Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Awaken and Listen. If your question isn’t answered here,  send them in via our Contact Form, or through Twitter/Facebook!

What is  The Black Box all about?

The Black Box is a psychological drama about a disabled writer with ME, who is trying, but failing, to write a story. He is caught between the harsh reality of his condition and how it affects him, and his equally harsh Muse, who is frustrated that he has never finished a story. The Muse torments the Man with characters from his unfinished projects, until the Man is confronted by his worst nightmare, a Fallen Angel bent on revenge.


Why Make It?

Although the main character of The Black Box has a disability, it is not a disability awareness film – it is a story, first and foremost. At its heart, The Black Box is a struggle between a person and their Muse or Conscience on the one hand and their nightmares on the other. It’s a variation on having an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, or caught between their hopes and fears. Because of this, we feel that it will have a universal appeal and that viewers will be able to understand the Man’s struggles, whether they are disabled, creative, or neither. Everyone’s challenges are different, but we can relate to and understand each other.


Why Is There A Need For It?

We believe that there are two reasons why The Black Box  is needed. Firstly, we made a short film last year called Awaken that dealt with similar themes, including the impact of disability and the impact of cuts to the welfare state. After we finished the film, we realised that we had enough material to make a second film which expanded these ideas in new ways.

Secondly, while there has been some progress in recent years, seeing disabled characters on film is still rare, despite a growing increase in the number of disabled people in the UK, due to advances in healthcare and an ageing population. Ultimately, this is because in film, we choose the stories we tell, and a basic level, we are showing what we want people to see, and disability remains an uncomfortable subject for many people. However, lack of addressing this issue will only lead to ignorance and fear. Because of these reasons, there is a strong case for making The Black Box and getting it out there for people to see.


What Do You Hope To Achieve With The Film?

When The Black Box is complete, we plan to submit the film to a variety of short film festivals, both in the UK and internationally. We are particularly interested in targeting festivals which focus on disability or mental health themes, or more experimental film festivals. We’re also looking at sending The Black Box to festivals aimed at young filmmakers (apart from Thom, the entire cast and crew is under 25). We aim to do this, so we will be able to secure funding for a new short film which we hope to make next year.

However, we wanted to make a film that would appeal to the wider public as well. While it’s not an educational film, we hope that The Black Box will raise some awareness about ME – it has a lot of stigma and misunderstanding around it. Although a work of fiction, the symptoms that are shown and described in the film are based on Thom’s own experiences of living with ME for 8 years. Ultimately we wanted to show the ‘stuff’ that was slowing the Man down and preventing him from completing his goal– that’s what ME does to you.


How Will You Fund it?

We have estimated that The Black Box will cost £8,000 in total to make, £5,000 of which we will crowdfund for on Indiegogo. Although it is hard work, the advantages of crowdfunding means that we will be able to connect with our audience at a much earlier stage and take them with us on our journey to make this film happen.  We shot a trailer for the film on the set of Awaken last year which has been assembled by a talented editor, which we hope will excited potential backers and make them want to support our work. In return for peoples’ contributions, we have created a series of perks, starting from as little as £2.00 that will allow people to buy into our project and get something in return for their contribution. Perks vary in size, ranging from a thank-you and a shout-out on social media, to a specially cut blooper reel, prints of on-set photography and signed copies of the shooting script. It depends on how much people contribute to the project.


What Does The Black Box Represent?

The Black Box can mean several things. It can refer to the title, or to the location, as every frame of this film will be shot in a single black box theatre space. However there are other meanings; in science and technology, a black box system is one which can be viewed by its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal workings, as such, this theory can be applied to someone living with ME – we can monitor the inputs and outputs but we do not know what causes the condition, how to diagnose it (beyond ruling out what it isn’t), how to treat it or how to cure it. It’s an invisible illness, but the effects of it are very visible.

In similar terms, The Black Box is also a reference to flight recorders (commonly known as black boxes) which are used to help investigate aeroplane crashes. This metaphor can also be applied to people who are diagnosed with ME/CFS – the onset of the condition can happen rapidly and it can worsen quickly – giving the impression that people who have the condition either crash, or disappear without warning.  In my own case, the film was the recording itself – explaining what had happened to me and what I had been doing since falling unwell.

Ultimately, the Black Box represents the blurring of the boundary between what we know and what we don’t.

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