16 Oct 2020

Introducing the Mental Health Media Production Unit

2020 saw Inside Job Productions embark on a really exciting project, that brought together creative practice and genuine social impact to make a difference to the lives and mental health of people in custody.

I’m Owain, a filmmaker and visual activist and I’m responsible for delivering this amazing project. Originally from Bristol, I’ve spent my years as a filmmaker creating work that is devised in collaboration with communities, usually those that are marginalised and unheard. This is a practice called ‘participatory filmmaking’, work that is created in collaboration with communities — in our case, London prison communities. Any content we produce will be authored by the prisoners we are working with; they will decide the stories we tell and the way we tell them. Through the programme, the inmates will learn valuable skills in film production, media training, creative collaboration and relationship-building, all skills that are directly transferable upon release. Crucially, they will also learn how to effectively communicate their story, and make their voice heard.

The primary focus of this programme is mental wellbeing; the issues that are experienced by people in custody, what support is available in the criminal justice system, and how you can learn to manage your own emotions, moods and wellbeing whilst in a situation isolated from much of the outside world. The prevalence of mental health struggles in the London prison population compared to the general population is immense. This is why we believe that the MHMPU is not just an exciting social enterprise project, but an urgent one. Prisons are crossroads for so many communities that are disproportionately excluded and marginalised by society; up to 27% of adult prisoners are care leavers; 26% of the adult prison population is from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds, up to 51% in Young Offenders Institutions, and 37% of the prison population have mental health needs at any one time.

I haven’t taken on this project alone. As well as being supported by the IJP team, we also took on a Production Assistant. As part of IJP’s commitment to greater inclusion, we particularly looked for anyone with lived experience of the criminal justice system or had experienced any struggles with their mental health and wellbeing. This role didn’t require any previous experience or qualifications, just an enthusiasm for filmmaking and creating positive social change.

I was really excited to join the IJP team and, particularly, to be taking on a project that I believe has a genuine, positive and long-lasting effect on the lives of people in custody. Bringing together creativity and social impact is at the heart of both mine and IJP’s charity film work, and I can’t wait to see where else the journey takes us.