British Shorts | 2020
"As well as telling the more personal story of my Dad’s experience, I also wanted to show the wider political consequences this cultural tradition of child abandonment under the guise of privilege brings."
Dir. Rosa Fisher
Animated doc on masculinity and the boarding school system.
Hi Rosa, thanks for talking to TNC, how is your 2020 going?
No problem at all, I’m very glad to be able to share more details about my film and myself as a film maker. The year is going great so far, I spent the new year in Italy eating unbelievable food and throwing these very loud mini firework things onto the ground.
Congratulations on having Sent Away selected to British Shorts, what does it mean to you to be part of such a great showcase for British Films?
I’m so excited to be part of this excellent film festival! It seems like there’s a brilliant bunch of films playing and I’m so glad to have mine included too.
Do you ever get nervous seeing your films with a festival audience?
It’s slightly nerve-racking to see how your film will be received, especially when you are used to only a few people seeing it for so long, and then it’s such a stark contrast for it to suddenly have a way bigger audience.
You have just finished your MA at the Royal Collage of Art in Animation, what has this experience been like for you?
I feel so lucky to have been able to do that course, the tutors were fantastic and I learnt so much. It’s left me broken financially but I met unbelievable friends there and feel like I’m part of such an amazing animation community now. I really miss it!
Can you talk about Sent Away, what how did the film come about?
My Dad has spoken about his experiences of being sent away to school throughout my life, and this made me really invested in showing the kind of damage these institutions can bring.
I was greatly influenced by the research of Nick Duffel in this film. He has written at length about Boarding schools, and writes that boarding schools force children to alter themselves and suppress their vulnerabilities in order to cope with the sense of abandonment it brings.
As well as telling the more personal story of my Dad’s experience, I also wanted to show the wider political consequences this cultural tradition of child abandonment under the guise of privilege brings. The majority of the political leaders in Britain have been shaped and hardened through this system and this no doubt feeds into the sometimes questionable ways that the country is governed.
Did you have any apprehensions about making a film that dealt with such salient themes?
I was nervous to ask my Dad if I could mainly base the film on his own experience because it’s such a personal thing for him to talk about. Luckily he was really on board with it in the end.
How much do you think parents who send their children to boarding schools know about the phycological affects that this may have on their children?
I’m sure they’d have no idea how much impact it has on a child’s development. My own Dad’s parents sent him to the school because it’s almost just the expected thing to do in their class and background and its seen as a privileged education. My grandfather had also been sent to the same one and my great grandfather had gone there too so it was kind of a script they were following and not questioning.
Dad has said his Mum was massively upset that he’d gone there though and that it really affected her throughout her life.
This is partly why I felt so motivated to make this as maybe it would help to inform people of the damage this sort of education can bring. Boarding schools have changed since my Dad was there, but the principle remains the same that children are separated from their parents at a young age, and this is at the core of what is so psychologically damaging about it.
"I think this probably with hindsight wasted some time, but also I was glad to have a long time editing the animatic as that meant I was able to really refine it."
Looking back is there anything you would want to do differently on this film?
I did go back and forth changing my mind about a lot of aspects in the film. I took out the ending with the French horn and then put it back in multiple times among other things. I think this probably with hindsight wasted some time, but also I was glad to have a long time editing the animatic as that meant I was able to really refine it.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I always wanted to do art but I got into making films when I realised I loved telling stories in my work and coming up with characters.
I’ve definitely changed my approach a lot since I first started, I think my approach has become more refined at the same time as becoming more free in a way. I started out with a very limited animation ability but with quite a rigid idea of how films should be made. Now, I think I’ve become a lot looser in my approach.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently freelancing as an animator but I would love to make another personal project soon. I’m working a lot with my talented friend from the RCA Gabriella Marsh, and we’re planning on making a film together at some point.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Sent Away?
I really hope it shines some light on the damages boarding schools can bring on individuals as well as the connection to the wider political consequences. The UK is governed by boarding school survivors and I hope the film helps speculate on the effects this might have on us all.