Stepping Through Interactive
My research revolves around my practice as a participatory filmmaker in community settings, especially in the field of mental health. Having practised supporting groups in making films through co-production, I often witnessed the difficulties in streamlining many different voices, who should all have equal authorial agency, within traditional linear films. Respecting and valuing the polyvocal potential of participatory filmmaking is especially important when discussing mental health, a subject that has so often been misrepresented and stereotyped in mainstream media. What if the non-linear narrative potential afforded by interactive media could open up the film form to accommodate the multiple viewpoints of this kind of production?
In my PhD, I have worked with a group of four men with lived experience of mental health problems to design and produce a non-linear interactive film around the theme of isolation and community in recovery. Stepping Through Interactive presents a multi-linear film form designed by participants who had no previous experience of interactive media production in order to accommodate both personal and communal viewpoints on the subject. The film encourages viewers to question their own relationship to the theme of isolation and mental health by proposing empathy-based questions that guide viewers through poetic film clips.
Overall, Stepping Through Interactive aims at preserving the polyvocality typical of participatory filmmaking while allowing viewers to carve personalised journeys through the film, connecting empathically with the experiences of the film creators and combating the stigma associated to mental health.
The film is currently being evaluated by its creators and a range of external audiences with varying levels of mental health awareness.
Simona Manni is a participatory filmmaker and has worked as a practitioner with a wide range of groups, including asylum seekers, people in recovery from mental health problems, homeless young people, and care home residents living with dementia. In 2018, Simona started a PhD at the Digital Creativity Labs, University of York, looking at developing interactive films in communities to discuss and explore issues related to mental health.