A 2: Draft film for OCA critique


A2 Draft Submission No 2: Film submission

Here is a link to the draft film for A2, and notes about the context, applicable theory, influences and some reflections on the film so far.

Development notes are on a preparatory page



Doctor stress

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic (April, 2020) almost half of UK doctors were suffering from burnout, depression and anxiety (BMA, 2020). It is predicted that the pandemic will affect the mental health of one half or health care workers with more than 10% having continuing problems (Holmes et al., 2020). It’s a similar picture elsewhere in the world (Kane, 2020).

Covid-19 in doctors and other health care workers is associated with physical illness and death (ONS, 2020). Some doctors are “re-energised, in control and connected” with their work as a response to the pandemic challenge, but an increasing numbers of GPs are seeking mental health support (Gerada, 2020;153)(Hayes, 2020). Those psychological consequences include fear of infection, “trauma, grief, helplessness…and hopelessness” as seen in doctors presenting to a national ‘sick doctor service’ (Gerada, 2020;148).. 

Doctors working remotely

JG Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’ is a postmodern metaphor for the ‘loss of faith in the technology’ as Robert Maitland, the narrator of the story, crashes his car and is marooned on a motorway island (Ballard, JG, 2011). It is a dystopian tale from which the protagonist does not escape. Some GPs, including myself, have felt ‘marooned’ in ‘lockdown’ and experiences, in a similar way, the traumas of the pandemic at “an unbridgeable distance” in video and phone consultations with patients (Cambridge, 2020) (Crimp, 2014;94). 

Research shows that GPs experience the guilt, of “not doing enough,” isolation, and loss of support networks and stable working practices (Gerada, 2020;149). Thirty-nine per cent of GP consultations in September 2020 were on the phone or by video; this contrast with 15-20 per cent 12 months previously (NHS, 2020)(NHS, 2019). Some GP have found this ‘enforced’ change difficult to adjust to and describe the ‘loss’ of face-to-face contact and working in isolation. Their responses mirror wider societal reactions to working from home (Bernal, 2020).

My own experience

Since March 2020 I have been working from home because of health problems which put me at greater risk if I were to get Covid-19. My experience has been largely negative with periods of isolation, anxiety and overworking. I was keen to find out whether other GPs were similar or different; this is the driver between my autoethnography of my experience (A2 submission No 1) and producing this film. 

Theory and commentators

My film centres around the place or space where I have been working in lockdown. That converted bedroom is a repository for my negative memories of consulting during the early period of the pandemic.

Foucault talks about the history and formation of medical spaces to create and control medical culture in ‘The birth of the Clinic,’  but it Bachelard who help us to explore this space, “rooms as dreamed, imagined, remembered – and read” (Foucault, 1996)(Bachelard, 1964)(Casey 1997; 291). We can see that place is physical and metaphysical. Casey, commenting on Derrida’s work, sees space as a place for ‘something to happen’ (Casey, 1997). It is the architecture of that space affects what we see think, feel and view (Casey, 1997;317). Bachelard calls this topoanalysis which he defines as a “systematic psychological study of the localities of our intimate lives” (Bachelard, 1964). His exploration is of domestic space, as opposed to the medical space of Foucault, is from “cellar to garret,” mine is also a clinically activity in a domestic setting. Bachelard quotes Jung’s story about his fear of visiting the cellar of a house after being woken by a noise which illustrates the psychological dimension of place (Bachelard, 1964; Jung, 1933).


Photographers and artists

Practitioners such as Viktoria Sorochinski’s dream-like lockdown staged work ‘InsideOut,’ shot in her apartment, examines her feelings about lockdown (Zhang, 2020). Bex Day explores the experience of OCD from isolation (Abel-Hirch, 2020). There is a therapeutic aspect for her constructed images as her anxieties are acknowledged and displayed.

Sarah Hobbs is an important reference for my work (Hobbs, 2012). In her work ‘Small Spaces of Living’ she populates a home space with staged images that explore her phobias and obsessive- compulsive behaviour. The images are anchored by short titles that point the emotional condition on display, such as ‘Untitled (Indecisiveness) 1999, which is a room with a chair, window and walls covered in reminder post-its. These are effective images and will be my starting point for the look of the film. My anchor will be the audio of GPs speaking.

Late in my research I discovered an excellent thesis about the motifs of ‘window and void’ in the paintings of Edward Hopper (Shadwick, 2011). My room has a window (escape) and empty space (containment) which connate contrasting emotions and for the moment will leave a glimpse of that room outside in my film.

What objects are in the room matter. I am reminded of Tracy Emin’s ‘Empty Bed’ installation; man objects evoke many memories. I don’t want the objects to be too distracting but point to the whole. 

Film makers

Peter Todd is a film maker that explores the passage of time and space (Meis, 2015). His images are subtle, as in changing shafts of sunlight that illuminate kitchen furniture and other room objects over a single day. They are reminiscent of the tableau of still life photography. These three films emphasise that absence evokes presence; a meditational space is presented to fill with reflection and memories. 

Krzysztof Keselowski’s film, ‘Blue,’ is helpful about showing feelings on film (Blue, 1993). In ‘Blue’ Kieslowski shows Julie’s inner turmoil by her positioning in the frame without her saying anything (Kieslowski, 2005). I think that is difficult and as Kieslowski says “You have to find methods, tricks…in making it understood what your film is about. 

Perhaps the most iconic work commented of absence as presence is Klein’s conceptual work of an empty gallery space. (Klein,1958) (Brennan, 2020). I think that is too content little for my film. The work of Ilya and Emelia Kabakov of the empty museum is more helpful (Kabakov and Kabakov, 2004). This work makes us consider the place of the museum as a repository for art that has been removed from its walls. My bedroom will be stripped of most things to allow people to meditate on the voices and what happens in the rooms. 

Reflections on my work


This is a social documentary presented as a staged film with audio from doctors talking about their lived experience. 

In Barrett’s framework it is ethically evaluative but also theoretical and representational (Barrett, T, 1986). 


My approach mirrors some of the work of Jim Goldberg and others in getting alongside other people to record and help tell their story (Jones, 2016). I recognise that my access is unique as I am ‘insider’ to this group; I identify with them. I decided to record and include my own comments because they add a male voice and elements of my story are strong and interesting. 

The views of four doctors were included. When I was selecting audio to include in the film I did not think that there was enough choice to show a range of experiences. Some of the

What I like

I think that there is a story here that is worth telling, theoretically and as social documentary. Feedback from form participants and others working as doctors or in health care is that the stories are ‘poignant.’ Comments were mainly about the audio rather than the ‘look’ of the film. 

Unresolved issues – possible ways forward.

I am not content with the ‘look’ of the film. The theoretical aspects of the film do not come across as strongly as I anticipated and the ‘empty chair’ in the room is an unwanted symbol. I looked afresh Sarah Hobbs images in ‘Small Problems in Living,’ and think that the next phase is experimenting with the staging of the room (Hobbs, 2012). I need to be braver.

There are two conflicting elements in the film, the theoretical presentation of space as a void to fill with memory, and the document of GPs talking about their experiences working from home. Can I marry them together or move to be more abstract or more documentary?

I think that more interviews will create more choice for the audio. 

Including the baby crying and computer alerts make this authentic and reference the digital space of consulting and the interviews, but is that distracting?

I don’t like that title, but it is only a working title.


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Bernal, N. (2020) We’re stuck in a lockdown work from home purgatory.

Blue (1993) Directed by Kieślowski, K. MK2 Productions.

BMA (2020) Almost half of UK doctors suffering from burnout, depression or anxiety, BMA survey reveals. At: https://www.bma.org.uk/bma-media-centre/almost-half-of-uk-doctors-suffering-from-burnout-depression-or-anxiety-bma-survey-reveals (Accessed  07/11/2020).

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Casey, E. (1997) The fate of place: a philosophical history. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Crimp, D. (2014) ‘The photographic activity of postmodernism’ In: October 15 pp.91–101. At: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778455?origin=JSTOR-pdf

Foucault, M. (1996) The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. Oxford: Vintage; Reprint edition (1 May 1996).

Gerada, C. (2020) Beneath the white coat: doctors, their minds and mental health. Oxon: Taylor and Francis.

Hayes, L. (2020) GP burnout ‘greatest barrier’ to digital future for general practice, warns former RCGP chair. At: https://www.gponline.com/gp-burnout-greatest-barrier-digital-future-general-practice-warns-former-rcgp-chair/article/1699057 (Accessed  04/11/2020).

Hobbs, S. (2012) Sarah Hobbs: Small Problems in Living. Italy: Charta.

Holmes, E. et al. (2020) ‘Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science. L’ In: Lancet Psychiatry 7 pp.547–560. At: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7159850/ (Accessed  07/11/2020).

Jones, S. (2016) In my own words: Jim Goldberg, photo storyteller. At: huckmag.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/flipping-gaze-photos-jim-goldberg-documentary-storyteller/ (Accessed  29/12/2020).

Jung, C. (1933) Modern man in search of a soul. (Translated by W. S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes). Florida: Harcourt Inc. At: https://www.pdfdrive.com/modern-man-in-search-of-a-soul-d164710505.html

Kane, L. (2020) Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020: The Generational Divide. At: https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2020-lifestyle-burnout-6012460#2 (Accessed  07/11/2020).

Kieślowski, K. (2005) Kieślowski, K. (2005), Krzysztof Kieślowski, Interview with, Geoff Andrew, The ‘Three Colours’ Trilogy. London: BFI Publishing, 2005. p. 82. London: BFI Publishing.

NHS (2019) Appointments in General Practice September 2019. At: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/appointments-in-general-practice/september-2019#resources (Accessed  07/11/2020).

NHS, N. (2020) Appointments in General Practice September 2020. At: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/appointments-in-general-practice/september-2020 (Accessed  07/11/2020).

ONS (2020) Deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) among health and social care workers in England and Wales, deaths registered between 9 March and 12 October 2020. At: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/adhocs/12418deathsinvolvingthecoronaviruscovid19amonghealthandsocialcareworkersinenglandandwalesdeathsregisteredbetween9marchand12october2020 (Accessed  07/11/2020).

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Three Films from the Room (2015) Directed by Todd, P. [16mm film] Lux. At: https://lux.org.uk/work/three-films-from-the-room (Accessed  27/12/2020).