From October 2016 – March 2017, patients at John Taylor Hospice were given the opportunity to take part in a filmmaking project which sought to harness the power of film to communicate the meaningful and honest experiences of those affected by terminal illness. Through workshops and home visits, participants were given practical and critical training and support to develop and co-create their own films. Working closely with key members of the interdisciplinary team – Michele Aaron and Briony Campbell – different ideas, priorities and devices were explored and six films created.
The films produced provided a range of benefits for the individuals taking part but also for wider understandings of the needs of these groups. They also tell us about the potential of film to shift attitudes about human vulnerability.
This filmmaking project is part of the research project – Digital Technology and Human Vulnerability: Towards an Ethical Film Praxis (DTHV) – which explores the way that digital film technology has transformed the encounter between viewer and vulnerable other, here the individual affected by terminal illness, and which reflects upon how digital technologies might transform our understanding and response to human vulnerability. A scoping report, a set of ethical guidelines, participant testimonies, audience feedback, an impact report and various academic articles have come out of this research. All of these are available through lifemoving.org.
Andrew’s enthusiasm for the project came from his long-standing interest in art and culture, strong views on life and death and the very limited opportunities he has for social or creative activities owing to significant physical constraints. Unexpected hospitalisations during the project presented further obstacles to realising all his aims for the film, but in collaboration with friends, Briony and the research team, images were selected and monologues captured and brought together into two final cuts.
The challenge here was about achieving a balance between Andrew’s ambitions for the project, his wealth of ideas and what was possible. The final result was achieved primarily through Briony visiting Andrew at home and recording him there with a digital SLR camera. Though Andrew wasn’t able to be as involved in the project as he had hoped, his characteristic optimism – his friends from his time living in Kenya pronounced him a ‘life-ist’ – compelled him to give what he could. We recorded his thoughtful reflections on his experience of the care system and the heightened value that medical advances place on human life.