The Open University of Wales

BG Reach

Education

A heartfelt interview telling the story of The Open University of Wales's BG Reach project

Sometimes a project comes along where you’re not quite sure how it will go, but it ends up surprising you with its heart and story. This is one of those times. Blaenau Gwent Reach (BG Reach) is an initiative set up by The Open University in Wales to support the people of Blaenau Gwent to make art, music, creative writing and film that reflects the rich and fascinating history of their local area for an in-person and online exhibition

Wales? Community? Art? Sounds like our kind of thing.

So when OU got in touch with us to see if we’d like to interview the participants of the project about their experience we were super keen to get going.

The thing is before we’d set off for filming, we actually didn't have a lot of information. We knew what the project was and the results of the exhibition, but we didn't know who actually took part, so we'd have to be creative and adapt once we'd arrived.

Turns out our interviewees would be members of the Blaenau Gwent retirement community and after a quick chat with them, we realised there may be a much deeper story than we had initially realised — perfect for a project focused on history & heritage.

Some of the participants had minimal on-camera experience with varying levels of access needs, so we knew that we’d have to be sensitive with the way we approached the interviews and the best way to do that is by reframing it as simply a conversation where there just so happens to be a camera.

Before each interview, we prepped them about the main points that we’d want to cover, but it was during the questions in between the questions that the real story came alive. It was clear that the BG reach project had touched this community in a very profound way, and it was our job to capture it and make it look good.

As a result, the main thing we wanted to avoid is the film feeling overly corporate. There was a real heart to what people were saying so we instead opted for a more documentary style that felt as if the interviews were taking place in a staged set.

We did this by pushing the lighting as deep as we could to give a more personal and stylised feel and coupled with a grounded and heartfelt soundtrack which didn’t distract from what participants were saying, but also had the level of sincerity that we were going for.

This project really demonstrates the power when you have an idea of what you want but you haven’t overly cemented the vision. With person-focused content, it’s very satisfying to be able to be led by the participants and the environment rather than the other way around, and this is a perfect example of that.

All in all, we really loved the outcome, but more importantly so did the client:

This was the first time I have worked with Storm & Shelter and I was very impressed by the whole team. They were helpful and efficient from start to finish. The film crew went above and beyond, and I’m ever so proud of the final product. Thank you so much!

Julia David, Partnerships Coordinator, The Open University in Wales

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