Blog by the filmmaker, Lilka Szerszynska
Watch the film here
The phrase ‘Out of Time’ perfectly sums up the race against the clock that many prison leavers released on a Friday experience; they’re out of prison, they’ve done their time, but the path to resettlement, reintegration and security is not always as plain sailing as it should be.
After talking to Nacro resettlement staff that support people through the prison gates and into the community, reading a plethora of service user stories and researching the general experiences of prison leavers, I started to build up an understanding of the kind of journey taken and barriers experienced by those recently released. Alongside this and working with other colleagues within health and justice, I used this to inform my creation of a timeline of Liam’s first day out of prison, including a specific order of services visited and outcomes, and the emotions felt (often highlighted in the stories of our service users).
In portraying the journey of an ex-offender from release at the prison gates, to the end of the day when services have closed for the weekend, I felt it would work most effectively shot in first person perspective. This potentially has the effect of making the viewer feel as though the body is theirs and they are navigating the space, experiencing the emotions of the protagonist. By naming the protagonist ‘Liam’ and periodically using his name within the narrative, I was hoping to add a personal layer to the film – knowing someone’s name can often lead to more investment in them and their plight, and highlighting the individual being behind every ex-offender.
By using quick jump cuts of changing environments (differing grounds) and changing physicality (differing bodily positions), I hoped to illustrate the passing of time and the lengthy nature of Liam’s journey. From pavement, to grass, to bus, to tarmac, he is trekking a long way. From legs crossed, to fidgeting hands, to legs tapping, he is waiting a long time in service waiting rooms with mixed emotions.
Filming with the actor around the local area was a funny experience – we used a torso strap to mount the camera onto him in the position of his head which got some funny looks, especially when filming on the bus and when running along the pavement!
I decided it was important to back up scenes and narrative with stats and facts, like that 1,000 prison leavers are released homeless each month, or that as much as 90% of the prison population has a mental health or substance misuse need. Yes, Liam is just one person who is experiencing his first day out of prison, but actually this is the case for many, that barriers don’t just occasionally exist but are commonplace – especially when released on a Friday.
Sound effects play an important part in the film. They help to emphasise the jump cuts and jumps in time by contrasting against one another. The richness of sounds show the prolonged nature of Liam’s journey, from kids’ playgrounds to car alarms, building works to church bells. The periodic ticking noise that accompanies the clock in the bottom left hand corner starts as a mere indication of time passing, but increasingly builds tension and stress throughout to become a reminder of the impossibility of the task at hand; there just isn’t enough time. The sounds also work alongside the pace and lighting to reflect the changing emotion of the day; the beginning is of sun, warmth and birds singing and his walking is more relaxed, portraying feelings of freedom, excitement and hope. As time ticks on, and he is unsuccessful at some services, the lighting becomes darker and his movements more panicky and fidgety. Rain, a heartbeat, the abrasive sounds of party-goers nearby, and a dull droning static sound in the distance create an atmosphere completely opposite to the very first scene, and reflect the stressful and isolating nature of Liam’s circumstances.
I’m looking to create more films and content in the near future to keep the campaign conversation going and to bring in service users… so watch this space!
Thanks to my External Engagement colleagues for all their efforts in planning and executing the campaign, as well as the support I had from them with elements of the film – what a fantastic team I get to work with!
I hope that people who have watched it take away a developed understanding of a specific issue that is rarely covered in the public eye, and hopefully feel sadness and anger towards a system that often does not help some of the most vulnerable to get back on track and stay out of prison; time and weekend closures mean many don’t get the best chance at a second chance, even with the best will in the world. #EndFridayReleases