This blog was put together by Sam Briggs, Writer and Producer of “When the Clapping Stops” – we spoke to Sam and Director Cameron about making the short on our Patreon Minisodes – head over to learn more about the short!
Prior to COVID, I hadn’t considered writing about my experiences as a Care Worker. Until that point, my creative practice and my full-time job had been kept separate, carefully compartmentalised, presumably in an attempt to maintain my sanity. Then Clap For Carers came. Standing there, banging away on my saucepan, I had a very sobering thought: I’m a care worker, but I don’t feel like a hero. I knew that it was time to write.
So write I did – 8 years of relationships and stories tumbling out onto the page, jostling to make the final leap to screen. My ambition was to pen a script that would show the reality of life as a carer; the cherished relationships, the sleep sacrificed, and the zero-hours contracts.
A script that offered an unflinching, authentic view of lives on the peripheries, both of care work professionals and the patients they struggled to make a living supporting.
In When The Clapping Stops, Matty, a young and dedicated care worker, struggling to access workplace support, must also provide for his Grandfather with Dementia. Soon, the emotional stress of balancing his personal and professional care duties begins to take its toll – abandonment and isolation causing dangerous cracks to appear at work and home.
During early conversations with director Cameron Perry, he told me he was searching for a project with a ‘meaning wider than its runtime’. Almost two years later I still think it’s a fantastic phrase, one that constantly reminds us what we set out to achieve; real meaningful change.
As British filmmakers, it’s hard not to be influenced by the King of British Socialist Realism, Ken Loach. Early on in our process I, Daniel Blake (2016), Sorry We Missed You (2019), and Looking For Eric (2009) all helped spur our creativity and political rancour. But it was a statistic, not a film, that impacted us most. The statistic was 40.6% – the percentage of UK independent carers vacating their roles each year, as of a March 2020 report by skillsforcare. This is a jaw-dropping statistic, and grounding facts like these in fiction became our primary objective. Care Workers are leaving in their droves.
By focusing our story on one carer, we sought to show the reasons why. Lack of access to support, struggles to balance caring duties, unsociable work hours, physically exhausting manual handling, and inner emotional conflict, will be familiar to most carers, and these are the every day realities Matty faces.
When The Clapping Stops is an unashamedly political film. How can it not be, when up and down the country, care workers and their clients are being let down, trapped in a never-ending cycle of burnout and abandonment? Despite promises from successive governments, a solution to the problem of social care seems further away than ever. With When The Clapping Stops we hope to feed into an ongoing conversation around changing the support for carers, both paid and unpaid. As a visual medium, film is uniquely placed to change our perceptions and challenge societal malaise.
Whilst our story may be fictional, I promise you that stories exactly like this are very very real. Ultimately, it is those receiving care who suffer the most. Though this is Matty’s story, we also wanted to grant a window into the lives of those in his care, notably the middle-aged firecracker, June. June is an Epileptic, a condition I have been close to throughout my career in Social Care. Seizures can be frightening, leaving carers trusted to support individuals with the condition, and feeling powerless.
As filmmakers we felt we had a responsibility to present the condition as accurately as possible, trying not to sensationalise or trivialise the realities of seizures through our camera methods and framing. ‘Tonic-Clonic’ seizures are the ones most commonly associated with Epilepsy. They result in seizing limbs, rapid shaking, and a swift loss of consciousness. But there’s much more to the condition besides Tonic-Clonic seizures and we wanted to show it. For example, Absence seizures; momentary lapses of consciousness where individuals appear confused, staring off into space but staying upright; continual changes to medication, a constant personal battle to balance the side effects of frighteningly strong medications; the setting of 5-minute timers, a guideline to all carers about the length of time a seizure should go on for, before calling an ambulance becomes a necessity. All of these aspects are represented in the film.
Matty’s story is inspired by my own, but the highs and lows cannot be taken in isolation. My own experience is not a stand-in for others. Through a recent interview series we’ve filmed with other care workers, we’ve tried to open up the narrative further. By giving others in the industry the opportunity to present their experience, we hope to broaden the narrative into one that eventually has a conclusion – carers getting the support they deserve, in return for the support they give.