Job description: Director of Partnerships at Open Cinema
Areas of interest: Housing and homelessness – services for women with complex needs, Women involved in the criminal justice system, Mental health and wellbeing, Employment and skills
Laura Hopper's Recent Activity
"Open Cinema (www.opencinema.net) is a social enterprise that facilitates film clubs and filmmaking programmes for homeless, vulnerable and excluded communities. Our work is designed to engage and inspire participants, to improve hard and soft skills, and to help our members progress in their lives. In 2011, we worked with Advance Advocacy (www.advanceadvocacyproject.org.uk) at their Minerva Project in Hammersmith. Advance Minerva provides practical and emotional support to women offenders and to those who are at risk of offending due to issues including homelessness and domestic or sexual violence.
Open Cinema programmed two twelve week seasons of films on the themes “It’s a Woman’s World” and “Believe it or Not.” The films explored issues such as women’s rights (“Made in Dagenham”), abusive relationships (“Crazy Love”), women fighting for justice (“Erin Brockovich”) and the feminine spirit (“A League of Their Own”). Post-film discussions were led by Open Cinema film club coordinator and professional filmmaker Jennifer Fearnley. Jennifer said, “All the women seemed to be really appreciative of the film club, and having a safe and welcoming space to watch films and discuss issues raised by the films.” Open Cinema also arranged for inspiring guests to visit the film club. Film editor Lisa Gunning came to the screening of “Nowhere Boy” to discuss her career and her work on the film. Filmmaker Anna Edwards also visited the film club and presented some short films. One film club member said, “Great discussions and it is nice to watch films with women where you are in a cosy environment.” Another reported, “It’s really nice to be around other women and do something that takes your mind off other things.” Still another said, “these are the kinds of people I want to spend my time with now”. Maura Jackson, then Chief Executive of Advance, reported that through the project, participants had changed their view of Minerva from being a resource for information to a community centre where they develop relationships.
In between the two film seasons, 8 women completed a six-week filmmaking programme under the tutelage of Jennifer. In the workshops, the women discussed and developed their story ideas, improving their self-awareness and communication skills and stimulating their creativity. Participants also received an introduction to filmmaking equipment and learned basic filmmaking skills such as framing and focusing. They actively participated in the shooting and editing of the film. The resulting short film, “Journeys,” explores the stories of four of the women, told in their own voices, and their paths through issues ranging from agoraphobia to domestic violence. The film was screened in June 2012 in the collaborative filmmaking section at the Open City Docs Fest at University College London (UCL). Festival participants had the opportunity to meet one of the women featured in the film during the post film Q&A.
Open Cinema believes that films and filmmaking offer therapeutic benefits to women who are experiencing multiple and complex needs. Canadian psychologist L. Lauren Johnson has said that filmmaking “allows people to make sense of events that may have been experienced without words, or that were felt too deeply in the body to fully work through with talk therapy alone.” We look forward to expanding on our work at Minerva Project with other women-focused support providers."
Reply To: Housing and homelessness – services for women with complex needs