Don’t Panic London on why discussion around depression and suicide amongst young men is so important
Suicide rates among young men in the UK are over double that of women and suicide is the biggest killer of men below the age of 45. Despite this, conversation around mental health issues amongst this demographic is still wrongly seen as some sort of an awkward taboo. This new campaign from Childline and its agency Don’t Panic London is looking to change that. Presented in the style of a Buzzfeed listicle video, ‘Things Guys Don’t Talk About’ is an extremely relatable piece of filmmaking that was directed by Somesuch’s Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull. It follows the day-to-day activities of a teenage boy, as he goes about his business, playing computer games, glugging milk from the bottle and shaving his nether regions. But things turn towards the end of the film.
LBB’s Liam Smith spoke with the Don’t Panic crew and directors Luke and Joe to find out more about this important campaign.
LBB> Sometimes when things need to be truly ‘authentic’, they can feel a little try-hard - this nails it though. How did you pull that off?
DP> We worked very closely with Childline and our younger target audience to achieve this. We worked with those who have had to deal with suicidal thoughts, and those who haven’t, to make sure we were producing content that felt real for all. It had to be authentic for those who have been in the same position as our protagonist, but that also felt relatable to their peers. We also gained insight from those who work with young people with severe mental health problems to understand patterns of behaviour and common characteristics of those suffering with suicidal thoughts to inform specific scenes in the film.
LBB> Who directed it and why were they right to handle such a delicate subject?
DP> We partnered with Somesuch and directors Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull. It was really important for us, knowing how important and sensitive the subject is, that everyone on board felt passionately about the cause. Luke and Joseph were very collaborative, and worked with us and young people to make sure the scenes were relatable and honest.
The fact this is such a delicate subject is exactly the reason why it was so important to talk about it. It’s as #toughtotalk suggests – people often avoid talking about this as it’s framed as such a ‘taboo’ subject – both for those suffering, and those who see their friends or family suffering and not knowing how to approach them. By being bold with the content and approaching it in a creative, but quite pragmatic way, you can break through this stigma and get people talking, not only on social, but to each other.
LBB> The shots, grade and lighting really amplify the tone of the spot. Who else did you work with on the production?
Luke and Joe (directors)> We worked closely with our cinematographer David Procter, he understood that intimacy we were after. But we still wanted the visual style to be bold and arresting. Once on set we made sure our compositions were striking but never intrusive, we move closer to our character later in our edit to help build the intensity.
The idea was that the lighting and tone shifted mirroring the character's emotional state. Through the lighting and our grade with Edwin Metternich at Framestore we accentuated this shift within the narrative. As the piece progresses, our colour palette and lighting gradually becomes darker and more atmospheric.
LBB> What kind of research was involved to ensure that this stayed true to teenage values?
DP> We worked very closely with Childline to understand what is true to young people, and what boys do on a day-to-day basis. We conducted focus groups with young people to gain feedback on the original concept and then again on the video edit. They provided valuable insights on themes that resonated as authentic and those that did not.
LBB> During your research, did you stumble upon any facts or figures that caught you off guard?
DP> Unfortunately there are a lot facts and figures that shocked us when researching #toughtotalk. For us the most shocking is that the suicide rate for boys is more than double that it is in girls and that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Learning more and more about this topic highlighted how important it was for us to create content that resonates with young people and helps to create conversations on the topic.
LBB> The film is presented like a BuzzFeed 'listicle' video. Why was this the right way to tell the story?
DP> Suicide is one of the hardest things to talk about, especially for boys. We knew they weren’t going to actively seek out, or watch a film about suicide, so we focused on using a format boys were familiar with and already watch, that didn’t feel ‘forced’ or ‘written by their Dads’. But most importantly, the format hopefully encouraged boys to feel like they weren’t alone in their suicidal thoughts.
LBB> The online video is already racking up tonnes of views on YouTube. Will the film be airing on TV or in cinemas? What’s the plan concerning distribution?
DP> Our hero videos live on the Childline Facebook and YouTube channels. Alongside this we have had major support from Wayne Rooney and BBC News who have both uploaded the film to their social platforms. We’ve also created assets for Snapchat and Instagram, including vertical videos in the style of social media stories and additional stills and GIFs. This #toughtotalk content is to ensure that we are creating specific content for the platforms our teen audience use. We have also partnered with LadBible and their UOKm8? channel which talks about mental health in men specifically.
LBB> What was the casting process like?
DP> Our directors, Luke and Joe worked closely with the casting director Kharmel Cochrane, she's especially great at finding young performers. It was finding a balance; an authentic, real teenager but he needed to have technical ability too. Also someone who could mix humour and those moments of introspection. In casting Jacob really stood out, he had a charm, could be funny - some fine dance moves - but wasn't afraid to explore that anger, frustration and isolation the character felt.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
DP> This campaign really needed to get boys talking and we are overwhelmed by the positive reception – and to see boys commenting and engaging with the content in such a positive way is just amazing. This is such an important campaign to be involved with and we are so proud that we have worked to create something so accurate and relatable.
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