Man Down is a short documentary that looks at one man’s journey into fatherhood and its repercussions on his mental health. Shot in Dartmoor and Ashburton the film shines a light on Postpartum Depression in men. Made by award-winning filmmaker Arthur Cauty, it’s a collaboration with Silver Levy-So, another Devon filmmaker. We caught up with Arthur and Silver to find out why they put such a personal story on screen.
D&CFilm: The film is a beautifully honest portrayal of fatherhood. How did Man Down come about?
Arthur: I often find myself drawn towards social issues – addiction, racism, homelessness, mental health – using film as a means of confronting them, with the hope that it could generate some conversation or even inspire some form of change, big or small. Silver had been talking to me about becoming a dad, and the mental health implications of it all, and he seemed keen to do something, so that was that.
Silver: It’s something that I had been writing little bits about ever since I became a dad. When I felt like nobody else would understand or listen, I would just go back to writing – I always knew that at some point I would share this story – or at least bits of it. Arthur just happened to be one of the friends that I had sporadically been venting my frustrations to since becoming a dad, just about feeling trapped and not being able to work etc. Eventually, he just said, do you want to film a little piece, and the fact we had worked together on and off for a while and with success and no real qualms. He’s the only other person I trusted to capture it… So we did.
D&CFilm: Talking on camera is such a big ask and Silver did it in such a forthright and open way, did it help that he’s a filmmaker?
Arthur: I think it certainly helped that we’ve worked together in the past. Silver worked on my feature documentary A Royal Hangover back in 2014, as well as little bits and pieces since, so he’s most likely pretty familiar with my process and approach to interviews etc. I think being friends is a big part of it, and that there was a huge element of trust involved on Silver’s part. I remember telling him up front that if he hated the cut, or wasn’t comfortable with the film for whatever reason, that we’d scrap it.
Silver: There are some aspects about being in front of the camera that help if you have also been behind the camera for many years, for instance it is nothing new and you can work out how you might look based on angles etc and also the set up doesn’t faze you. On the other hand, it can also make things uncomfortable for some of those very reasons above – e.g. you can almost work out how you’re gonna look and sound. I don’t think anyone particularly likes seeing and hearing themselves played back – It’s well known in human psychology. I am uncomfortable about myself pretty much throughout watching the film, no matter how many times I watch it. You just have to stay true to yourself.
D&CFilm: Silver, how difficult was it to talk about anxiety on camera and has being the focus on the other side of the lens helped your filmmaking?
Silver: To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult. When you’ve been thinking and writing about the subject for years, most of what you wish to say is naturally ingrained in you. And in terms of my anxieties, I’ve been dealing with and learning about them in myself every day for about 15 years, it is not the first time I have talked about it. The difficulty for me is always more about – how do I condense all of these deep and vivid, very explanatory emotions, into such a short amount of time. That is the story of my life! It helps that I’m “a natural talker since birth” (thanks mum). I have also been in front of the camera quite a few times before, has it helped my filmmaking? I would say so, but mostly because of confidence
D&CFilm: How did you create that safe environment to chat for the film and how was the editing process?
Silver: I think this is a question for Arthur, mostly, but on my part it obviously helped that I was producing the film – in terms of locations, timings, people. Obviously, being in your own spaces and around only people that you trust and know can only help to relax the situation and make it feel safe.
Arthur: It was just me shooting as a one-man band for the bulk of it, so that hopefully made it less intimidating?! We shot at Silver’s house, thinking that a familiar location would maybe help ease any nerves. Editing was hard. I pride myself on my rapid editing skills, but this one stumped me a bit. I think because the subject matter is so sensitive. I wanted to do Silver’s story justice, and wanted it to be obviously informative, but also highly watchable, without being too overwhelming. There was a lot to fit in, and a lot of really powerful stuff that didn’t make it. But hey, gotta be ruthless.
D&CFilm: How successful do you think film can be to highlight these issues? And how important is it for film in particular and arts in general to try?
Silver: From the feedback we’ve had so far – I would say the film could be hugely successful in not only highlighting these issues but, supporting others – maybe even saving lives! And not only this short film. This is just the start… I hope to use this platform to dive further into this and help and support as many people as possible. That was the point.
Arthur: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a responsibility there as artists to tell stories like this, and to do so with integrity. I like the thought of film offering a window into another world – whether that be a familiar world, or a place you’ve never seen or thought about before.
D&CFilm: What did you learn during the process of making the film – I’m thinking mainly emotionally/ personally but also maybe in your approaches to similar subjects matters?
Arthur: I think we’re both fairly well-versed when it comes to mental health issues due to previous projects and personal experiences, but for me male Postpartum Depression was something that I’d never given any thought to, I guess mostly due to the fact that I’m not a dad. I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone talk about it in men until Silver brought it up, so I wrongly assumed (like many people) that it’s an exclusively female affliction. Looking into the studies – for which there have been very few – it’s been really eye-opening. It affects a huge proportion of men, yet is still barely recognised as a legitimate condition.
Silver: That it’s ok to let go and allow people to view your insecurities. That the importance of supporting others is more important than your own ego. To be honest though I have learnt more from the feedback than from making the film because I think me and Arthur already kind of knew what we were doing, from our previous experiences…
D&CFilm: What’s been the reaction to Man Down so far?
Silver: Absolutely incredible! From people who I’ve never even met before telling me that they shed tears watching it, to other men and dads sending me messages saying how much they appreciated somebody speaking out for them. Although most of the feedback so far seems to have come from women – which reaffirms the obvious – men are still uncomfortable to speak out about these things. I think when men see women supporting and saying lovely things about this, they are more willing and open to talking themselves, because I think a lot of the shame and embarrassment for men about this is how women (and other men) will perceive them. The amount of women who have said they didn’t even realise Postpartum Depression existed in men… So there’s also clearly just a lack of public education and understanding about this.
Arthur: Yeah, I think that pretty much covers it.
D&CFilm: How are you distributing the film, and who would you say should watch it?
Silver: Arthur is the more experienced when it comes to distribution, so I have to be humble about that and let him answer it, however, we will inevitably come up with a POA and attack it from all angles. In terms of who should watch, well of course I’m gonna say EVERYONE. But seriously, yes, everyone! This isn’t about men or women, this is about society as a whole and the way we are portrayed. Men are demonised in the media for showing too much “weakness” and also for being “too tough”. The whole image and expectations need to change and it starts from the ground up. We don’t live in caves anymore, it’s about time that views and expectations changed to fit the times.
Arthur: You can watch the film exclusively on Vimeo for the time being. We’re pushing the online side of things, and working with a number of mental health organisations and charities in incorporating the film into some of their campaigns, as well as some physical screenings whenever it’s deemed safe to do so!
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