films into cinemas and has great contacts. He watched Still Loved and really liked the film so agreed to come on board and help us get the film into cinemas. Next we hired a team of publicists to use their skills and expertise to help us get some good press for the film. We worked with Multitude Media. I had met Will Wood at Distribution Rewired the year before and he had expressed an interest in the film, so I got back in touch and he agreed to come on board to help us. We worked with his team, mainly Emily Brazee, and also Amy Melson and Lucy Miller too.

It was vital to us to release the film in October, during baby loss awareness month, with an emphasis on the 15th October, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. We knew this would give us maximum opportunities for press and publicity.

The wonderful Tommy’s Baby Charity also offered their help and supporting during the release of the film, and we worked with Hannah Blake and Siobhan Gray who did so much to help us spread the word.

Multitude Media, Martin Myers, Hannah and I all met together in London in September to discuss a strategy and who would do what. I told them all I knew and linked them up to all the baby loss support groups and we all shared our contacts, knowledge and expertise to maximise our efforts in making as big a splash as we could with the film.

After the meeting Tommy’s shared lot’s of information about the film in their news letters and I wrote some blogs for them. Multitude prepared their press release and started to send this out to various newspapers, magazines, radio shows and television companies. Martin got to work on booking us into cinemas and I did all I can to contact everyone I could think of to help us.

Things were slow to start. Over the next few weeks we had an incredibly disappointing response from cinemas, who, as usual with this subject matter of stillbirth, shied away from screening Still Loved. Some sent a one line email saying things like: “There is no interest in this subject matter” which really annoyed me. I wrote a lot of emails back telling them why they were wrong. This changed things with some cinemas, but not others. Unfortunately, only 5 cinemas were brave enough to book the film directly. There were a couple of others that were interested but couldn’t program us until next year. We wanted to strike while we had our publicists on board so needed to make sure as many of them were in October as possible. The cinemas that booked us directly were Sheffield Showroom, Nottingham Broadway, London Picturehouse Central, Belfast Queen’s Theatre and Derby Quad. Big thanks to all of those cinemas for being brave enough to take a risk on the film.

 

Another company I had  met at Distribution Rewired were Ourscreen. This was an interesting new model where you book the cinema directly through them, and you have to sell a certain amount of tickets before a deadline. If you don’t sell them the screening gets cancelled. If you do sell them, it gets confirmed and goes ahead. We decided to book a lot of screenings through them as 5 cinemas weren’t enough for our tour. Working with Ourscreen was difficult at first, because no one really wants to buy a cinema ticket 4 or 6 weeks before a screening and trying to convince people was very difficult, so I wasn’t sure at first this was going to work.

Some of the cinemas only needed you to sell around 25 – 30 tickets. Others were much higher and one, Cardiff Vue required 97 tickets to be sold in advance, a crazy amount! So I pretty much lived on social media for the next few weeks, tweeting, facebooking, contacting as many useful organisations as possible to let them know about the screenings. Let me tell you one thing about Ourscreen: If you just book a cinema and leave it at that, nothing will happen. It will be cancelled. Expect to do an enormous amount of work promoting the screenings. For anyone that’s ran a successful crowdfunding campaign, it’s similar and as much hard work.

During this time we had a massive problem with the DCP (Digital Cinema Print) not being formatted properly and we had to keep having it remade to the right format for various cinemas. This swallowed up a big chunk of the budget that we were hoping to keep to be able to cover the 6 weeks I had to take off paid work to do the tour. The money was disappearing fast.

We also had to get the film classified at BBfc which again, which again is very expensive. You also have to have it classified for DVD and VOD as well. Note that if you can work with a charity and go through them, you can get a much lower rate. Tommy’s very kindly let us do this through them which saved us quite a chunk of money. So depending on the subject of your film, this could be an option for you.

We then had to re design the poster and flyers and get those printed. The budget was dwindling fast.

We started to see some success with Ourscreen and many of the screenings started to get confirmed, which was fantastic. Multitude Media were working wonders with press by this point and we had started to get some fantastic national press and reviews, and some local press to for individual screenings. All of a sudden, after a terrible start, things started to go crazy! The tour started and our World Premiere was at AMC Cinema in Manchester. The next few weeks were a whirlwind of dashing up and down the country, doing press interviews, radio shows and screenings followed by Q&A’s.

We redesigned the poster once some of the reviews came in. I was delighted that we got a four star review in the Guardian and many other highly acclaimed reviews and articles in the Observer, Little White Lies, The Lancet, The Mirror and others. You can read these on our website if you look through our previous blogs, they are all listed.

 

“There is no interest in the subject”. Those words kept ringing in my ears. I’m delighted to say that we totally proved those programmers wrong.  We sold out at many of our screenings and often had to be moved to bigger screens to accommodate the audience. The ones that weren’t sold out were extremely well attended. We even managed to pull off Cardiff, with the 97 pre sold tickets, which was fantastic. Ourscreen works incredibly well for a film of this kind, where you know there is an audience, but the gatekeepers won’t let you in. As long as you’re prepared to put the work in, it’s a great way to get your film into cinemas.

At every screening we had a Q&A afterwards. This was enormously important I felt. We always had an panel consisting of either one or more of the parents from the film, or a bereaved parent from the local area, baby loss befrienders or support workers from Tommy’s, Sands or Our Angels, or a bereavement midwife, sometimes senior consultants like Alexander Heazell from Tommy’s, myselt and sometimes our Producers Polly Perkins or Colin Pons. We had different Chair people leading the discussion at each screening. This led to some very interesting questions and discussion after the film and some of the Q&A’s went on for up to an hour.

 

 

I was absolutely delighted with the response from the audiences as well as the reviews from the press. At every screening we gave out feedback forms and asked the audience to rate the film out of five stars and also give us anonymous or named feedback. We now have an incredibly huge pile of feedback forms from all the screenings. Not one of them is less than four stars and most are five. We had overwhelmingly fantastic feedback. At our screening in Manchester one member of the audience started a petition to get Still Loved on national TV. That petition is now at almost 12,000 signatures. You can add yours here

We found that our audience was made up of many people that had been affected by the loss of a baby either directly, or someone close to them. Whilst we had expected this, we hadn’t anticipated how many of them found the film to be incredibly positive and we had some wonderful comments, especially from the recently bereaved as to how the film had helped them to feel normal again and see that there is hope for the future.

What we hadn’t expected was the great quantity of midwives, student midwives, doctors and other health care professionals that came along, and how exceptionally useful they found the film. We also had funeral directors and bereavement councillors, as well as filmmakers and members of the general public. It was fantastic to hear the feedback from health care professionals as to how helpful the film had been and how it would inform their practice in the future. This couldn’t be better news as they are the ones on the front line, and this could potentially help to save babies lives in the future.

 

 

During the tour we had completely run out of money so didn’t have enough to even cover my time, as I had to take several weeks off any other kind of work to do the tour. We kept a Just Giving campaign running throughout the tour where people could donate on line and at the end of each screening we put a pot out for donations from the audience and people were generous. This covered my travel and food etc, which was very helpful. It wasn’t good to have to do this, but we didn’t have much choice. This is low budget filmmaking indeed!We are now getting enormous demand for the film to be used for training purposes and getting requests for additional screenings in universities and support services. We got an incredible two page review in The Lancet the bible for health care professionals, so this is wonderful.

As the tour drew to an end other cinemas started to contact us to book screenings for next year which is great and other people started to create their own screenings on Ourscreen. Not all of these have come off, due to the hard work it takes to do this, but some of these have already been confirmed.

At the end of the tour we screened at our first two film festivals, Cork Film Festival in Ireland and iDocs in Beijing China where we screened to over 1000 people! These were incredible experiences in their own right and you can read the blogs on links above.

 

We’re still hoping for a TV broadcast now we have evidence there is a big audience for our film and how many people want to see it. In the meantime, it’s now available in the UK on Vimeo on Demand. You can watch the film here

We’ll be writing to TV commissioners again and sending them facts and figures as well as reviews now the tour is over. We’re working hard to make the film available to health care professionals and others as widely as we can next year but need to raise more funding to enable us to do this. We also want to subtitle the film into several languages to make available in other countries.

I’m absolutely thrilled at the response to the film and couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I’d like to thank every single person that came out to see the film, the families in the film and all those that took part in the panel, our booker, publicists Multitude Media, Tommy’s, Sands, Our Angels, the cinemas that booked us, Ourscreen, Distribution Rewired, the Still Loved team, the journalists that covered the film and gave us great reviews, the Jessica Mathers Trust and everyone that donated to our Just Giving recently to help us fund the tour, and all those that have supported us previously and helped us get this far and anyone that has supported us in many others ways.  ​

I hope some of this information might be useful for anyone self distributing for the first time. Good luck!

Written by Director/Producer Debbie Howard.

Documentary, Female Directors, filmmaking, Press, Publicists, Release, reviews, Screenings, Still Loved

Little White Lies article about Still Loved

5th November 2016

A brave new film gives a voice to the families of stillborn babies

Documentary Still Loved uncovers stories of love, hope and courage.

Why is stillbirth such a conversation stopper in a society that sees 7,000 babies born dead every day? That’s the question posed in a vital new feature documentary called Still Loved, which investigates the meagre support system provided to the families affected by this issue, giving them a much-needed voice.

Three years in the making, the film begins with a candle-lit vigil on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day commemorating these children, attended by the parents and siblings who have experienced the tragedy of stillbirth. Comprising interviews that expose the emptiness and loneliness that these parents felt following their heartbreaking ordeals, director Debbie Howard seeks to offset the deafening silence that characterises their experiences. By doing so, she reveals a shocking negligence of support both professionally and personally over a topic stigmatised by what the stiff upper-lip’s of this world dub embarrassing emotionality.

Still Loved demonstrates that the physical loss of a baby is not considered in conjunction with the mental support these parents urgently need in order to cope with the passing of a child they’d created, developed a relationship with, and who had died in the hours it was anticipated that he or she would be welcomed into the world. More than a lack of closure, there is a distinct lack of compassion for the unexpected and often sudden news that their baby won’t survive, even down to definitions. One woman’s birth was signed off as an abortion, another as a stillbirth when medical negligence was the true culprit.

Hope, however, prevails, as it follows the families in their recovery, documenting the different coping mechanisms they individually apply. One starts a charity, one chairs a charity, one refuses to have another child. The process of moving on is hard, but we witness that too, as the families continue to honour their offspring’s memory. In a time of celebrating an exciting new hello, stillbirth is a poignant, shattering goodbye, and Still Loved rights a wrong in educating audiences on the importance of treating the subject with the action and compassion it deserves.

Still Loved is in cinemas across the UK now. Visit stilllovedfilm.com/screenings to find out where the film is showing near you.

Watch trailer here:

Cinema, Documentary, Female Directors, filmmaking, Press, Release, reviews, Screenings, Still Loved

The Guardian Review for Still Loved – 4 Stars – “Remarkable Candour”

28th October 2016

Still Loved review – parental resilience and candour in the face of stillbirth

4 stars

Debbie Howard’s documentary, released for Baby Loss Awareness week, traces the arc from horror to acceptance, in interviews with bereaved parents

a still from Still Loved
Potential for consolation? An image from Still Loved

 Read in The Guardian HERE
Cinema, Documentary, Female Directors, filmmaking, Press, Release, reviews, Screenings, Still Loved

Still Loved article in The Observer

28th October 2016

Untold grief: the heartbreaking impact of stillbirth is revealed in new documentary

Families talk about love, hope and courage in surviving the loss of a baby in a film to be screened in cinemas this month
Lou Evans and her son visit the Sands baby memorial garden in Derby
Lou Evans and her son visit the Sands baby memorial garden in Derby. Photograph: Still Life

Still Loved, the first feature-length film to tackle the issue, will be screened at selected cinemas throughout the UK in October. Its director, Debbie Howard, hopes that the film will not only speak to those who have suffered a loss but strip away some of society’s preconceptions about how we deal with these deaths.

“I had two different friends who lost babies and I was really affected by the profound effect it had on them,” she says. “Initially, I made a short fictional film on the subject but as I did the research and spoke to families I realised there was so much to say that it would be better as a documentary. I knew the subject matter was challenging but I felt very passionately about giving parents a voice.”

Shot over three years, the often harrowing but ultimately hopeful documentary follows a handful of parents as they discuss their experiences with an at times brutal candour, laying bare both how it feels to be told that your child has died and, crucially, how and if you can find your way back to some semblance of normality. There are scenes of despair but also of bittersweet joy as families remember their babies in moving ceremonies or conceive again.

“One of the things no one ever says about stillbirth is how it affects every area of your life,” says Mel Scott, an occupational therapist from Somerset whose baby, Finley, died during labour. “I felt really isolated after Finley died. My husband had to go back to work and I was on maternity leave but with no baby.”

Making it worse was the assumption that the grief would soon pass. “It makes me cross when people say grief has a time and you should get over it,” she says. “Life might get bigger and brighter around the pain but it’s still there.”

Lou Evans, a physiotherapist from Derbyshire, agrees. “When Lauren died I wanted the whole world to know how much pain I was inand how much I continued to be in even as the years passed,” she says. “A lot of my friends and even my husband, Matt, couldn’t always understand that. They didn’t see why the time I spent at Lauren’s grave or working with the local branch of [stillbirth charity] Sandswas therapeutic. I do think people sometimes wanted me to be quiet.”

That opinion – that those who have experienced stillbirth should grieve in silence – is still common, and Howard believes it is why she initially struggled to get the film off the ground.

“I had one very established documentary maker tell me I absolutely think this film should be made but nobody will want to show it and nobody will watch it,” she says. “It was even tough getting the cinemas on board – they would say there’s no interest, and I’d get quite annoyed and write back saying how do you know that? I didn’t think it was true.”

Michelle Hemmington, whose son, Louie, died as a result of medical negligence, believes that Howard has got the balance between honest and hopeful just right. “The film’s strength is that it isn’t overly sad,” she says. “The subject is difficult but the emotions are positive.”

The film is similarly strong in its depiction of fathers, who are often ignored in the rush to ensure that the mother is cared for. “One of the big problems is that there isn’t really anything for dads,” says Matt Grove, who admits he struggled on returning to work as a police officer. “After Ben died I went for counselling, and people were almost surprised that there was a dad there.”

Grove hopes Still Loved will reach a wide audience. “If people take one thing away it is that they should always check the baby’s movement and not worry about bothering the doctors if they feel something is wrong,” he says. “If this film manages to save lives, it will be worth it.”

Still Loved is being screened as part of International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

 

Documentary, Female Directors, filmmaking, Press, Release, Screenings, Still Loved

Televisual blog about Still Loved

28th October 2016

Director Debbie Howard on shooting her first feature doc, Still Loved

Blog
20 October 2016

I set up Big Buddha Films ten years ago and have made many short films, both fiction and documentary. My latest short film, Peekaboo, was about stillbirth. When I finished it I knew I wanted to make a feature documentary about baby loss as it was something I had become very passionate about. So I started work on Still Loved.

I now realise the enormity of that decision. For a first time feature documentary maker to make a film about one of the society’s biggest taboos was no small task. There is so much stigma around baby loss. No wants to talk about it even though one in four pregnancies end in a loss. We dealt with closed doors from the industry all along the way. We were continuously told, “There is no interest in this subject.” This shocked me. I think the point of documentaries is to educate and challenge attitudes, to make change. But I didn’t give up.

Four years later and we are now releasing Still Loved into cinemas across the UK in October, during Baby Loss Awareness Month. We have a Distributor onboard CatnDocs and we screen at our first two film festivals in November. We have made a powerful, sensitive, thought-provoking film that I am very proud of.

We shot Still Loved over 3 years working closely with seven families. Most of the film was shot on a Sony PMW 200. Our DoP, Emma Dalesman did an incredible job. For scenes that needed a certain look we used a Canon C300 with sliders and macro lenses and a Sony FS7. We also used a drone and Go Pro’s and some of the contributors also self shot on small video cameras and phones for a much more personal feel.

We filmed close-up intimate shots of the babies items on motion control with Charlie Paul at Itch Studio. They specialise in working with documentary filmmakers and have a truly creative approach to examining and treating memorabilia, photos, archive film and materials in an innovative way to tailor a unique style for each of the films they work on.  Charlie used a DSLR camera with long focal length macro lenses mounted on the rig. He shot high resolution time-lapse sequences which allowed us to move the camera at exceptionally slow speeds with shallow depth of field and long exposure shutter speeds.

Still Loved was beautifully edited by Joby Gee and the Supervising Sound Editor was George Foulgham. Post production was completed at Molinare, London.

http://www.stilllovedfilm.com
@StillLovedDoc / @BigBuddhaFilms