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Femme Filmmakers Festival: Documentary Director Tyro Heath Shares her Creativity with Drawing On

Wonderful, poignant concept and story, the short documentary Drawing On, by Tyro Heath, transports us to a creative perspective of grief. A woman mourns the loss of her son, who was just 21 years-old, through a kind of artistic expression that explores the dimensions of coping. Through colors, through shapes, through locations.

And the whole project is an exhilaratingly open display, on walls, as collage, outside in the world. A kind of mosaic transcribing not just the events of this person’s life, but also imprint the memory of his very existence for all to see, and share. Small colored squares to represent the days of his life, some coded for days of significance, rectangle bricks on walls painted, objects hanging from sculptures.

I mean, this is an endless journey, and unlimited discovery, the process of which will continue to flourish. I guess, in the end, those twenty-one years will become a hundred years or more. In blood, sweat, tears, but also, paint, scissors, tape, an artist’s arsenal in recreating the memories of a loved one.

Tyro Heath, who we were fortunate enough to speak with, has let the camera roll on something beautiful, something unique, and we hope brings ever-lasting catharsis to the creative mind – one driven by a full heart no doubt. “I have become especially interested in documentary filmmaking over the last few years.” Heath told us. “A lot of what I write about, comes from moments or interactions I observe in my home, and surroundings, but then I decided to pick up a camera and actually film these moments.

In essence, the spontaneity of Heath’s vision is reminiscent of the flow that Drawing On kind of represents. “Of course this is a very specific style of documentary filmmaking, but it celebrates what can be an incredibly practical, physical and affordable discipline. I started videoing banal things, like my parents making breakfast or my sister revising.” This kind of do-it-yourself, impulsive nature inspired Heath to branch out, both actually and creatively. “Gradually I realised it would be possible to make a film in this more spontaneous, accumulative way. Sometimes it’s really beneficial to just start filming and I love that.

Tyro HeathSo, with Drawing On, filmmaker Heath followed her own guidance, making a very personal little film, but with a real sense of hope. “At the moment, a lot of my work does seem to be rooted in personal experience,” says Heath, “I want my films to feel genuine and authentic, and so I am starting to see my own experiences and memories as one of my richest resources.” And on whether this is generally easier to interrogate this rawer subject matter: “If handled with subtlety and sensitively, it can create work that is striking and meaningful. With the proliferate amount of social media we are exposed to each day, I am increasingly looking to create films which have a more long-lasting impact.

While watching Drawing On, I was wondering how one would construct such a visual document, especially someone else’s. “My editor and I decided we would need some sort of voice-over to convey Emma’s story, and her art practice.” Heath told me. There is a certain respect of the subject and her material in Heath’s direction. I would be fascinated to know how she developed this heart-warming concept to the screen.

I didn’t want it to be conversational, or in the style of an interview. So instead I asked Emma to read me her artist’s statement. We edited and expanded it together, but I loved her direct, honest and sometimes expressionless style of reading.” Yeah, that comes across in the documentary short narrative. A raw, genuine account of something very painful. “The themes of illness and loss are of course very difficult and emotional and, in some ways, even taboo, so I wanted to engage the viewer in a direct, candid style of narration.

Drawing On is a loving tale, told from the heart. And with the integration of varied art forms, Tyro Heath has merged the two wonderfully. So when not making such good films, what does Tyro Heath throw her energy into? “I am an Arts Editor and contributing photographer for Ladybeard magazine. An independent feminist magazine. Our third issue, The Beauty Issue, came out a few months ago.

Ladybeard takes the glossy magazine as a point of departure – it’s a space to play with gender, sexuality and identity, rather than dictate their terms. For this issue, we collaborated with some brilliant photographers like Bex Day, Anton Gottlob, Jo Broughton and Ellen Pearson who took our theme of Beauty to new and exciting places. I was actually inspired to make Drawing On whilst we were editing The Mind Issue.

So what is next for Tyro Heath? Any new film ideas swirling around? “I’m going to be shooting a short fiction piece in a few months, about a 10-year-old girl who finds freedom from her troubled home life in her local scrapyard. I’m very excited to be telling a story from a young person’s perspective, and we’ve already assembled an excellent team.” Well, we will certainly be looking out for that.

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