Byron Bay filmmaker Darius Devas has partnered with organisations like headspace and the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) to help amplify the message of his new documentary series, The Common Thread.
The 6 x 5-8 minute series, backed by Screen Australia, sees Devas travel across the country to meet young people who open up their about their mental ill health.
The first episode was released online via Instagram, Facebook and YouTube on Tuesday evening, with subsequent eps to be released weekly. Every episode will go out through Devas’ Being Here channels and headspace and CRRMH’s social pages. A half an hour version will also air on ABC’s Compass during Mental Health Week in October.
Devas is pleased with the dual release; the online roll out will help hit the series’ target audience – 18-35 year olds – where they are most likely to be watching content, while the ABC broadcast will then reach a older, secondary audience – perhaps the target audience’s parents.
The first episode sees Devas open up about his own experiences with anxiety and the loss of his friend, Indigenous poet Alice Eather, to suicide.
Devas, who has also made other short form doc series like Goa Hippy Tribe, which won the SXSW Interactive Award in 2012, hopes The Common Thread will spark a conversation about mental health, and allow people to see they’re not alone.
“When we talk about it, it doesn’t make it go away, but it really helps to feel empowered to work with it, and feel part of a bigger picture – rather than just in a little siloed, isolated place that I know I’ve been in and I know I’ve seen a lot of other people be in as well.”
Devas was able to engage partners like headspace, Sane and CRRMH during development after cutting together a trailer with footage of Alice from a previous project, The Word: Rise of the Slam Poets, and an interview with her father Michael.
The organisations’ involvement in the project helped to validate it when looking for production finance and in sourcing interviewees, and ensured the series was safe and appropriate for audiences.
The partners also play a critical role in distribution, with each cross-posting the series on their own Facebook pages.
Devas predicts in the lead-up to the Compass screening they will do a large social media push of the series again, informed by analytics from the initial roll out.
“What’s great about [this series] is that it’s evergreen content, so we can continue to keep pushing it out there at key periods to engage new audiences who may not have seen it yet.”
While the series was made on a small budget, Devas has chosen to put much of his resources into marketing, knowing how difficult it is to cut through online.
In addition to the full episodes, he has cut individual profiles that he is also releasing via social media; prior to the roll-out of the first ep he released a profile on Otis Carey, an Indigenous artist and surfer, who talks about his experiences with depression.
The film team is still developing social impact campaign goals for the project, however, they hope to tour it regionally and are working on developing an educational package for high schools. In this regard, they are still trying to raise finance for the impact campaign via the Documentary Australia Foundation.
“If this can stop one person from deciding to make that final action, this project has been a complete success. I’ll never know that, but at the same time, that is a really strong intention of mine. That someone may just think, ‘Hey, there are other ways in which to think about this, or there are other paths to take.’ I’ll never know that, but it is definitely a big motivation for me to want to share these stories, and I do think they’re really useful for people who are struggling and don’t yet have a community or the resources to understand how to manage what’s going on for them.”
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Watch the first episode of The Common Thread here: