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At BIAFF 2010 Tim Jones won a Diamond Award with My Point of View
- a Diabetic Journey.
Fiona King was an internationally successful ballet dancer, who had been
diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager. She ignored health advice, suffered
many problems and recently lost part of her right foot.
had known Fiona for a long time, a very elegant woman in her forties who,
a few years earlier, had been a ballerina working at the Royal Opera House.
She was a friend of my wife's and godmother to my son. Poor Fiona had been
through so many health issues since I had known her. She had problems with
her eyes, requiring hundreds of laser treatments, her kidneys had slowly
stopped functioning and now she struggled to walk because she could no longer
feel her legs.
All these problems were the result of 20 or so years of diabetes and in particular, because she had not managed her sugar levels properly. The final straw happened shortly after she had a kidney and pancreas transplant. She got an infection in her right heel that could not be cured and eventually the infected part of her foot was removed.
|It was at this stage that we decided to make a film together
I was visiting her in hospital and she told me that she was keen to pass on her experiences to newly diagnosed diabetics in the hope that they might avoid the problems she had encountered. I offered to make a film about it and she jumped at the chance. I think she needed a project on which she could focus her energy. Perhaps something positive could be made from such a sad story.
was two years ago. At the time I didn't have a clear idea of how to approach
But how could I make it visually interesting? She had no video material of her as a ballerina or of her recent traumas, just a few photos taken on her phone of her decaying foot. Somehow I had to avoid making a film that just consisted of talking heads.
The first thing I did was to lend Fiona a camera to capture her life at that time. It was a Sony Cyber-shot digital stills camera that had the ability to record fairly low quality video onto a SD card. I actually rather liked the poor quality. It seemed appropriate somehow. I also liked the hand held style and intimate patient's viewpoint that she was able to record during the next few months of hospital appointments. The material she obtained was really strong but wouldn't work on its own. So what next?
arranged for me to film a rehearsal at her old ballet school. It was actually
a rather strange experience to film all these exquisitely beautiful 19 year
old ballerinas performing. What did I film? Close ups of their feet! It actually
worked rather well. At the time I didn't know what I would do with the material
but in the end it formed an essential part of montage sequences intercut
with images of Fiona's foot and hospital visits.
At one point we tried the obvious approach of interviewing medical experts giving advice on correct diabetic care. After one quick interview it soon became obvious that this was not the right approach. This was a film about Fiona's story and so she needed to tell it. So we didn't film any more experts.
I also filmed Fiona telling me her life story. Sadly, my Canon XM1 video camera malfunctioned and I couldn't use any of the shots. Then not much happened for a year.
In mid-June 2009 Diabetes UK launched a press campaign to heighten awareness of diabetic foot care. They invited Fiona along with 99 other amputees to the O2 Centre in London for a photo-shoot. I went along too.
By this stage I had decided to film the rest of the documentary on HD video. However, I needed the equipment to be portable for this occasion, as I would be filming her journey by train and on the underground. This was a good excuse to buy myself a new camera. I purchased a Kodak Zi6 HD camera for about £100 from Argos. It looked rather like a large mobile phone. The picture quality was surprisingly good but the sound quality would not be sufficient for interviews. I therefore borrowed a Marantz portable hard disc recorder. The equipment all fitted in my little shoulder bag and off we went to London. As the camera looked like a mobile phone no one took a second glance at me as I filmed in trains and on the underground.
The photo-shoot with 100 amputees was an interesting experience and we quickly befriended Roger who offered to take his leg off to give me a good shot. Roger was an ex-drama teacher with type 2 diabetes who talked lucidly on camera, about how his amputation was due to eating too many biscuits, lack of exercise and smoking.
The very next day Fiona was interviewed on BBC Radio Kent at their tiny Canterbury Studio that happens to be situated in the building where I work. It's a small padded box containing a microphone and a pair of headphones. I filmed the interview with a Panasonic DVC-PRO HD camera borrowed from work and lit the scene with one Ianiro 300 watt light through the small window in the studio. Fiona looked rather isolated as she sat all alone talking to the microphone. I was aware at the time that this gave an appropriate atmosphere perhaps giving a sense of how Fiona's life is hemmed in by her illness.
The final stage was to shoot Fiona at her home talking directly to the camera about her story in a way that would link all the existing scenes together. Again I borrowed the same camera from work and lit her using Ianiro 300 watt lights. To make it more visually varied I filmed each part in different rooms with her wearing different clothes.
The film had been edited as I went along during the two years of production but was quickly finalised in a day or two once I had all the material shot. Throughout the production I took care to get Fiona's opinion and she quickly showed herself to have excellent film-making intuition. We didn't always agree but generally I tried to follow her advice whenever possible as this was really her film. It's her story. I simply helped her get it made.
- Tim Jones
Diabetes UK - is the British organisation for diabetics and offers all kinds of help and advice if you are, or suspect you might be, diabetic.
Sony Cyber-shot digital
Ianiro 300 watt light