Throughout October we’re running a series of interviews with artists involved in the festival. Here, filmmaker Duncan Cowles discusses his Men’s Mental Health Workshop, a key part of our Men’s Mental Health Day at the CCA on 14 October.
What will your Men’s Mental Health Workshop involve?
I’m going to show a little bit of the feature film I’ve been working on, which explores my own difficulties in communicating emotion to those I’m close to. I’d like to begin by discussing this, and some of the things I’ve come across so far.
Then I’d like to talk about approach, and how to tackle interviews in documentary films, some of the challenges and ethical considerations when dealing with vulnerable people and information. I’m then going to attempt a live demonstration of an interview situation, inviting any members of the audience to participate if they wish (not essential). I’m keen to keep the workshop very relaxed and have plenty of time for questions and discussion. I’m very pleased that the workshop will be co-presented with Brothers in Arms, as their experience will add a lot to the discussion, and make for a really engaging and valuable hour and a half.
The festval is devoting a whole day of its film programme this year to exploring men’s mental health. What are your thoughts on that and are there any films you’re looking forward to seeing?
I think it’s good that men’s mental health is getting featured in this way. There’s more and more awareness around male mental health now than I ever remember there being before, however it’s still never enough. Statistics such as those on CALM’s website show us that it’s still not enough. All the films look great. I’m keen to finally watch Donkeyote, I saw a rough cut of the film when it was being edited and it was amazing, so I can only predict that it’ll be even better now that it’s actually finished.
Can you tell us a bit about your film Silent Men?
Silent Men is my first ever feature-length documentary that I’m currently developing/filming. I don’t imagine it’ll be completed until sometime at the end of 2018 at the earliest. The film is very personal and questions my own struggles to communicate emotion properly, in particular to those I’m closest to. In order to find out more and explore this difficulty I travel around the UK speaking to all different types of men, finding out their coping mechanisms and listening to their experiences and stories of how they’ve been affected by this problem/issue.
There is a mailing list to keep up to date with how the film progresses here.
How do you stay mentally healthy?
There’s no straight forward answer to that but I’ll try. I think you have to know yourself. Know what’s right for you. What I do to keep myself grounded these days will be different to what works for others, and what would have worked for me in the past, so this is in no way to be considered concrete advice. I like to go for walks, go to the cinema early in the morning, travel as frequently as I’m able, see as many good friends as often as life allows, be productive in my work, be creating new things and working on projects that excite me, I also need time to myself, I like being alone for a day here and there.
I think most recently when I’m really getting on with my work and making a film, or whatever it is, I feel good. If I’m sat about with nothing to do, or if I’m avoiding something due to laziness or fear, I get quite unhappy quite quickly. So I stay as busy as I can with my work. That works for me for where I am right now.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just completed a four minute film called Taking Stock for Channel 4’s Random Acts TV programme, which should be airing sometime later in the year I think. I’ve also just been commissioned to make a 30 minute documentary for STV which I’ll be filming over the next wee while, which should be airing sometime next year. Asides from that and some little odd freelance jobs here and there, I’m basically concentrating on my feature film, or my own little side projects which probably take up more time than they should.
Follow me on the socials to keep up to date (@DuncanCowles on Twitter/Instagram, website: www.duncancowles.com)