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Sitting here in the OCD-UK office browsing through our email inboxes we regularly receive blogs and films to review, and just occasionally we receive something which makes us really take notice, and this short film written by Hannah Brennan achieves just that! A very powerful short film that discusses the feelings behind OCD.
Soap and Water is an exploration of OCD from the point of view of two people who have recovered. The film doesn't follow a traditional plot, but follows two unnamed characters, played by Lily Morgan and Rory Barnes, as they explore the emotions, stigma and development of OCD. You can watch the film at the bottom of the page.
We asked Hannah about her film, and she told us: "We aimed to make something that wasn't a dramatisation or a story, we just wanted to honestly talk about the emotions OCD sufferers experience, the stigma and misconceptions in the media and how OCD can develop and take over someone's life. Whilst there have been really helpful documentaries on OCD, there is also a widely held belief that OCD is only about checking locks, hand washing and light switches. This oversimplification of the illness as a whole, and these aspects of it, leads to a stigma that is much harder to address. The film aimed to try and give sufferers a very real picture of OCD to relate to, and give the wider public a better understanding of the illness."
What prompted it?
"The script was originally a forty-minute long play, performed at the Durham Drama Festival. It was well received, but obviously it was only seen by the 100 or so people in the audience that evening. By adapting it for film we've had over 350 people watch the film and 1,500 views on our channel, including our trailers and excerpts."
"Having been recovered from OCD for over a year now, I was still shocked to come into contact with prejudices and misconceptions about the illness. When I was ill, they would often be aimed at me, and I could address them, but it's much harder to pull up a stranger who has just referred to themselves as 'totally OCD' as though it's a bit of a laugh. Quite often, people would never say something of this kind if they knew I was an OCD sufferer, and it's important to make people aware that comments like this are unhelpful."
"I decided to make the film in response to this, because I knew I had a way to make a difference to people's attitudes, whether that was giving a non-sufferer a better understanding of OCD, or helping someone else feel less isolated."
Why you used actors rather than appear yourself?
"I'm Vice-President of a theatre society, and when you work with incredible actors day in, day out, it seems silly not to take advantage of them! People did wonder whether the film would be less authentic if we used actors, but Lily Morgan and Rory Barnes did such a stellar job I don't think it matters. I also think that if I had had to act in it, with Tom - who the film also follows - I'd have been too embarrassed to publish it anywhere!"
What sort of feedback have you had since you went live with it?
"It's been an amazing experience. The play was reviewed to be 'one of the most daring and thought provoking pieces of student writing' at the Durham Drama Festival, and the script was described as 'emotionally raw'. It was amazing to have that honesty and daring recognised in the play, and I felt like it only made sense to get it out to a wider audience.
"Out of 1,500 views I have only had one complaint. In our trailer there is a voiceover that states 'I will always have OCD. I'm in remission.' An American life coach said that I was condemning people to fail, and implying there's no escape from OCD - but this was a fundamental misunderstanding. For me and Tom, always having OCD isn't a negative thing, it's our way of accepting our experiences. We refer to ourselves as in remission because it would be only too easy to slide back into bad habits and worse compulsions if we didn't. Every day we try and remember what things were like, so that we can uphold the healthy lifestyle we're enjoying. Since this complaint was raised, we've had a lot of people come to us and say that they understood entirely, and we've put a disclaimer on the trailer to explain this issue."
"Beyond that, we've had people from the UK, the USA, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Cambodia, India and Egypt watching our film, to name a few! People's responses have been amazing, and everyone has been really supportive of what we're trying to achieve."
We thank Hannah for sharing her film with us, and we look forward to showing this at wider events during OCD Awareness Week and at our annual conference.