My name is Olivia Cottenden and I am a writer and director for film and TV. I recently have been very fortunate to win a bronze Creative Conscience award for my dance film “Alone”. “Alone” follows a young girl and her need for mental health support. In a rundown space we watch her struggle to phone for help, overwhelmed by the idea of picking up the receiver.
I have always had a passion for exploring social issues within my filmmaking as film is such a broad medium. Over time, my love for dance in film grew. During university, I realised that dance within film was a new and different way to explore these social issues. Instead of spelling the issues out for the audience, dance invites the audience to become a part of the film and make their own interpretation and judgement on the meaning of the video.
“Alone” stars 9 year old Lauren Leigh and was choreographed by Susanna Olsen. The issue of mental health in young people is important to me because I feel it is the category that is often so overlooked. We regularly hear about adult and teen mental health issues in news and media and the opportunity for help, but it is very rare to hear of these issues within young children. Therefore, children the same age and younger than Lauren often have nowhere to turn and are unsure of how to talk about how they are feeling or problems they may be facing. Through videos like “Alone”, I want the discussion of these issues within our younger generation to become easier and more frequent.
I was inspired heavily by the artist Sia and her music videos, particularly “Chandelier”, and her ability to create such a subjective video. I wanted to invite discussion about the message of “Alone” and hope the viewers are able to each take some different away from the video and dance, using their own imagination and experiences. At the ending of the video, when the girl picks up the ringing phone and the line goes dead, the audience is asked to decide what really happens. Is it too late? Or has she once again been left unnoticed?
The song “Alone” is written and composed by French artist Charly. She worked with me to pinpoint the desperation and distress the girl feels and was able to convey her need for help through the music. The music builds as the girl becomes more panicked and scared by the thought of these phones, which I hope allows the audience to realise the severity of these issues and how children can be too afraid or overwhelmed to ask for help.
Since filming “Alone”, I have directed another dance video with Lauren entitled “In the Dark”. Similarly, “In the Dark” focuses on a child in need of help but her issues are overlooked. I currently have another dance film with Lauren in the works entitled “Botched”, surrounding the issue of body image within young children.