Q&A interview Shannon Smyth and Harry Binstead, filmmakers First Acts Filmmakers

Shannon Smyth and Harry Binstead are two young filmmakers whose short film 'Daily Cycle' is premiering on Am I Normal. Commissioned as a result of a partnership between the Arts Council England and Channel 4 which works with and develops 16-24 year old filmmakers, 'Daily Cycle' explores the struggles of living with an eating disorder.

For Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Am I Normal spoke to the two filmmakers behind 'Daily Cycle'. We asked Shannon and Harry about their reasons for creating this film, and Shannon opened up about living with an eating disorder herself.

Check out the Daily Cycle Facebook page.

Click here to see the Facebook page for 'Dysmorphia' - an art exhibition featuring Shannon Smyth.

Hello! First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your history and how you got into filmmaking?

Shannon: I moved out of my family home when I was 18, to live in a hostel for two years. Here, I creatively found myself and I applied for a short film course at Pinewood Studios (BFI Film Academy). After completing the course I realised this was an avenue I wanted to explore, and with much help and support from Random Acts, and persistently re-submitting my idea for Daily Cycle over the course of two years, I was then given the go-ahead to create this film whilst studying fine art at the University of the West of England in Bristol.

Harry: I started filmmaking when I left school; I used to play around with cameras before that, but it was when I went to college that I decided to consider it as a career. I was really lucky at Farnborough Tech College, to have access to everything I needed to be able to practice and learn, before I took on Daily Cycle.

What drew you to create Daily Cycle?

S: Personally living with an eating disorder and the way it affected me with everyday life. I realised that someone doesn't have to be extremely over or underweight to have this disease - it's a disease of the mind.

H: It was originally Shannon's idea. It's not a subject matter that I had given much thought to prior to this project, but Shannon's passion to tell the story was what inspired me to work on it with her.

What reactions has your film had so far?

S: It's received a positive reaction from everyone who has had a cheeky sneak preview!

H: It's screening at Pinewood on the 10th of March, so I guess we'll find out then.

Eating disorders are typically associated with women and girls, but Daily Cycle features a young man struggling with this issue. Was it your intention to make people aware that this is a problem that can affect just about anyone?

S: Yes, definitely. I feel it is important to create awareness, so that men can speak up about having an eating disorder. That way, they can receive the help and support that they need.

H: Yes. We really wanted to show that this is an issue that affects many people in all walks of life - it's not something that's specific to a certain group of people. Someone dealing with this issue could be right next to you in a queue and you wouldn't even know it. I feel like breaking down the stereotype is the first step towards making people more aware, and therefore more accepting of the issue.

Would you say there's a difference in eating disorders in men and boys vs. eating disorders in women and girls?

S: I feel like the disease can strike everyone differently, and people react to it in varying ways. However, after asking males within my film research, I found that symptons between males and females were actually very similar. It all depends on how you personally react to having the disorder and what triggered it originally.

H: Personally, I think that every case of eating disorder slightly differs, either in the way it affects the person, what triggers certain behaviours in them, or even what caused it in the first place. I don't think there's any real difference between genders, it's more that every case is slightly different altogether.

What would you say people should look out for if they might be worried that a friend or loved one could have an eating disorder?

S: It is extremely hard to tell, but not eating at the dinner table, over-exercising, hiding food, eating leftovers, binging, and restricting food are common indications. Again though, it all depends on the individual.

What advice would you give to people facing an eating disorder who may be scared of asking for help?

S: Don't panic. Don't think that there's something hugely wrong with you. It's great that you are aware that something is up, as it takes huge bravery to admit that you have an eating disorder. Take one day at a time, and don't look at yourself as someone with no willpower. I found great help at an OA (Overeaters Anonymous) 12-step group, where there was a fellowship of individuals who through shared experience, welcomed people from all backgrounds to come and meet and share. Definitely try and talk to people about your issue!

Do you have any other films or projects in the pipeline?

S: Yes. I am currently planning an exhibition within the city centre of Bristol, where I will be projecting short films that I have collected from an open call. It's commissioned by O2's Think Big project, and will attempt to create awareness for mental health. Look out for the 'Cognizant' exhibition around April 2017.

H: I'm currently at Uni in Farnham, so I'm working on a short film project at the moment as part of that. It's more of a comedy - something a bit more lighthearted.

Find out more about Random Acts here

The meal deal

If you’re concerned you may have an eating disorder, check out our support site for links to handy organisations.

Channel 4 support site (This link opens in a new window)

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