When it comes to explaining exactly what One World Birth is, I admit we struggle a bit! There are just so many aspects to it, most of which we haven’t revealed yet. We thought it might be easier if we told you how and why it all developed. It’s not a short story, but hopefully you’ll get to the end and everything will be just that little bit clearer!
ACT ONE – SCENE ONE
Toni and I met seventeen years ago at Film School in London and we were instantly drawn to one another when we realised we shared the same dream – to do something “different”.
Above all else we wanted to make feature films. Not the easiest ambition to achieve in a country whose film industry is struggling for much of the time. We talked a lot about starting a family together, but we feared that if we didn’t get our first feature film out of the way first we may never get to achieve our ambition.
THEY SAY THAT FEATURE FILMS NEED TO BE BIG, YOU KNOW, “SAVE THE WORLD” KIND OF THING…
We spent years developing one idea that we were deeply passionate about, a psychological thriller around the theme of mental trauma. We worked day-in-day-out struggling to get the project up and running. We came tantalisingly close several times, pulling together the different pieces of financing needed, but each time we were about to pull the trigger, a piece of the pie would slip away and with it, the rest of the financing.
The final time it happened felt extra hard. We felt our dream was slipping away and time was running out for us to have a baby.
We weighed up our options:
1. Surrender to frustration and just give up
2. Do something positive, spontaneous and exciting. Something… “different”.
It was at this precise moment in time that the Internet began to evolve in a significant way: Facebook & online video arrived on the scene. Simultaneously, advances in digital filmmaking techniques suddenly made Hollywood’s big toys affordable to independent filmmakers.
Armed with both these new tools, we decided to bite the bullet and make a smaller scale feature film and to do it NOW! We knocked together a script, persuaded an energetic cast and crew to join us and borrowed some supremely spooky and cinematic locations and we set about making a thriller that we would distribute ourselves to a niche audience over the Internet.
Boosted by our newfound energy and a hefty dose of adrenaline, we pushed through the challenge and completed the film. The big and unexpected prize at the end was string of distribution deals in the UK, USA, Canada, Eastern Europe and Russia, with other territories lining up to do deals. Things could hardly have seemed better.
Our celebratory mood was suddenly cut short, however, when we discovered the film had been stolen and was freely available on pirate web sites all around the world. That brought a halt to the distribution deals and, disastrously, an end to any chance of recouping the film’s financing.
Looking at the positives, however, our little independent film has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. And what filmmaker wouldn’t want that?
WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU ONLY MAKES YOU STRONGER!
We learned a very important lesson from this experience. We suddenly realised the huge potential of the World Wide Web. No matter how small and unconnected you were, it was now possible to reach an audience of thousands, if not millions of people around the world.
And then a truly life changing event happened in our lives: the birth of our daughter. Our life plan, it seemed, was finally falling into place.
REAL BIRTH STORIES
We had made many friends at our antenatal classes, friendships that have grown ever stronger over the last four years. When we talked about our different birth experiences we all agreed that we would have benefitted from better antenatal education and preparation before we had entered into first time parenthood.
So we decided to make a film about our experiences, to tell our birth stories in the hope that they would help other parents-to-be better prepare themselves for their own births.
This film became a big project and we ended up making a set of three DVDs about everything that had happened to each of us. And what’s more, we finally managed to realise our dream of self-distribution by making and selling REAL BIRTH STORIES ourselves. They have become even more useful to parents today as National Health Service antenatal classes have been severely cut back in the UK. Whist we’d been offered three days of classes in our home town, parents now are only getting one three hour session. They stagger out of that class with their heads reeling. It’s even worse in some other parts of the country where classes have been cut completely and the only option is to pay for private tuition which is beyond the means of many young parents.
When we held the premiere screening of Real Birth Stories at our local cinema, we found that there were several doulas in the audience. A doula? What’s a doula we wondered? We fell into conversation afterwards and we discovered a small, but growing community of wonderful people that helped parents before, during and after the births of their babies. How we wished we could have had a doula at our birth, to fight our corner and make our experience even better.
As we got to know more about doulas we knew that we had to get the word out about them so we decided our next film should show exactly what doulas do. The result was DOULA! THE ULTIMATE BIRTH COMPANION, a film that follows three doulas attending couples that had chosen or fought to have their babies at home.
Our many conversations with doulas revealed some of the problems in childbirth today, not just in our country, but around the rest of the world. As we investigated further, we came into contact with some truly inspirational people whose passion for birth was instantly infectious and we knew without a doubt what we had to do next.
ONE WORLD BIRTH – AN EPIPHANY
From then on we knew we had to get all these issues out into the open. It was amazing that they seemed to be hidden in the first place, but I don’t suppose too many people have a great interest in birth until the moment they discover they are going to have a baby.
We used all the profit we had made from the Doula! film to fund a trip to France where some of the world’s most renowned birth experts were congregating for the 2010 Midwifery Today Conference. We interviewed the likes of Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro and it’s no exaggeration to say our eyebrows remained raised long after our return to the UK! We almost couldn’t believe some of the sensational things we had learned in France.
We continued to push sales of the Doula! DVD so that we could carry on filming around the UK. And we are so glad we did as how else would we have met Sheila Kitzinger? Having spent a day with her at her beautiful home only confirmed that we really were on a mission. And that this was only just the beginning of what would have to be a global journey of epic proportions!
We cut the interviews we’d shot so far into a short trailer and uploaded it to YouTube. From the instant it went online we were contacted by birth “warriors” all around the world with suggestions of who else we should film and help in arranging the interviews.
Next up, The Normal Birth Conference 2011 in northern England brought together a host of academic specialists that were very generous with their time and explained their current research into what could be happening to our species due to the way we were approaching childbirth.
On the one hand we were excited that this subject matter was so huge and important, but on the other we were shocked by the repercussions modern childbirth could be having on humanity. We just had to get this material out there so that other people like ourselves would know about it and would think twice before surrendering themselves to the institutional birth machine.
But we wanted to do more than make a one-off documentary that would be outdated even before we had released it; we wanted to make an online documentary that never ended, one that was constantly being updated with the latest thinking and research.
And even that wasn’t going to be enough! We realised that people have been fighting to save birth for decades, but only the enlightened had heard about it. This was a species-changing topic and therefore applied to every living soul. We wanted to play our part in the battle to save birth on planet Earth!
We continued to develop the idea behind One World Birth. Firstly it would provide free-to-view videos about all the issues surrounding birth today. Secondly it was going to be a hub for birth warriors to connect online to encourage and inspire one another in their own individual battles.
We call this: “Local action for global change”.
The Internet is the perfect platform to bring about change. It can bring together individuals from isolated places around the world and form them into a giant body so powerful that it can enforce that change.
We’ve witnessed this sort of thing recently where oppressive dictatorships have been toppled by revolutions that were ignited on social networking sites. If it can happen for them, why not for birth?
That may sound extreme, but the principles are the same. Passionate individuals connecting, communicating and inspiring one another into action. We have no idea if it will work, but we think it’s really worth trying. After all, what can we lose?
So, that’s where we are now. We have launched our site and we’re going to continue to expand. It’s simple to start with, but we have so many ideas that excite us to the core. We have completed only a fraction of the filming that is required, but we felt we couldn’t delay getting the site up and running. It’s been a steep learning curve so far, but we’re determined to do this, piece by piece. Or baby steps if you like!
We see our mission unfolding in four stages:
STAGE ONE: film all the experts around the world and upload bite size films that are easily digestible and simple to share online. No lengthy academic text to wade through, just tell it how it is, straight from the horses’ mouthes.
STAGE TWO: Build a large and powerful community online that will encourage action and support one another in their individual local campaigns.
STAGE THREE: Organise the material into an easy to use multilingual web site for parents around the world so that they can empower themselves with the knowledge and wisdom handed down from our experts which will enable them to approach birth with confidence and demand the birth that they want.
STAGE FOUR: Release a series of documentaries into the mainstream – TV, Cinema, DVD.
This isn’t going to be a flash in the pan revolution; this is going to take time and it has to be done properly. Which is why this isn’t about us as filmmakers, but about you as birth warriors. This is your site and your battle. Together we hope we can create a movement that is going to change birth and save the world!
Going back to where we were seventeen years ago, as bright-eyed Film School students who were told to make something about “Saving The World”, but who really just wanted to do something “different”… I think we have finally reached that moment. Little did we know then that it would manifest itself in One World Birth!
FADE OUT. FADE IN: (because this is only just the beginning!)