Timperley TV animator hoping to bring alive Parkinson’s experiences through puppet documentary

A Manchester filmmaker is using puppets to create a stop motion documentary to raise awareness of Parkinson’s Disease.

Susan Guy, 40, from Timperley, is creating a six minute film using specially adapted marionette puppets to depict the real-life experiences of different Parkinson’s sufferers.

Keep On Keeping On will be an ‘interview style’ documentary, portraying five puppet characters who are all affected by the disease in their own way.

Parkinson’s is a very individual condition, with each person experiencing different symptoms, and it is hoped that the film will go some way in breaking down the stigma and many misconceptions of the disease.

Susan said: “My aim is to raise awareness of the daily challenges that people with Parkinson’s face, such as the little things, such as making a cup of tea, that many people take for granted.”

The voices of the characters in the film all belong to real people, relaying their own experiences and depicting their own memories.

The idea to make the film came to Susan after searching for information on Parkinson’s when her own mother was diagnosed with the condition seven years ago.

She said: “I found the results of my search frustrating because Parkinson’s was depicted in a formal medical way or in a way which was frightening and left me scared.

“I felt that there should be something out there in the public domain for people who have been newly diagnosed and want to know what potentially their future might hold in a positive light.”

One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s disease. That equates to about 127,000 sufferers in the UK, and there is currently no cure.

The not-for-profit venture is intended to educate, inform, and provide comfort and hope for those affiliated with Parkinson’s.

She also hopes the film will be used as a valuable resource for social care taught in schools and medical institutions.

CLUNKY: The movements of the puppets will be a metaphor for the disease itself

Initially launched as a Kickstarter campaign, Susan now hopes to raise funds with the assistance of grants from organisations supporting projects to do with improving health and social awareness.

Susan is drawing on her 12 years of experience as a stop motion animator, on programmes such as Postman Pat and Rastamouse, to create Keep On Keeping On, her first independent project as an animator.

The Pelham puppets featuring are aptly chosen, and are a visual reminder of the symptoms most often associated with Parkinson’s – slowness of movement, rigidity and stiffness.

She said: “The puppets are wooden and not made specifically for stop motion animation. This will make them a little clunky in places, and the puppets will still have the strings attached to the head, hands and feet which will be a metaphor for the disease itself.

“I also find that animation can allow the creator to go places which live action cannot. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth’”.

Susan recalls witnessing not only how the disease changed her mother’s way of life completely, but how invaluable it is to be able to share her experiences with others.

She said: “Whilst Parkinson’s Disease has brought some of the most difficult times to my mother’s life, the support she has received from others, who are also suffering, has enriched her life greatly.”

“I believe the best advice comes from someone who has been through it and is adapting their life to carry on as best they can.

“We can learn and appreciate a lot from these people that don’t give up but change their way of life for the good of the people that surround them too.

“Everyone has a different story to tell even if it is about the same subject.

Susan hopes to have the documentary in production by January 2016, in order for it to be completed and released to the public in time for Parkinson’s awareness week in April.

She also hopes to submit the film to worldwide film festivals, taking her message to international screens.

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