I directed, shot and edited Rebuilding Lives, a film that asks what it means to have a home, and explores what life is like for those without one. It was produced for A Night Under the Stars, the annual fundraiser at the Royal Festival Hall, in aid of homelessness charity The Passage.
My aim with this film was to encourage people to really think about the importance of ‘home’ because I presumed that – like me – most of us who are lucky enough to have a home, take it for granted.
Dolls’ house scene:
I thought the best way to introduce ‘home’ as a concept would be to use a dolls’ house as this presents an idealised vision of a home; the kind of house a child would draw.
Introducing the dolls’ house on screen was a challenge as it was fairly large, scaled at one-twelfth of life-size. I was given access to a white photography studio courtesy of the kind team at Direct Photographic, which gave me space and time to get the look just right. For the internal room shots I used a really fast lens as I wanted the house to look atmospheric, subtle and real, rather than having to blast it with lighting to get the detail needed. I positioned characters in the various rooms throughout the house in order to depict everyday life. For the external house shots I used high powered lighting supplied by Direct Photographic so I could overexpose and create a lovely consistent white background. I decided to compliment the visuals with a variety of real voices (children, adults, men and women) and sound effects to bring the domestic scenes to life.
This is the fourth film I’ve made for The Passage and I have learned over the years that getting footage of homeless people in situ is very tough. Filming people struggling to survive on the streets is not fair so I made the decision to use actors for these scenes. This enabled me to be more in control of the shots I wanted to get. I positioned my actors (Mark, David and Daniel, who all kindly gave up their time for free) in different parts of London, using the backdrop of a fast-paced city to make the loneliness and feeling of hopelessness even greater. I wanted to show my characters bedding down for the night, wandering endlessly, invisible to others.