For most people, creating a short film for their final year dissertation is a stressful enough process, let alone considering the prospect of using it as a platform for discussions around men’s mental health and suicide. But for recent graduate and independent filmmaker Melanie Keeler, the challenge was an important one.
“I always want my films to engage with topics that are important,” said Keeler. “My first productions looked at LGBT issues and a rare medical condition that my brother suffers from, and I wanted to keep moving the needle. Men’s mental health and discussions around suicide are still taboo subjects; all too often, if men talk about their feelings, they’re seen as ‘weak’, which is wrong and unhealthy.”
The film, From the Edge of the Clouds, features Ian Kay and Niamh Forster, who play two childhood friends, Peyton and Sienna. The pair lose touch and are reunited years after Sienna loses her mother. The film examines themes such as depression, suicide, and how men often struggle to express themselves emotionally.
“I was particularly keen to work with talent that could empathise with the issues raised in the film,” continued Keeler. “Kay had previously dealt with mental health challenges, which helped portray the themes accurately. The film’s mood also changes significantly, and colour is a key part of expressing how the characters feel.”
From the Edge of the Clouds was shot in 1080p using Blackmagic RAW and edited and graded with DaVinci Resolve.
“I loved shooting with the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K,” said Keeler. “It was a great camera for the Steadicam rig we used, and the touchscreen interface makes it very easy to use. When shooting with DSLRs, you often have to go through several different sub-menus to find the setting you want, but Blackmagic’s OS makes it really intuitive. The URSA also captures skin tones very effectively, giving the whole film a rich, true-to-life feeling.”
The short film was edited in DaVinci Resolve, and with colour being a prominent part of the film, the grading was crucial to give it the right feel. Keeler chose to focus on blue and orange as the film’s primary colours, with blue representing the times when Peyton was alone and orange showing moments where warmth and hope were coming back into his life.
“Using Blackmagic RAW also gave us the freedom to achieve the cinematic effect we wanted,” continued Keeler. “We could play with the colour scheme to emphasise different aspects of the film, which wouldn’t have been as easy with other formats.”
“Depression, mental health, emotional literacy and suicide were tough themes to engage with, but I hope this film shines a light on the importance of friendship, patience, communication and working through tough times together,” Keeler concluded. “The more we can talk about these issues, the less they become taboo – and perhaps more crucially, the greater our chance of preventing future losses.”