documentary

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Polarised rose cover image

The Facts

A recent Cambridge University study found that LGBT people are more likely to suffer instances of ill mental health than cis-heterosexuals.

42% of young LGBTQ people have accessed medical help for depression or anxiety, compared to 29% of cis- heterosexual people in the same age bracket.

52% of LGBTQ people report self harming in the last year, compared to 35% of the cis-heterosexual community.

35% of young LGB people had made at least one suicide attempt in their lives, compared to 18% of cis- heterosexuals.

48% of Trans young people have made at least one suicide attempt in their lives compared with 26% of cis-heterosexuals. Of those 48%, 30% reported attempting suicide in the last year (compared to just 7% of the cis-heterosexual community).

Around 4% of all gay and bisexual men have attempted suicide in their lives. Just 0.4% of men in general have attempted suicide. This figure rises to 5% in both BAME communities, and to 6% of all GB men aged 16-24. 5% of all Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual women have attempted suicide in the last year. (References at the bottom of the page.)

Polarised Mark 1

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Polarised Mark 1 Leaflet

Poster for Polarised Project Mark 1

In mid-2014, a group of queer lefty friends living in London decided that they wanted to make a small independent documentary on LGBT young people and mental health issues. They named themselves the Polarised Project, run a crowdfunding campaign and set about filming interviews with various LGBT young people in London.

They organised an impressive amount of publicity, and ran a short campaign to promote LGBTQ mental health issues via a Tumblr and several articles in EQ View, one of which I was roped into writing (on LGBT housing issues).

However, several months in, in August 2014, the Producer and the Director had an argument, the details of which do not need to be recounted here, but it was highly unpleasant,  the Director was fired from the Project and most of the other people, finding it all too stressful, called it a day on their involvement as well. Mark 1 died.

 

Polarised Mark 2

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Polarised Mark 2 Rose

The Polarised Project Mark 2 Rainbow Rose

In May 2015, the Producer and one of the original cinematographers decided it was time to try to resurrect the Polarised Project. I had been on the periphery of the friendship group that had attempted Mark 1, and I wanted to see the film happen because LGBTQ mental health is something that affects me and many of the people that I love, so when the social media accounts cranked up again, I offered to help organise the production team. I came on board as the Project Manager, we grabbed a few more people from around us who were interested in helping, formally recruited a new Director, and set about organising, shooting, and screening a short film to air at the end of that summer.

The Short Film

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - 1st and 2nd Production Unit crews

1st and 2nd Production Unit crews

The intention of the short film was to ensure that we had the ability and the skills to embark on a full-scale independent film project, which we were all somewhat unsure about because absolutely no-one involved had any previous experience in making a film and the Polarised Project Mark 1 had cast something of a shadow on the whole enterprise. We also wanted to have an actual product to screen that we could use to generate interest in the project.

Our original intention had been a short 9 minute recitation of the poem “Polarised” from which the film took its name, but after I received feedback from several people that they didn’t understand how that was a “documentary”, we decided to intercut verses with interview audio footage produced from Mark 1. We created two filming units, hired an actor for a visual story over the recitation of the poem, and persuaded a bunch of our friends into being extras for us for a party scene.

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Releasing the Short

Showing the Short at the Rag Factory

It was extremely fun, if hard work. We shot it, edited it, and aired it to an audience of 75 at the Rag Factory in Tower Hamlets on the 17th September, 2015, prefaced by a live performance by the soundtrack artists and followed by a Q and A by the Director and Producer.

The audience was enthusiastic and we all felt utterly thrilled that we had managed to make it happen. How many people decide to make a short film and then successfully make one?

You can see the trailer we produced here:

 

And the short film itself (runtime approx. 24 minutes). There is a content warning: Polarised touches on subjects that some people may find triggering. The short film contains graphic descriptions of rape and frank discussions of mental health issues and disorders including suicide, eating disorders and depression. There are some explicit scenes of self-harm and drug use, as well as use of flashing lights.

 

The feature documentary

Polarised - A Documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Glitter Ball promotional image

I did not draw that.

We then started to work towards building the infrastructure for the full production schedule, which we had slated to start in March 2016 and finish in the May of that year with aim to release in August 2016.

We held a fundraising event at The Good Ship in Dalston called The Glitter Ball, a night of cabaret performances by local queer artists, which over 100 people attended.

I had a team of six working on the Operations side of the Project and we were planning to recruit another 15 or so people to complete the full team.

I also contributed to some of the presswork, you can read the articles that I wrote here, one during Mark 1 and two during Mark 2 (though essentially the same article:

Polarised is important because of… homophobia – in EQ View

Polarised Project – LGBT History Month – in LGBT History month magazine (PDF 1, 2)

Polarised Project – “The closet is for clothes” – in VADA magazine

And I built the website, which you can see an archived version of here.

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Polarised website screenshot

As I had contributed a number of the creative ideas that made their way into the short film, the branding and the promotional materials and in recognition of my general work on the Project, the Producer agreed that I should have a joint credit with him as an Executive Producer. So we were all set to go ahead with the documentary.

But then…?

Polarised - A documentary on LGBTQ mental health - Brainstorming Logo Ideas

Brainstorming logo ideas

But then the Producer managed to fall out with me and the Director. Again. Following the Glitter Ball, he just stopped responding to messages and refused to discuss the Project when we saw him in social situations for over two months. In January 2016, at our wits end and each of us on deadlines to leave London that summer, we decided we would have to make some changes to the filming schedule in order to accommodate the time we had lost and the fact that our Producer for some reason that was never explained had gone indefinitely AWOL.

Just as we were putting those in place, the Producer suddenly turned up to a team meeting and insisted that we should continue with the schedule as originally designed. We pointed out that this would be almost impossible with the time lost and would be extremely hard on both of us and we didn’t have any guarantees that he wasn’t actually just going to go missing again. He was implacable. We had to continue on the original schedule – whatever that meant for our mental health.

Well, he could do that without me, so I resigned.  My resignation was not acknowledged and the Director followed shortly after. The other members of the team had no-one organising meetings for them to attend, so they fell away as well. Mark 2 died.

Polarised, the small independent documentary on LGBTQ mental health, has to date never been made.

We have the short film, at least.

If I sound angry about this, it’s because I had nine months of hard work  on a project that had personal meaning and social value go down the drain because someone else had an attack of the artistic after flouncing out on a hard-working team for several months doing whatever while they frantically tried to cover for him, only to have it all come crashing down anyway. It let us down, it let the people who crowdfunded, promoted, and supported the film in so many ways down, and it let down the LGBTQ community down. Our stories are still waiting to be told.

So what happened?

I don’t know. I haven’t had any contact with the Project or the Producer since. Both I and the former Director left London as we had planned. The website went down in May 2016  (and I absolutely kicked myself, because it was by far and away the most beautiful website I have ever designed and I never made an offline back-up). The domain name, which I controlled and was never asked for, expired in 2017. The social media accounts stopped updating in August 2016 with one last message:

“We’ll be dialling down our social media presence and taking our website offline for now, as we make some changes to the creative team and plan the coming year’s work. We’ll be in touch with all supporters as soon as we’re back online.”

So who knows? ‘Tis a massive pity.

Additional Content

The spot trailer we released for the short film (1 min):

 

A Meet the Team video, released in the run-up to the release of the short:

 

We produced a “Digital Bolt-On” as a gift for people who donated extra to the The Glitter Ball fundraiser, containing a blooper reel, concept art, behinds the scenes photos, the soundtrack, and a copy of the poem “Polarised”. You can download that as a zip file here.

The blooper reel itself:

 

The Polarised Short soundtrack, composed and recorded by The Porcupine Dilemma:

References for the top of the page: 

Mental Health Foundation, Fundamental Facts 2015.

Young Minds ‘Mental Health funding down 8% over the last 5 years’ 20th March 2015

Office of National Statistics

Youth Chances Survey (Metro 2014)

RaRE study (PACE 2015)

‘Sexual Orientation and relationship choice in Borderline Personality Disorder over ten years of prospective follow up’ –D.Bradford Reich M.D., and Mary Zanarini ED.D 2008.

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