17th ÉCU
The European Independent Film Festival 2022 

8th - 10th April 2022 
Interview

Steven Fraser 
Prosopagnosia 

Section: European Documentary
ecufilmfestival.com

Prosopagnosia means face-blindness and to understand this neurodiverse behaviour, the contents of a memory box are intricately explored. Sketchbooks, photographs and diaries unravel to tell a unique and personal story. Through expressive animation intimacy, communication and memory are investigated.

 

Hey Steven, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

 

It has been a very strange couple of years, but I have been trying to take advantage of it. Being an animator and artist I spend a lot of time undertaking projects that require a lot of patience and time, so I have been focusing my work on these endeavours.

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

It has actually given me time to finish off a few projects (mostly zines and comics) and complete my short film Prosopagnosia.  It was an idea I had for a long time and in late 2020 it got accepted into the Bridging the Gap scheme from the Scottish Documentary Institute. This is an initiative that supports filmmakers with their short film ideas. I had to undertake some workshops to develop the idea and then I had to pitch it in order to secure funding. I was lucky enough to be accepted and I got the opportunity to make Prosopagnosia. It was my first chance to make a film with a budget and support.

Congratulations on having Prosopagnosia part of the 17th ÉCU Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be screening your film in Paris?

I think it is great. When making Prosopagnosia I had no idea if the film would connect with audiences and get screened at festivals, so I am pleased to have the film screen at the ECU Film Festival.

Can you tell me how Prosopagnosia came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay and what was the message you wanted to convey with this film?

Several years ago I was receiving a diagnosis of autism. During this time it was realised I also had difficulty in recognising peoples faces. The term for this Prosopagnosia or face blindness. In order to understand what a face looks like I decided to draw as many faces as I could, I would take out my sketchbooks and just draw and draw. I also started taking photographs of my own face and kept diaries of my experiences. Eventually I realised I had lots of objects, sketchbooks and photos and I put them together in a memory box. The basis of the film is myself looking at this memory box and seeing what’s inside. The main message I wanted to convey was showing someone living with face blindness and not ‘suffering’ from it.

When working on a film like this how close do you like to keep to your script once you start filming, do you allow yourself much flexibility?

There wasn’t really a script in the traditional sense, as the spoken words in the film were taken from old audio diaries. There was a lot of editing down to decide what words were going to feature in the film, but when I decided on this, I pretty much had to stick with it.

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"I had to make sure the flow and pacing of the film worked as well, so I was constantly looking at the footage I had animated as I went along."

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Prosopagnosia to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

There were many challenges. Animation is time consuming and I found myself doing lots of work, only to film a few seconds of footage. I tried to get around this by planning everything out beforehand. Doing all this planning meant that I had less time to consider the sound and audio elements. Tom Drew the sound designer did an excellent job, but it would have been nice to bring him in sooner, but I was too focussed on the animation.

How did Do It Theatre come about and what inspired you to use illustration, animation and zines to create theatre?

I like going to the theatre, cinema, galleries etc, but sometimes these spaces can be unwelcoming to autistic people. Commonly there will be a screening or a performance where sensory stimuli is turned down. I felt that this meant that autistic people were not getting the full experience and that they had fewer options on what events they can go to. With Do It Theatre, the events were designed for autistic people. The events were set up like art galleries, but presented in theatre spaces. Elements such as text were given in zines and animation was used to convey visual storytelling.

Where did you passion for filmmaking come from?

I have always liked drawing and telling stories so I guess it comes from this. Creating animation I get to do both those things and explore my passions.

How different was your approach to Prosopagnosia compared to your previous short films?

This is by far my longest film. It is just over ten minutes and the longest of my previous films was just under four minutes. This meant that I had to spend more time planning out the project and visualising how things would look. This is something that I had done in my previous films, but with Prosopagnosia this was a far bigger task. I had to make sure the flow and pacing of the film worked as well, so I was constantly looking at the footage I had animated as I went along.

Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

I think this is very important. Filmmakers should always be trying to do something new and push new perspectives out to the world. My favourite filmmakers are people who create personal work, as if they are telling the audience a secret. I think with this, filmmakers should be looking to tell interesting and powerful stories.

For anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking do you have any tips or advice you would offer them? 

I always think the advice to ‘just start doing it’ can be a bit problematic. For example, some people do not have the time and money to make films, despite having the desire and passion to do so. However, if you want to make films you are still going to have to start doing it at some point. I always tell people to start small and create really short films first. This will give you a foundation to build upon.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Prosopagnosia?

I hope people enjoy it and that they find it a new and different perspective to experience at neurodiversity.