Using Tech (and Puppets) to Give People Their Voice

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Specialising in innovative and honest filmmaking, digital campaigning and social art projects, Hull-based production company My Pockets will offer a slightly different take on next year’s City of Culture celebrations. The brainchild of Peter and Sally Snelling, the company works hard to give ordinary people the chance to share their own story. We met up with Peter to see exactly how they do this, and what their plans are for 2017.

“Our main aim is to work with hard to reach individuals to produce films, art and music,” explains Peter. “These people could be anyone from teenagers to the elderly; we’ve even worked with refugees.”

My Pockets firmly believes that everyone's story is worth telling. By giving ordinary folk access to the technology and digital skills needed to create, they have a chance to share their life experiences: “I think it’s a fundamental need in life to be able to express oneself,” adds Peter, “but access to music, culture and filmmaking has been monopolised by the few.”

My Pockets provides the DSLR cameras, editing software, laptops and microphones to numerous primary schools, youth groups, hospitals and pupil referral units: “You can teach anyone to use tech, but we encourage our filmmakers to produce something that reflects their own experience, getting people to believe that their story matters.”

The company’s recent work with a group of young refugees is a fine example of the My Pockets philosophy, giving a voice to those that are rarely heard: “It’s all about the authenticity; the refugees made the film themselves, from their own point of view – a view that a ‘normal’ filmmaker would be unable to recreate,” explains Peter. The project was commissioned by Into Film, the youth arm of the British Film Institute, and the end result, Miracle Life, is a far cry from what we see every day on the news. “It’s full of energy and humour,” enthuses Peter.

“I think the main thing that sets us apart from the rest is that the people who we work with are partners in the project. We’re not saying that we’re helping these people, we just want to give them an equal chance in sharing their story through film.” This is why Peter chose the C4DI as a workspace: “I love being in an equalising environment where ideas, technology and skills are constantly being passed between people, it’s what My Pockets is all about.”

When asked how this way of thinking can be applied to Hull’s 2017 celebrations, Peter isn’t stingy with information: “Our new project Fuzzfeed is basically Creature Comforts meets a delinquent Muppet Show,” he laughs. My Pockets will record the honest reactions and opinions of young people as they attend some of the City of Culture events and exhibitions. These voices will then be lip-synced to a group of puppets. Creature Comforts was a series of short film mockumentaries that used stop motion clay animation in a very similar way. “By using puppets, we will be able to portray the honest and unfiltered view of young people in Hull.”

Currently aiming to get 100 subscribers to the Fuzzfeed YouTube channel by 2017, Peter Snelling is encouraging everyone to hit that subscribe button and get involved in this exciting, innovative project: “It’s all about giving the next generation of our city a voice and acknowledging their view of the City of Culture.”

What are you waiting for? Head to the FuzzFeed channel today and be part of something special.