If you have read my post about the origins of the film, you will know that ‘Rachel’ is a story inspired by my personal experiences of loss and mourning, together with the often complex and painful situations I have seen arise when those close to me have gone though similar bereavements.
Although a fictional work, the road to artistically expressing my thoughts on the issues surrounding death was a tough one that required me to remember very difficult times and lay bare my own pain. Writing the script brought me to a very dark place, filming the video for our Kickstarter Campaign brought me back to the funeral directors that organised my dad’s funeral, and watching Josh Moran in the role of Rachel’s father put me back in touch with the heartbreak of watching my grandfather deal with the loss of his only child.
When we filmed on location in the chapel at Leverton and Sons I was surprised that none of my team had ever been in a funeral director’s office, nor ever thought about the fact that those establishments, nestled between hairdressers and tattoo parlours, on shop parades across the UK, are places where there might be boxes of ashes awaiting collection, or a distraught family gathered round an open coffin. Death is a subject we like to avoid thinking about and, despite the endless adverts on TV raising money to fight cancer, or the news items about war, accidents and murder, most of us are far-removed from the reality of it.
But, during the run up to the making of ‘Rachel’, our social media network led us to the remarkable Dead Maidens. Their website and blog – Exploring the Relationship between women and death. All things danse macabre to death row. Examining the deadly and celebrating ‘deadicated’ – well, it’s just wonderful.
With articles on everything from having a funeral in your front room, through the debate on reproductive rights, to artists making gothic jewelry, they provide an avenue to thinking about death in a more accepting and positive way. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable place, even shocking for those of us who try not to think about these things, but always thought-provoking, illuminating and beautifully presented.
The Dead Maidens’ support in publicising the making of ‘Rachel’ was so very much appreciated and I’m really excited that I have now been invited to present Rachel on the evening of July 22nd, during the Death & the Maiden Conference at Winchester University, UK.
It was always my hope that the film would provoke thought and conversation about the complex issues surrounding death, funerals and mourning. And, judging by the emotional response at screenings to date, that has been achieved. There have been tears and there have been heated discussions. And, from funeral directors and Macmillan nurses, there have been suggestions that ‘Rachel’ could be a useful tool in training bereavement counsellors and those in the funeral industry.
So, what started out as an artistic endeavour has proven to be something that will have a useful and meaningful life beyond the glamour of film festivals. And, I’m extra delighted that Deborah Rush, a funeral director with Leverton and Sons, will be joining me in leading the screening of ‘Rachel’ and following discussion.
I do hope that you will come to the conference, perhaps to see ‘Rachel’ and join in our discussion, but definitely to explore all things Death & the Maiden and discover a more positive way to think about death.