Local: Q&A with Ithica Films

Middlesbrough-based Ithica Films has one simple goal – to create remarkable films that make an impact. They recently collaborated with Tess Valley Combined Authority on ‘The Comeback’, amidst the challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With a mission to showcase what Tees Valley stands for – triumph over adversity, being the underdog, and care and pride in the community – Matt McGough, managing director, and Sian Davison, head of filmmaking, at Ithica Films, tell us more

Tell us about Ithica Films

M: We’re creative filmmakers creating cinematic films with plenty of heart and soul. The majority of our brand film work comes about because of the way we see the world.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

M: I think it’s that we shoulder a lot of responsibility of reflecting the great things that are going on. Creating films that carry huge messages and help mould how we see the region and those outside of it see us is incredibly rewarding.

And the most challenging?

M: Trying to create beautiful cinematic shots in the rainy grey North East conditions certainly has it’s challenges. We’re getting used to sun chasing.

You’ve just launched The Comeback on behalf of Tees Valley Combined Authority. At such a key moment in history, how did it feel to be tasked with such a project?

S: It was exciting to be given an opportunity to bring some light to people at a time which has been so turbulent, and it also felt like a huge privilege to be tasked with this piece of work as we knew it had a lot of expectation riding on it. It had a real role to play in capturing and inspiring the people of the Tees Valley, and there was a weight of responsibility on us to deliver that not just for the sake of the client but for our community too.

In a weird way the whole production process on it was really cathartic. To sit and reflect on the challenges and emotions that we as a community have faced over the last few months, but also to remind everyone who we are, and celebrate what we know the people of the Tees Valley have to offer and what we’re capable of when it comes to bouncing back from this.

M: This is what we’re here to do and TVCA put their trust in us and allowed us a lot of freedom in delivering it. It really felt like there was a story to tell at that point in time and the pressure to get it right was massive. To be asked to create something this bold was a great reminder of just how important a role film can play in peoples lives – whether they realise it or not.

Tell us about the concept behind The Comeback, and how you told the story?

S: The concept of The Comeback was to acknowledge this as a really challenging time in the worlds history, but to ask the question of what it means for us in the context of our immediate community. We looked at what we know about the people of the Tees Valley – that we are resilient, hard working, passionate and proud people, and we looked at other challenges that this area has faced throughout recent years and knew that bouncing back from this wasn’t a question of if, but when. So we chose to inject that into the narrative of the film, to not just tell the story of this Pandemic but to tell the story of Teesside’s resilience at many points in time where they chose to come back instead of giving up. We knew there was something powerful, emotive and relatable in that for the film’s audience, because we felt it too. So it was really just channelling that ideology into the creation of the film.

We started with the wording, Matt pulled together a strong and emotive script to work from and I started to build the story around these poignant words. We designed a soundscape to bring our images to life, creating a sense of space and atmosphere to compliment what was on screen. And we used pauses and pace to give the film time to breathe, giving the audience time to reflect and see the opportunity to bounce back as our society starts to emerge.

What has been the reaction to the film, in Tees Valley and the wider North East?

M: It blew up. It had over a quarter of a million views within a week and really struck a chord with people on an individual and a collective basis. It got a lot of attention at central government level where we were receiving messages about it from London so it’s had a massive reach, the biggest thing for me was that it transcended across audiences so whether you were a business person or a mam at home – you felt something.

Ithica Films