A chronic health condition can make being a teenager very complicated. While help and information are available, these often conflict with what’s expected of a young person: how they approach their school life, how they conform in their social circles. Peers won’t always be supportive. In some cases, neither will family.
Jane’s Story is an animated film for schools, commissioned by the Centre for Chronic Diseases, dramatising the many conflicts faced by teenagers with conditions such as epilepsy. From sources such as web forums and interviews, health scientist Amanda Mason Jones and I created a screenplay. Everything became focussed on a single fictional character: Jane, played by actor Katie-Marie Armstrong.
Directing this, I first focussed on the audio recording, approaching it as a radio drama to begin with, getting the best performance in rehearsal and studio before devising the visuals. Once I had the recordings, I animated the film using the pictogram style used in the wheelchair access symbol, which has become synonymous with disability. All characters are rendered this way, also using paper and hand-drawn assets to replicate the doodles of a school sketch book.
The film was co-produced by audio researcher Sandra Pauletto, whose own research on data sonification would play a part in this film. Jane browses the web to find help; we hear a giga-counter sound, linked to data emerging from 3D globes, showing the prevalance of teenage chronic disease worldwide. Jane is not alone.
This was my first collaboration with composer Bartek Walus, who has recently moved to the UK after a ten year career scoring commercials and radio drama in Poland and Australia.
Originally made as an installation for 360 degree projection in York’s 3Sixty space, a single-screen version has now been produced, and was recently screened at the Picturehouse City Screen in York as part of their disability on screen season.