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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

Excellence-LOGO-Gold

★★★★ 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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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.

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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.

Deb WOL

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.

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

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

Standard Issue Magazine article about Still Loved

28th October 2016

Breaking the silence

Next week sees the release of Still Loved, a groundbreakingly honest documentary exploring baby loss. One of the parents in the film, Bethany Morris, shared her story with us.

All photos taken from Still Loved, courtesy of Big Buddha Films.

“It’s OK, you can have another one.”

Those were the words that are so often uttered by means of consolation to families who’ve lost a child or children during pregnancy. Perhaps before we lost our precious twins, Harriet and Felicity, I might have unwittingly used them myself, had I been faced with a situation of baby loss. But hearing those words not a week after our loss made me realise something. They made me realise that the loss of a baby is a lonely, desolate experience. Nobody seems to understand or dare to try.

If, like ours, a baby is lost before it is born, to most people that baby doesn’t seem real, as they didn’t know it as a person. They had not spent months planning a future for their bump, they hadn’t agonised over names, they hadn’t seen that baby come to life on an ultrasound screen, talked to the bump, felt it kick, played it music.

To them it was merely a bump, a bump that can be replaced. Funny, isn’t it: if someone’s brother, mother, friend died, you wouldn’t tell them it’s OK, you can have another, would you?

“One in four pregnancies results in a loss and every day just in the UK 10 families are devastated by stillbirth. We should not have felt so alone in our loss, but we did.”

After giving birth to my silent little girls, it was this loneliness that I found so hard. I couldn’t be with my friends anymore; I was scared to leave the house in case I saw other babies or pregnant women; I couldn’t even be with my family as their lives were continuing while mine felt as though it had fallen in to a dark pit.

But my girls made me find the strength. I refused to be quiet; I didn’t want to pretend they weren’t real. As they were born before 24 weeks they didn’t get a birth certificate. Technically they never even existed, so I wanted to make sure people knew about them and how special they were. To talk about them, to make their lives matter, even if that made people uncomfortable.

It was this need to create a legacy for my daughters, a need to make their voices heard and their lives matter that led my husband and I to share our experience as part of the Still Loved film. To break the silence of baby loss. The film is an uplifting story celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and exploring the complexity and reality for families surviving baby loss.

birthday cake for Felicity
One in four pregnancies results in a loss and every day just in the UK 10 families are devastated by stillbirth (loss after 24 weeks). We should not have felt so alone in our loss, but we did.

By sharing the very personal journeys of a number of families through grief, despair, determination and hope, the production company Big Buddha Films is giving a voice to this important issue and by doing so, we hope, making people more aware and more understanding.

Through our work on the film and through social media I found others who knew how this felt. Others who could help me see that one day there would be light again. People who helped my husband and I create a voice for Hattie and Flic and to spend our lives raising money to help prevent other babies being lost.

Our daughters have made me who I am now, and I am grateful to them for showing how to treasure what really matters. Please support your local screening of Still Loved and help us break the silence of baby loss. It is a story of hope in adversity and it may prepare you to have real empathy one day if you need to.

Still Loved will be in cinemas from 4 October and available on digital from 1 November. October is Baby Loss Awareness Month.

@StillLovedDoc

www.stilllovedfilm.com

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

The Pool article about Still Loved

28th October 2016

Journalist Jude Rogers wrote about Still Loved in The Pool. You can read it below:

HEALTH NEWS

We must discuss stillbirth. To help those suffering, and to encourage more funding and research

Photo: Stocksy

Stillbirth is devastating so we must fight the stigma and the silence, says Jude Rogers

Posted by Jude Rogers on

Ten years ago next February, my friends Tim and Laura had their first daughter, Charlotte. They had three daughters after her, Emily, Isabelle and Florence, who never knew their big sister, as she died at 41 weeks of gestation. I will never forget Charlotte’s funeral: the roses on the coffin, the rows of old friends holding each other tightly by the hands. It seemed unimaginable that this could have happened to our two lovely friends, and shocking to find, all these years later, how common an experience stillbirth still is.

Ten babies are stillborn every day in Britain; in 2014, the last year for which there are Office of National Statistics figures, this amounted to 3,563 deaths. Just as shockingly, Britain ranks 21st out of 35 of the world’s wealthy nations in terms of its stillbirth rates, and there is a stark variation in those rates across the country (it differs from 4.1 to 7.1 out of 1,000 births, with Black and Asian women being more at risk, as well as women living in poverty). The reasons babies die are frustratingly hard to pin down. Placental problems in late pregnancy is one issue, which is not currently checked in routine antenatal monitoring. A third of stillbirths remain “unexplained”, with more investment to find out why being desperately needed.

Nevertheless, the subject of stillbirth, and wider issues surrounding neonatal injury and safety, are starting to be discussed in much more prominent places. Next week, they are being debated in parliament for the first time during Baby Loss Awareness Week, thanks in part to two MPs: Antoinette Sandbach, whose 5-day-old son, Sam, died in 2009, and Will Quince, whose second child, Robert, was stillborn in 2014.

Baby loss is also being explored on the big screen in director Debbie Howard’s new documentary, Still Loved, which takes us through three years in the lives of seven families who lost children before or shortly after birth. It is an important, bracing film, and refreshingly gives lots of screen-time to the fathers as well as mothers who are grieving. This is vital: it  reminds the world that stillbirth is not an experience to be suffered quietly by the person who carried the baby. Stillbirth is an experience shared, and indeed it should be shared.

Howard knew she had to make Still Loved after making a short film drama about the subject in 2013: this was Peekaboo, starring BAFTA-award-winning actor Lesley Sharp. “I’d spoken to so many people around their experiences while making [Peekaboo], I knew I’d barely scratched the surface of the subject,” she explains. “The stigma and silence I found around losing babies was incredible – so many people felt like they couldn’t talk about what they’d gone through, because it made other people uncomfortable. This just meant their grief got internalised. That didn’t help.”

They told me about their trip to hospital together, with Laura in labour, not knowing that a heartbeat wouldn’t be found

Howard’s film shows us how many different people have had these experiences too. There’s the couple who lost their twins before 24 weeks, the single mother whose partner’s mother blamed the stillbirth on evil spirits, and the fathers who felt pressure to be strong and silent while feeling anything but. We meet the amazing Michelle and Nicky, who have set up the brilliant Campaign for Safer Births, after negligence in medical care ended the lives of their babies. We hear of couples whose friends no longer ring them, or are told unhelpful things like “you can always have another”. I remember feeling the hopelessness of saying anything as a friend of Tim and Laura; with hindsight, I know that simply offering your love as a friend is so much better than saying nothing.

When I was asked to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week by writing this piece, I emailed Tim and Laura to ask them what they would want me to say. I realise now how nervous I was about getting things wrong. Their responses made me so amazed and proud of both of them – and I’ve realised here is where the message of this film lives.

They both told me the story of Charlotte in detail, and about how they wanted to share it, to remember her short time in the world. They told me about their trip to hospital together, with Laura in labour, not knowing that a heartbeat wouldn’t be found. They told me how lucky they were with their medical team, who arranged Charlotte’s funeral, and came to see them in hospital when Emily was born; the NHS rising to the occasion as it can so often, brilliantly, do.

They also told me of the cruel things that stuck in their minds, hoping others won’t have to face them again. For Tim, there was the “helpful” leaflet that told him to “think of the grandparents that feel helpless as they see the devastation their children are going through”; this instruction only devastated him further. For Laura, it was hearing people say things like “it’s not as like you knew them”. She knew her. “The best thing to do is talk to people who know how you’re feeling,” Laura concluded.

Baby Loss Awareness Week and Still Loved will keep this message soaring this month, giving voices to those people who need them most – and reminding those of us who haven’t suffered, like our friends have, to use our voices too.  “We are proud of who we are because of Charlotte,” Tim he told me, “and that she was in our life.” She was in their lives, and she is, and will always be.

Still Loved is now in cinemas and will be available on digital from 1 November (@StillLovedDoc). If you or anyone you know wishes to know more or seek support about stillbirths, please contact Tommy’s or Sands.

@juderogers

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

Vulture Hound review Still Loved – 5/5 ‘Vital Viewing’

28th October 2016

Vulture Hound have reviewed Still Loved in their magazine and given it a 5/5 – ‘Vital Viewing’ You can read it below:

Still Loved

VITAL VIEWING ABOUT THOSE NEVER FORGOTTEN – STILL LOVED (FILM REVIEW)

The subject of death is one which Western society still struggles with discussing frankly. This is partly due to its depressing nature but also because for most death of a loved one is too raw an experience to share openly. This is especially true with the death of the young and even more so with stillbirth. Debbie Howard’s new documentary Still Loved is a moving piece that explores this and broaches stillbirth with great sensitivity. Its focus is on a number of couples who have faced the trauma of having a stillborn child or children.

Still Loved

This is Howard’s first full length documentary, following the success of a few short films including Peekaboo (2012) and Pussy (2009). Howard’s film reflects her talent as a storyteller but also as a film maker. It is an extremely poignant piece which encapsulates the difficult emotional and physical journey couples face who’ve experienced stillbirth. As someone whose sister Jennifer was stillborn, this film really struck a chord with me but it helped me understand the pain my parents would have felt. It is an extremely important film, not just because it tackles such a widely misunderstood and often disregarded subject but also the powerful messages behind each interviewee’s story. The film utilises the parcipatory style of documentary film making, with couples showing with their experiences how they have coped and how they’ve been affected by the experience. These key aspects covered such as the paternal grief felt and toxic masculinity expectations, fallout of friendships and the fact that in most cases the lost babies have siblings who are also affected. Howard intertwines these with the overarching subject. These are all vital points of consideration in the important pursuit of helping those families affected by stillbirth.

Still Loved
is difficult viewing at times, naturally, because of the content but it is a documentary and these truths deserve to be heard. These are real people who have made the choice to share their difficult stories, to help their grieving process but also to inform people about still birth. Howard’s film is not without hope. These people may have lost their children but the film shows how they’ve found other ways to cope with the grief and enjoy life. These scenes of joy juxtapose their struggles and culminate in a film which balances understanding the pain of stillbirth whilst offering new optimism. It is really touching to see the outcome for some of these people and their strength and courage. Whilst the lost loved will not always preoccupy their minds they will always be still loved.

Still Loved

5/5

Dir: Debbie Howard
Scr: Debbie Howard
DOP: Debbie Howard
Year: 2015
Run Time: 70 Mins

Still Loved is on limited release in cinemas as part of Baby Loss Awareness Month

They also did an interview with Director, Debbie Howard. You can read this here.