top of page

TNC INTERVIEW 2024
Fundraising Campaign 

contact hours.jpg
Writer. 
Rufus Love 
Director.
Harry
Richards
CONTACT HOURS

If you would like to make a contribution towards Contact Hours please contact director Harry Richards.

 
MARCH 21, 2024 

"Contact Hours" is a psychological drama short about student suicide seen through the eyes of a university caretaker struggling to connect with his son. 

Hi Harry and Rufus, thank you as always for taking the time to talk to us. You started the crowdfunding campaign for your latest short film Contact Hours, how’s that been going?

 

It’s been challenging but really rewarding! Preparing our pitch and fundraising materials encouraged us to refine our project’s messaging – really thinking about our personal reasons for making Contact Hours, who our audience is, and why it’s essential that this film gets made. 

 

As we prepared for our first meetings with prospective contributors, we went through rigorous pitch practice sessions with some trusted advisors. They grilled us about our film’s budget, casting choices, and distribution plans, to ensure we were ready for any questions that prospective contributors might throw at us. We feel very pleased to have raised over 50% of our budget.

 

Being 50% funded so far is incredible news, what has it meant to you both to see your short film get this level of support?

 

The support has been so encouraging. We’re very grateful to all of the generous contributors in our network who have believed in the project and our ability to deliver the film. Since this is a subject that has impacted so many people, we have also been introduced to backers outside of our network. We are delighted to have more pitch meetings scheduled over the coming weeks. 

 

Due to the salient nature of Contact Hours, did you have any apprehensions about how you could/would start this campaign?

 

Yes. We were very conscious of the need to use safe language when writing and speaking about suicide. We wanted to ensure that our communication helped to eliminate stigma as opposed to perpetuating it, so we consulted the Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for covering suicide online and portraying the subject in film. We also watched documentaries, read news articles, and investigated the research done by charities about suicide. This gave us a much deeper understanding of the subject and helped us determine where the film would fit amongst existing work. Crucially, we also undertook a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course run by LivingWorks.

 

Any project that deals with suicide can be incredibly taxing on the creative team behind it. How has your own mental health been during this process?

 

It’s definitely been tough. There are so many people who have been directly affected by suicide, so we’ve felt the weight of responsibility to communicate safely, and to create a film that has a positive impact. During the creative process, we’ve been really lucky to have each other to smile and have a laugh. Retaining a sense of humour has often helped to relieve our anxiety. This is something we hope to carry forward throughout the project’s journey, creating safe, positive, and hopeful spaces for our cast, crew, and audience.

Harry + Rufus.png

Harry: what was it about Rufus’ screenplay that connected with you as a filmmaker?

 

Rufus’ use of language is phenomenal. The descriptions in the screenplay were so rich and expressive that each scene really leapt off the page. It was concise, compelling, and made me want to keep reading. I had been thinking a lot about the four students I knew from my university who died by suicide, and the script made me reflect even more on this tragic issue. I knew that if the script alone was stirring up these feelings, then it had huge potential to become a very moving film and a powerful tool to start conversations.

 

Rufus: after talking with the caretaker, when did you realise you wanted to write this short?

 

The idea for Contact Hours came from a chance encounter while working at a bar. A man came in to do some maintenance, we got chatting, and he told me he used to be a university caretaker. He had resigned from his post because he couldn’t cope with all the student suffering. I thought this was a really unique and poignant perspective so I did some research and wrote a first draft.

 

During your research and development for Contact Hours, what were the most heart-wrenching statistics you discovered about suicide and how it impacts people who experience?

 

One UK student dies by suicide every four days. From personal connections and news stories, we knew that student suicide was prevalent, but that statistic is as astonishing as it is heartbreaking.

 

There is a stigma around mental health and suicide, particularly in universities — that rarely publicise suicide statistics — that continues to plague the discourse. What steps do you think institutions and communities can take to overcome this and finally work towards removing this stigma?

 

The first step to overcoming stigma is through understanding and empathy. From a community perspective, the importance of looking out for people and having open conversations about suicide cannot be overstated – it has been proven as a critical means of intervention by clinical psychologists.

 

In terms of institutions, although we did not set out to make a polemic, the film depicts some behaviour from universities, inspired by real stories, that people might consider failings. For instance, staff are often stretched too thinly to have personal relationships with all of the students and the film shows this pressure being exerted on the Caretaker. Also, when students signal that they need help, either by directly expressing that feeling or through more subtle indications, universities have often been inactive or impersonal in their responses. Our film begins with the Caretaker posting an expulsion letter to a student. This is of course not a safe or humane way for universities to deliver that news.

"Not to give too much away, but trauma can leave those affected by suicide feeling as if the language and geography of reality no longer make sense."

You have stated that you want to avoid sensationalism in Contact Hours, by ‘not training the camera directly’ on death by suicide. Was this always going to be your intention and are there any other stylistic choices you’ve made in the writing and development process to avoid being sensational or exploitative?

 

This was the idea from the very first draft. Firstly, from a safety perspective, it is incredibly important not to glamourise suicide or give undue information that might be useful to someone considering taking their own life. Secondly, from an artistic point of view, we are hoping to find more creative, memorable ways to depict the grief and disorientation that accompany an event like this. Not to give too much away, but trauma can leave those affected by suicide feeling as if the language and geography of reality no longer make sense.

 

When will you hope to start shooting?

 

The final week of July!

 

And finally, what have you both taken from this journey so far with Contact Hours?

 

During the process of making this film, we have been immensely privileged to have met so many amazing suicide prevention campaigners and caregivers, who do phenomenal work to keep people safe and alive. It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to learn from them and to join them on their mission.

bottom of page