Tom, originally from Suffolk, also received a British Council nomination for a UK short film award for his graduation film, Inherent. The 2016 LCC graduate chose to courageously use his own experiences as inspiration for his work through ‘Homebound’, a film focusing on how his family have dealt with mental health.
Tom shared with us: “Homebound was my second year film. It’s about my past experience of being diagnosed with the condition paranoid schizophrenia at 19 and revisiting this period in my life. This time is a little blurry and I wanted to come to terms with it. It’s also about my family’s reaction to a time we have never really spoken about. An intimate insight into how a family deals with an episode of mental health.”
We got in touch with Tom to hear more about Inherent and Homebound and the inspiration behind these films…
Hi Tom, congratulations on your award nominations. How does it feel?
It feels odd, as I was starting to question if they were good films and if I had done the stories justice. But it does feel amazing to know the team that worked on both are getting the recognition for their hard work, commitment and creativity.
How did the nomination come about – did you enter yourself?
I sent Homebound to Grierson earlier this year. I haven’t sent it to anywhere since it was made a little over a year ago. I have been fearful of how the world may perceive me after opening up about being diagnosed with mental health disorders. I know how much it has affected my mother’s life, so I had hesitations. In all honesty, I’m glad I have waited as I think in the last year there has been a huge shift in society’s attitude towards mental health.
I also sent Inherent into Open City Doc Festival. I realised you have to send the films to festivals otherwise they will not get recognition, and recognition allows you to make more films with grander ideas. I would have sent it to more, but it almost feels like gambling entering film festivals as it can cost a lot.
Can you tell us about Inherent?
Inherent was my graduation film. It’s about how individual actions within a family impact a generation to come. It recalls how my mother was abandoned at a young age by her own mother, and the difficulties she had in thinking that she might repeat history. At this time my grandfather was writing to my mother trying to reassure her that everything would be okay. The film is my mother and me talking through the letters and asking questions about a time I can’t remember. This involves a series of re-enactments mixed with archive material to help retell the story.
What was the inspiration behind the concept of these films?
The inspiration behind Homebound was mental health and stigma. I wanted to create something that felt intimate, comfortable to watch and relatable to viewers. I was inspired visually and emotionally by the Polaroid’s of Andrei Tarkovsky and the photographs of Uta Barth.
When I was 18 I started suffering from mental health problems, and I had a nervous breakdown when going to study first time round. I moved back home and spent 2 years in recovery and watched many films, read a lot of books as I was unable to leave the house a lot of the time.
This was a very dark period but it gave me an opportunity to understand my interest in filmmaking more. When I was well enough to move back to London at 21 I did, and with the support of doctors and social workers I was able to manage. I got onto Film Practice at LCC after doing a production course at The Roundhouse in Camden.
“When I was 18 I started suffering from mental health problems. This was a very dark period but it gave me an opportunity to understand my interest in film making more.” – Tom Jeffery
Inherent was inspired by my love of films during WWII, especially ones created in England under the GPO film unit. Humphrey Jennings Diary For Timothy was a great inspiration. There was a huge amount of reconstruction during this period so I wanted to incorporate some of that into Inherent. The film was inspired visually & emotionally by the paintings of Carl Vilhelm Holsoe, Vilhem Hamershoi and Jan Van Der Kooi.
How did you go from being back home in recovery to getting onto the course at LCC?
When I was well enough to move back to London at 21 I did, and with the support of doctors and social workers I was able to manage. I got onto a production course at The Roundhouse in Camden. I produced a short fiction film at the end of the course that went onto win a competition at the BFI future film festival. After the course I was working at a youth marketing agency in Brixton called Livity. It was an incredible experience and I was nurtured very well but I was really interested in retrying university and complete studies in filmmaking. I was searching for courses online and found the course at LCC, I decided this was the only course I was going to apply for as it felt fitting to what I wanted to study. So I applied and luckily got onto the course.
What advice would you give to other students who may be struggling with mental health issues whilst at university?
Don’t let it label you, control you and withhold you from doing the things you want to be able to do. The mind is a complex thing, and if university enables a creative outlet, it’s probably your best remedy.
Who else was involved in the films and what were their roles?
I was very fortunate to have incredible people helping me out on both films. I am hugely grateful to them, as I am not sure if the films would have worked if I didn’t have the trust and patience of the team.
On Homebound I worked with Csaba Kondor, an amazing Hungarian cinematographer and friend, he helped visually represent how that time was. Helene Olsen Thunem was the editor on the film and she worked on both Homebound and Inherent, she is incredible and I owe a lot to her. She helped me to manage my emotions whilst I was freaking out in the editing room. Alice Houston was the sound recorder and sound designer on Homebound, she was the epitome of being relaxed.
On Inherent I worked with Dale Mensah, the sound recorder and sound designer; he did a cracking job of creating the atmosphere and emotion in the film. Spencer Mathews was the producer on Inherent and did an incredible job, keeping everyone calm and pretty much making the whole thing come together. Steven Carver was the cinematographer on Inherent and we worked incredibly closely on how to shoot and light the film. Isobella Lozano was the production designer on inherent and did an incredible job of recreating the time period and working closely with the colours of the film.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced while making the film?
Trying to keep relaxed whilst making two films that were very personal to me.
What has been the highlight so far?
To see both films go from an idea to something that has had recognition.
Are you working on any other exciting projects?
I am working on a documentary about Addiction, Society and Alchemy. Hopefully this will go from a small idea to something worthy.
What have you most enjoyed on your course?
Being able to have creative freedom and ownership over each film.
Inherent and Homebound will be available to watch on Tom’s Vimeo page soon