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Two Suitcases Project: A creative voice for teenagers living with chronic illness

The Two Suitcases Project is a film & technology project which supports the creativity of teenagers living with chronic illnesses through the development of filmmaking skills. Teenagers have the opportunity to film their own stories or take on acting/production roles in the films of their peers.

In February, Ben Murnane filmed his story, Two Suitcases, which we decided was a great name for the whole project. This short film is based on Ben Murnane’s memoir, Two in a Million, a beautifully written and warm account of Ben’s experiences of living with a rare genetic disorder. Ben was diagnosed with Fanconi anaemia at the age of 9 and at the age of 16 he was the first person in Ireland to receive a new type of bone marrow transplant. Though the memoir never shies away from addressing the life-threatening nature of his illness throughout his childhood and teenage years the account is shot through with his trademark humour which is something we were keen to bring to the short film. The title of the film comes from an old hospital saying that the nurses used to tell Ben: ‘When you go into hospital, you take two suitcases with you – one to carry your clothes, and another to pack away your dignity.’

Creativity has played a vital role throughout Ben’s life. As a child he loved superheroes and at the age of 10 he wrote and starred in ‘Superman and Supergirl’, which his father filmed and then accidentally recorded over with his sisters’ ballet. In his early teens he wrote and filmed his own episode of Father Ted, the highlights of which appear in Two Suitcases. Writing was and is Ben’s passion and at the end of primary school he set up the Nottwel Club and began bringing out a monthly magazine, The Fush Monthly, with contributing articles from friends and family. The magazine was later revived as Totally Fushed in 2000 and Ben talks of the importance of his mag in his memoir: ‘I’d needed my mag through the years. Without it, I would never have known where to turn for comfort. In the summer of ’02, I wrote the first short story based on my transplant for TF… Writing about my life had become an essential part of living it. I now knew that, whatever career path I took, I would want it to leave room for my writing.’

Interested in reading Ben’s memoir, Two in a Million? Click here

This film was made with the partcipation of young people (16-19) who took on key filmmaking and acting roles. We would like to thank them for the super ideas they brought to the film and the fun they brought to the set:
Eoghan McConnell – Assistant Director, Cameraman, Storyboards, Editing
Stephen O’Driscoll – The roles of Ben and the comic serial killer, Camerawork, Editing
Caroline Morgan – The roles of Gina and the alien, Camerawork, Animations, Editing
Kayleigh Nolan – Animation, Artwork, Editing

A huge thanks to those who volunteered their time and expertise and mentored the young participants on Two Suitcases. Filmmakers Alan Brennan and Anna Rodgers, art director Sandra Butler, Jason Coomey, Adam Eager, Zachary Griner, Andrew Holohan, Marcus, Mark Canton, Mark Cummins, Simon Garrad, Sarah Turner, Emma Day, Ciaran Dooley – we couldn’t have done it without you! And a special thank you to Donal Haughey who played the doctor.

Check out the behind-the-scenes footage:


Photographs by Helene Hugel, Zachary Griner and Emma Eager

OVERVIEW OF PROJECT

Two Suitcases is the first in a projected series of films where young people (16-19) living with chronic illness get to write and film their own stories. The aim is to raise awareness about what it’s like to be young, Irish and living with a chronic illness and to highlight teenagers’ experiences of the hospital environment. All the films will be made on iPhones and edited on iMovie to demonstrate the creative possibilities of working with technology that teenagers may already have at their disposal. As the project is aimed at giving a creative voice to teenagers with experience of chronic illness, the films will be made with participation from their peers, with mentoring and support during the process provided by professional filmmakers, artists, writers, and editors.

We plan on making more films this summer so if you are between 16-19 and would like to turn your experiences into a short film get in touch with us. Perhaps you would just like to try out some acting, filmmaking or animation? If so, we would love to hear from you! Contact Emma: communications@old.helium.ie

Two Suitcases was produced, co-written and co-directed by Emma Eager. Two Suitcases is produced by Helium Children’s Arts and Health in association with Spunout.ie. We would like to thank the Vodafone Ireland Foundation for sponsoring the iPhones that were used to film “Two Suitcases” and for helping to get these important stories heard. We would like to acknowledge the In-kind support of the DIT Student’s Union and DIT School of Media for providing the venue for this event. We would also like to acknowledge the In-kind support of Filmbase. For the great lunches the participants received, we would like to thank Brioche Cafe, Crunch Cafe and The Bald Barista for their In-kind sponsorship.


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