Our Lives with Epilepsy: Teenagers explore their experiences on a film collaboration with Epilepsy Ireland

This year Helium Arts has been partnering with Epilepsy Ireland on a filmmaking project, collaborating with young people who have epilepsy. In the spring, we hosted film workshops around the country followed by a week-long summer film camp at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Participants addressed their experiences of epilepsy through the creation of a short fictional film with a view to engaging other young people with epilepsy about how to cope with the condition as a teenager. The film will be screened at the Irish Film Institute, Dublin this October.

‘By doing this I’ve found it very enjoyable cos I was able to learn some different things which I hadn’t learned before such as how I can make films, what equipment you need to use and also how I can actually just improve on making friends. And I have to say by doing of all that I actually feel that by today it’s just gotten to be great.’

Shooting at IMMA with filmmaker Roisin Loughrey. Photo credit Paul Gallagher.

Brainstorming ideas, learning film techniques  

Helium Arts facilitated regional workshops in February and March for young people in Galway (Huston School of Film and Digital Media NUIG), Dublin (RHA Gallery), Sligo (Training for Success students, Sligo IT), and Cork (Nano Nagle Place). The workshops were a practical hands-on introduction to filmmaking and plot generating, offering a taster of what was to come during the film camp.

Participants filmed short scenes tackling issues that young people with epilepsy encounter in their daily lives and misconceptions around epilepsy. The workshops offered a standalone opportunity to learn film skills but were also important in understanding the themes that were important to young people and how these might inform the film camp.

‘Enjoyed using the camera and brainstorming different film ideas’
‘I learned about different people’s experiences with epilepsy and how they were similar/different to mine’

Dublin workshop at RHA

Making a film, making friends 

We hosted a 5-day story development and film camp with 12 teenagers from across Ireland at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in July.

On the first day, participants identified their own goals for the week. The two most popular were making a movie and making friends.

Building on themes developed during the regional workshops, participants devised a narrative over 2 days which was then shaped into a film script. Rotating workshops which focused on character development and performance skills, technical skills, and art direction, helped to consolidate the story world.

The film was shot over 3 days and actively sought to model a professional set with a shooting script and daily call sheets for participants.

On set with cinematographer Colm Mullen

The art of filmmaking 

Participants recount what they did and what they learned:

I learned how film scripts work and how people throw out ideas’
writing dialogue’
setting up and conducting scenes
I took part in front and behind the camera
doing camera’
working with the sound
using the boom
acting
I learned about sets and costumes and all of the different ways they can be made’

About our film

The lives of three young people with epilepsy intersect when they find themselves visiting the same exhibition at the Irish Museum of Medieval Archaeology. A silent film exhibit on “The Historic Exorcism” brings home to the young people how little epilepsy was previously understood and how being open about the condition can help with peer relationships and altering people’s perceptions.

The film will be screened at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) in October 2017.

Filming “The Historic Exorcism” – a silent film within the film

Our fab team 

The project was led by artist Siobhan Clancy, with film mentors Roisin Loughrey, Colm Mullen and Alan Brennan, script mentor Ben Murnane, sound engineer Peter Nicell, artist Emily Veale (art director), and creative peer mentor Stephen O’Driscoll. Filmmakers Colm Walsh and Ivan Marcos provided additional support at the regional workshops.

Community Resource Officers (CROs) from Epilepsy Ireland supported the wellbeing of the young people during the project. The CROs also played a vital role in the development and filming of the script, advising on the terminology relating to different seizures and proofing dialogue and voiceovers during production.

Participant leaders (volunteer peer mentors who were slightly older than the participants) brought their own experience of epilepsy to the project and acted as a sounding board for participants.

The project was managed by Emma Eager from Helium Arts and Wendy Crampton from Epilepsy Ireland.

Epilepsy Ireland CROs Geraldine Dunne, Carina Fitzgerald, Niamh Jones, Edel Curran. Photo credit Paul Gallagher.

Funding Acknowledgements  

Our Lives with Epilepsy is produced in partnership by Helium Arts and Epilepsy Ireland, and in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Principally funded by QUALCOMM with additional funding from the Arts Council, the Hospital Saturday Fund and the Cork Foundation.

We gratefully acknowledge the following sponsors: Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), the Huston School of Film and Digital Media NUIG, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, An Tobar Nua, Renzo Café, Coppa Café, Café Fleur, Dukes Coffee Company.

For more information on Epilepsy Ireland’s services visit www.epilepsy.ie