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Podcast Season 2: Episode 11 – The Studio of the Fostered Heroes

Back in episode four of our podcast we heard about a short film which was being made by a group of first-time filmmakers from Redcar and Cleveland.

Now, we catch up with members of The Studio of the Fostered Heroes, and filmmaker Laura Degnan, to find out how they feel about the film they created together, sharing their own, personal stories of care-experience.

The Return of the Studio of the Fostered Heroes


Please note that this transcript is auto-generated and therefore will contain some errors and natural pauses in conversation.

[00:00:00] DAWN: Welcome to the creative life story work podcast, where we explore how a creative approach to life story work can help children and young people who are in care, make sense of their past and build a brighter future. A new model for life story work is being rolled out in the Northeast of England. And this podcast shares the latest learning and investigates how it could help improve the lives of care experienced children and young people across the country.

[00:00:28] My name is Dawn Williams and I am an associate at Blue Cabin, one of the partners on this exciting work in the region. You may have listened to one of our previous podcasts where we heard all about how children and young people from Redcurran, Cleveland, the Children and Care Council have created a short film.

[00:00:47] sharing their experiences of being in care. At the point that we made that podcast, the film was in its finishing stages and hadn’t yet been released. Well, today I am delighted to say that we’re going to catch up on part two of the story and we are actually recording from tuned in in Redcar. Yes, we are gone on tour in our podcast in the room.

[00:01:12] We have four artists from the studio of the fostered heroes who created the film and Laura Degnan, the filmmaker they worked with. Laura, would you like to say hello, introduce yourself and say who else you worked with on the film?

[00:01:27] LAURA: Hello, my name is Laura Degnan and I am a filmmaker and I worked with Artists Nicola Golightly and Ruth Johnson to make the stop motion animation with lots of brilliant young people.

[00:01:39] DAWN: And there’s a really good segue into, we’ve got those really brilliant young people in the room, would you all like to shout your names out please?

[00:01:47] YOUNG PERSON: Nisa, Natalie, Jamie, Caitlin.

[00:01:50] DAWN: Thank you all. Studio of the Fostered Heroes, really lovely to have you here today. And over to you as our film collective, first of all.

[00:02:00] It probably feels like quite a long time ago now that you made your film. What can you remember about, what can you remember about making it? What were the best bits that you remember about making the film?

[00:02:13] YOUNG PERSON: I think the best bits of making the film were being a group to like work together and then share our stories.

[00:02:20] So we would like split into different groups to do different activities. So one group would say one idea and then another group could make like another one. So like whilst one group was like working on like one scene, another group can like work on another. And then also, like, help each other through it, so.

[00:02:44] DAWN: Sounds like a real group effort. Anybody else remember anything different, any other bits of, it could be anything that you did in the making of the film. What else do you remember? Yeah.

[00:02:53] YOUNG PERSON: I like how everyone finding out how people had all different experiences being in care and being in care experience, but could still all relate to each other.

[00:03:01] I think that,

[00:03:04] DAWN: Yeah, and can you say a bit more about how you did that? What did you do to find out those stories?

[00:03:09] YOUNG PERSON: I remember there was a part in the film, just like these little speakers. And people are sharing their stories on the film, and it’s just really interesting to see different experiences.

[00:03:19] DAWN: I remember that bit in your film because it was different devices, wasn’t it?

[00:03:22] And then you could see them moving on the film. Yeah, I really like this. Which bits of the film, now that, now that it’s been, that it’s been made? Which, which parts of the film are you most proud of?

[00:03:34] YOUNG PERSON: For example, just when we made, um, the bridge with the shoes off.

[00:03:38] DAWN: Oh, say a bit more about the bridge with the shoes on, because I think that might be my favourite part.

[00:03:43] YOUNG PERSON: So, we had, um, two people who were making the bridge. So, and then we had, like, The shoes we were trying, like, move them so that, like, so they both crossed over. Yeah, and that helped to show that, like, support, like, to show the support from, like, other people can help others journeys, because they were link, linking the hands to show the bridge.

[00:04:06] Because we were making maps. And we had to show, kind of like, transport. So I decided to do walking, and just footsteps, and take sorts of footsteps. It’s like, one of, it’s the main thing in like, in the film, because there’s footsteps all the time, and then there’s, it just shows how other people can support you, and like, if, like if someone puts, If they think about how we feel, like, that’s quite good because, like, I forgot what they’re saying is, but it’s like something to do with, like, shoes and stuff, so that’s quite good.

[00:04:48] To do with ours as well.

[00:04:50] DAWN: Walking in somebody else’s shoes. Yeah,

[00:04:53] YOUNG PERSON: because that’s to do with that as well. It’s like, it’s showing how we live.

[00:04:58] DAWN: Yeah, you’re painting a really lovely picture of how, One person’s idea then gets taken on by the rest of the group. And then there’s the pic, the, the picture of the, the bridge with the supporter to each side of it, and how that’s, that’s like a golden thread that’s gone through all of your thinking.

[00:05:15] It’s really fantastic insight into your creative process as a group. And it

[00:05:21] LAURA: led to everybody designing their own trainers and, and thinking about what their, you know, footprint looked like. And, and it all came, it all stemmed from. from that one line in that in that

[00:05:32] DAWN: session. So from one line those footsteps are all the way through the film right until the very end aren’t they?

[00:05:38] Lovely to think how the stories that you were making and then you managed to translate that into the piece of animation as well. Laura, what was your role in the creation of this film? Because we’ve heard that there was two other artists on there as well. So, what was your particular role?

[00:05:57] LAURA: Well, I was there from early in the process to, first of all, show the young people different options of what a film could look like.

[00:06:06] And then to hear back from them, the favourite bits, the bits that inspired them, and ultimately the sort of film that the young people wanted to make. And it was stop motion animation that really spoke to all of the young people in the room actually. And this idea of, It was creating images and using our own bodies and, and, and the things that are important to us, to be able to move them across the canvas to create a story that felt really personal to, to all of the young people.

[00:06:36] So I was there through the idea stages, so, so we all, we were a team, the whole room, everybody in the room was working as a team to generate ideas alongside Ruth, the writer. And then I came in one week with some tripods and some. iPads and a stop motion program on those iPads and showed the young people how to use a very easy stop motion animation app.

[00:07:01] And I brought with me some pencils, body pencils or body crayons, where you could actually draw things on your own hands and bodies and arms, it turned out, and then some cardboard so that the young people could cut things up, and then they just used some of the ideas that they’d already been thinking about, some of the themes that were important to them as a starting point, and they just started to draw on their arms, draw on their hands, and to use those on the canvas to create to create these stop motion animations.

[00:07:30] And that was the start of me working alongside the young people to help them make their own stop motion animation. By the end of that session, one of the young people had come up with an idea about footsteps and about how it takes many footsteps to work our way to love. And again, that really spoke to everybody in the room.

[00:07:48] It was a really powerful statement alongside really powerful visuals. And they became the springboard, the spine for the rest of the process. And then it came, it became about chatting to the young people with microphones switched on so that we could all gather more information, more of their ideas, and then to sit and actually make, make the bits that we wanted to go on the canvas to visually say it.

[00:08:13] everything that the young people really wanted to say, not only in words, but in images. And that was my key role to assist them to do that. And then to look at storyboards and to think about, okay, we’ve got all of these brilliant things that we want in the film. How do we piece them together? How will they actually look?

[00:08:29] And then we started that process together. Now stop motion animation is a very time consuming process and, and, and, and can be not necessarily the most interesting task to just move tiny pieces across a canvas. in tiny increments for many, many hours. And so instead, what we did is the young people made all of the decisions about what each part of the film would look like.

[00:08:51] They made all of the bits, they started the stop motion process, and then myself and artist Nicola Golightly, we just brought their vision to life by continuing to move those bits of paper across the canvas to create this stop motion animation. And then once we had that, we came back, we got some feedback, we heard from the young people what was missing, what they wanted to change slightly, what we still needed to add in.

[00:09:17] We wanted to, we came back and we took some photographs of the young people jumping in the air and being joyful in all sorts of different ways so that we could use those photographs. In the stop motion animation. And then there was a session where Ruth came with a microphone and together, everybody created.

[00:09:37] sound effects so that not only were the young people making the words and the images and deciding on how the whole thing would look but they actually designed all of the sounds that then went into the film as well.

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[00:10:18] DAWN: Studio of the Fostered Heroes. How did you decide? What was included in the film and what was edited out? How did you manage to do that? Because it sounds like there was a vast amount of work generated, stories and images. How, how did you decide?

[00:10:35] YOUNG PERSON: We picked, like, the best ones. Like, if we had an idea, then we would all, like, we would all say, like, our opinions on that.

[00:10:44] So, if we had like a piece of work we’ve done, we would all talk about it and then we would all say if that was a good idea or if it was a bad idea.

[00:10:54] DAWN: So, we just did that. I know, that’s a really great description of a collective artistic process. I can’t believe there weren’t any squabbles. Did you not have major disagreements about what should go in and what should not?

[00:11:07] Was there no differing, massive differing opinions? No. No. Wow. What a group.

[00:11:14] LAURA: The most chilled out group of young people. And it was, you know, one person would say something, and then everybody would just have a little discussion about it. And in general, they would all be in agreement, and they would all be right.

[00:11:25] And then it would happen, and it would make the film even better.

[00:11:27] DAWN: Wow. Wow. So when I last spoke to Nick and Wendy, the film hadn’t been finished. It was still being edited and finished. But now It’s out there in the world. So who’s, who’s watched it? Do you know? Have you, have you had any screenings of it?

[00:11:48] Have you shown it to, who’ve you shown it to? I

[00:11:50] YOUNG PERSON: know one of the counsellors, counsellor Karen King, she posted it on Facebook because it’s on YouTube. So she was saying how good it was and stuff. So people who would have seen that has probably watched it. That’s how my foster mum like saw it. And then I’ve showed, I’ve, I shared it with like a few of my friends and then we’ve had, we’ve shown it to like counsellors and people like that as well twice now, I think.

[00:12:23] Yeah. The carpet parent involved, we’ve shown them twice now.

[00:12:28] DAWN: Fantastic. Fantastic. And what was the reaction that you got when you showed, when you showed the film? That they really liked it. I hope they, I hope they showered you with lots of praise and Oscars for it. What did they say? What did they come up and say to you afterwards?

[00:12:45] They said that it should be in like a awards film. Absolutely. My favourite line in the film is, Our feet want you to listen to us. Because I watched it yesterday and I just thought, oh I love that line. What is it that you want people to hear and remember when they’re watching your film? Because if it’s on YouTube, anybody could be watching it, couldn’t they?

[00:13:07] What is it that you want people to remember after they’ve seen your film?

[00:13:12] YOUNG PERSON: I think the main focus of the film is that we want people to gain more of an understanding about what it’s like to be care experienced. and to have a better understanding of what it actually means.

[00:13:22] DAWN: Anything else in the film that you, what would you, what would you say were the key messages of the film that you’ve made that you want people to hear as they’re watching it?

[00:13:34] YOUNG PERSON: I think the key message is that we’re not all the same. But like, treat us like everyone else, and that we are loved. And just don’t ask us too many questions. Because we’ve all had people asking us why we’re in care. Like, real personal, like, personal questions. Which, like, we shouldn’t be, like, having.

[00:13:56] Because we’re just like everyone else, like, there’s no need to, like, treat us differently.

[00:14:01] DAWN: Laura, we’ve heard a lot about the studio of the Fostered Heroes working together as a collective of young filmmakers. I wondered if you as a filmmaker had learned anything new from working with this group of young people?

[00:14:16] LAURA: I think rather than learn anything new, it reinforced to me how important it is as a practitioner and just as a human really to just listen and especially I think to listen to young people and Every time we just handed the microphone, if you like, over to the young people, we were surprised and astounded at the response from them.

[00:14:41] And we just continued to learn by, by taking their ideas and supporting them to make those ideas a reality. It just makes me want to work on more and more projects with young people to be able to break the things that they have to say.

[00:14:57] DAWN: We’ve heard that you showed your film to corporate parenting group.

[00:15:05] Where else might, where else do you hope your film might get shown?

[00:15:09] YOUNG PERSON: I hope that our film gets shown in schools. So in like. the lesson where they get taught, like, life skills. I think that should also be taught, like, what foster care is and how to treat people in foster care because not many people know what it is.

[00:15:28] Like, I had to have, I did a presentation in front of my class. One person there knew what foster care was. That was because she was also foster cared. She was also in foster care. Not even the teacher knew what it was. So, yeah. So this. This is the reason why we wanted to make this. Because of that experience I have had, it was kind of why we wanted to do it.

[00:15:54] To show people what it was and how to treat us. Because it’s ridiculous how many people don’t know what it is. And then if they want a job, and they don’t know how to, like, how to talk to us or, like, what it is, it’s, like, they won’t be able to get that job. Well, they won’t be able to help us in the right way.

[00:16:13] DAWN: So you’re showing the politicians by showing it to the, the counsellors, but also teachers and headteachers and your peers, other colleagues. Laura, have you got any other ideas about where this film could be shown to spread their messages?

[00:16:33] LAURA: I think that it’s just anywhere where there are people. I was going to say young people, but really anywhere where there are people.

[00:16:39] I think, you know, anywhere there’s an opportunity that there is a group coming together. This film, it doesn’t take very long to watch and yet, It really, really speaks to everybody who watches it and it holds such important messages that there really isn’t a place that we shouldn’t be showing it. You know, youth groups, schools, clubs, workplaces, film festivals,

[00:17:02] DAWN: cans, red carpets, we should all go.

[00:17:05] They need the frocks for the red knight to go on to do it. No, I’m being serious, film festivals, it should be shown at film festivals, shouldn’t it? To a different, a different audience as well.

[00:17:15] LAURA: Yeah, because that’s the thing, it doesn’t, it’s not just that the messages within it are so powerful and so important, but also as a piece of art, it needs to be celebrated for being a very, very good, very imaginative, skillful film made by young people.

[00:17:33] DAWN: So I think we should really give the last words to the studio of the fostered heroes and I wondered What you would say to somebody who’s, whoever that is, who’s just watched your film, if you had, if you could ask them to do something after they’ve watched your film, what would you want them to do?

[00:17:54] YOUNG PERSON: Share the film with others, talk about it, other people about the film and the messages in the film.

[00:18:00] DAWN: Thank you.

[00:18:01] YOUNG PERSON: I was going to say exactly the same thing.

[00:18:03] DAWN: Thank you. If I could ask you to say one word about how you feel now that you’ve made the film and it’s been released out into the world, I’ll give you a second to think about it and I’m going to ask Laura as well. What would the one word be to describe how you feel about making this film?

[00:18:26] YOUNG PERSON: Proud. Thankful. Happy. Grateful.

[00:18:29] DAWN: And Laura. Life changing. Life changing. Thank you. Now that you’ve made one film, what’s the next film that you want to make? Anybody got any suggestions? The newest member of the group might have an answer. Science fiction. Oh, science fiction. Ooh, any other suggestions as to what sort of film you might like to make next?

[00:18:49] Just anything really. Well, maybe the opportunity will come up sooner than you think, but I’ll be watching. I’ll be watching for you young filmmakers to see what it is that you make next. So thank you very, very much for inviting me to your space. This evening, whether you’re a foster carer, someone who has experience of the care system, or you work with children and young people, we hope this episode has given you an insight into how we could make life story work better for young people.

[00:19:16] There are two places you can find out more about our podcasts and resources. Go to we are blue cabin. com forward slash podcast or creative life story work. com. resources. We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can record and send a direct question or message to the show via the website, or you can tweet us at we are blue cabin.

[00:19:39] If you’d like to listen to future episodes, remember to subscribe wherever it is you usually get your podcasts. And if you’re using Apple podcasts, please do leave us a review as it really helps others to find our show. Bye for now.

Produced and mixed by Will Sadler of Anya Media. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts by clicking one of the following links:

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