Chronic: Writer Charlotte Paradise and Director Milly Garnier interview
Chronic is a short film currently in development by a team of young female creatives. It follows the story of a couple, Sadie and Rob, who move in together but complications arise when Sadie’s chronic illness begins to govern their relationship.
How did the idea of making this film come about?
Charlotte: I have a chronic illness so I guess it all started 6 years ago when I got sick. But at the beginning of lockdown my good friend Antonia, who is our co-producer and lead actress, came to me and said “now that I don’t have a job do you want to make something together?”, and I said “yes please!”. From there I asked myself if I had 10 minutes of screen time left what story would I tell.
In your own words, how would you describe the film?
Charlotte: It’s a film about love. That would be the shortest way I could put it. At the heart of the film are two people who are really in love and go through the struggles of chronic illness.
How did the creative team assemble?
Milly: Charlotte and Antonia got in touch originally to ask some filmmaking advice. Later when they sent me the script I realised it really resonated with me as I was diagnosed with chronic illness myself as a child and this subsequently affected relationships. After we had a really good chat about this this they said they’d love to have me on board. This was really exciting for me, as I had been looking for a project that means a lot to me on a personal level. We are trying to surround ourselves with people who have a knowledge of chronic illness, because the industry isn’t that representative of this community of people.
Where are you in the development process so far in creating this independent film, and can you explain the process up to now?
Milly: We have 24 hours left of our fundraiser.
Charlotte: And we have five drafts of the script so far.
Milly: We still have some development left to go. A huge part of the script is the actors interacting physically so the current situation has caused a delay. What’s amazing is the community that this project has already built online, even at only it’s fundraising stage. It’s really shown us the importance of, and the necessity for this film. So the delay in the filming timeline has actually allowed us more time to reach out to the people to whom this film will mean a great deal.
How do you plan to use and distribute the funds you have raised?
Milly: One thing that we were really keen to do from the beginning was to pay our crew properly. The amount we have set for that was based on the London working wage. So that’s the main cost. Also there are the hidden cost like travel and hiring equipment. We are hoping our location shouldn’t be too great a cost. But it was really important to us that we paid people fairly, particularly at this time.
Charlotte: We are also giving 5% of the money we raise to the ME Association.
How much experience has the creative team had with filmmaking before Chronic?
Charlotte: I went to Central to do my Masters which was in writing for stage and broadcast media, so I don’t actually have any experience making films, just in writing screenplays. The same for Antonia and Lizzie, they both have a lot of experience in theatre but haven’t yet moved over to film. So Milly is really our film expert.
Milly: I mean expert is a generous term! But my first experience in filmmaking was actually around this same topic. I made a short animation film of what life is like with chronic fatigue and what the reality is because in that time in my life my health had deteriorated quite a lot. After I left university I won a grant from the Bumble female film course which gave five female teams 20 thousand pounds to make an up to 15-minute short film. That was definitely a baptism of fire. That film then premiered with the London short film festival and the Underwire festival with BFI. Since I have done one other short film and am working on lot of writing projects.
What do you hope to achieve by creating this film, and what message do you hope Chronic leaves audiences with?
Milly: If this film makes just one person think a little bit differently about chronic illness, it will have achieved it’s goal. It’s a very universal story – everyone’s has been in love or will experience love at some point – so it should be a very accessible way of talking about a subject that is never spoken about. As a creative, all you want is to create a story that affects people and makes change. Also, being able to keep creating and with teams you get on well with is hugely important – so I suppose I hope that it leads on to new exciting projects.
And what is the change that you want to see?
Charlotte: For me, it’s about ending the stigma around these illnesses. A relationship had just ended for me when I wrote this script and it ended mostly because of my chronic illness. I guess there was an element of putting two fingers up at the person and the people that had hurt me in the past, to say that it could work – it can work having a relationship with someone with chronic illness, it just takes slightly more of what every relationship needs to survive, things like patience, love, unconditional love, empathy.
The other thing with these conditions is that a lot of the hard work happens in the dark. Some days are okay and some days are worse. And it’s only on the good days that people see you in a restaurant or you meet up with someone. That leads people to say “but I saw you out last week and you looked amazing and you seemed great”. So sometimes people don’t believe you. So I hope seeing this film could make someone take even a quarter turn and think “oh yeh I heard she had ME and I thought she looked great but actually I don’t see what really goes on” or “I can’t see that pain but that doesn’t mean the pain’s not there”.
Also chronic illness can feel so isolating. But something the fundraising of this film has shown us is that there are so many of us. Something like 93% of disable people in the UK don’t use a wheelchair and many have a disability that is invisible. There are a lot of us feeling alone when we don’t have to. It would be a success if even one person feels less alone because they watch this film and realise that someone else wrote this film who has had this experience.
Milly: And that extends to those who have experienced chronic illness second hand, like the carers – they need support as well. What’s great about Charlotte’s script is that it shows both experiences, not in a didactic way, but just the reality of living with chronic illness.
Charlotte: And it shows that it’s possible to live with a disability whilst having a full life and a full relationship.
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