10 minute short film
Exp budget: £15,000 - £20,000
Genre: Surrealist Drama
How do you charge your happiness batteries? For young carer, Hazel, and her mum, Jen, it's their time together that gives them the strength to overcome their challenges. Happiness Batteries is a surrealist, joyful exploration of a mother-daughter bond.
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Consultations with young people
Workshops with young people
Reference film: "Billy Elliot" directed by Stephen Daldry
Reference show: "Gilmore Girls" created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
I was drawn to Happiness Batteries due to the unique (candid without condescension) portrayal of the protagonists, the elements of surrealism, and the loving humour.
Let's start with what this film is not: it's not a patronising look at the doom-scape of being a young carer. Equally, it's not an over-simplification or naive take on things being 'not that bad’. It’s not whimsical or childish. This is a sensitive and intelligent portrayal of the micro and macro of a daughter and mother – and the bond therein. I strongly recognise Hazel’s palpable catastrophisation of the person she loves most being left alone – a topic not often explored in film. And where it is, it features a mother worried about her child rather than the other way around.
This is a film that jumps between real-life anxieties and challenges (both mental and physical), that are (in this case) ultimately surmountable. And the film’s message is clear: there is nothing to say that the subject matter of caring for a relative with a disability need not have a positive outcome or be up lifting. Indeed it is this viewpoint (and the gentle humour) that makes the script so compelling.
Hazel’s English exam and Jen’s expedition to the lavatory provide the vehicles to further explore the subtext of the story – and demonstrate how their lives are intertwined even when they’re apart. Like mother like daughter both have colourful imaginations - giving this film its unique look and feel. The themes of the film are strong: anxiety, love, frustration, effort, freedom, confidence, tenacity, joy and loneliness. And it’s through the actors' performances and strongly stylised visual design that these will be conveyed. A synchronised colour palate will be key throughout - the lives of these women are not bland, but colourful and promising. And while their home life is modest (though not basic), and the action features events of ‘the everyday’, theirs is a world of imagination, where they delight in the little things.
The audience should leave feeling that ultimately, despite having a mutual responsibility for each other, Hazel and Jen empower each other in a hugely positive way, causing them (the audience) to reflect on similar relationships they have in their own lives or the lack thereof. This is a fun (but not frivolous) film that is ultimately (and somewhat surprisingly) uplifting. Therein lies its magic.
I wrote Happiness Batteries in response to my own experience of having a disabled family member. It was important to me to recognise the impact of a disability on an individual and those around them – whilst not making it the defining feature. Jen can have a disability, whilst at the same time being cheeky, sparkly and determined. It informs who she is, but it is not all that she is. Likewise for Hazel; she is a young carer as well as a conscientious young woman with an overactive imagination. Rather than making their responsibilities the main discourse of the screenplay, I have chosen to make it their strong mother-daughter bond.
Cressida studied at Durham University before obtaining a Masters with Distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. Simultaneously she worked as a fundraiser for King’s Health Partners (including The Evelina Children’s Hospital), and then at The National Theatre raising money for productions, participation programmes and work with young people. So it’s no surprise that writing for and about younger audiences has been a significant feature of her work.
She is currently working with immersive theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles, to create their first immersive experience specifically for young people, to be delivered in classrooms around the UK. Her immersive productions for grown-ups, Divine Proportions (2018-19) and Red Palace (2019-20) each ran for 17 weeks at The Vaults, Waterloo. The latter was seen by over 12,000 audience members and chosen by The Stage as a top theatre pick for 2019. As a filmmaker, she was chosen as a finalist for The Royal Television Society’s 48 Hour Film Competition in 2021, and she has a 6-part TV series in development with Woolyback Productions. In February 2022 she spent a month as a Writer in Residence at the prestigious Jan Michalski Foundation in Switzerland.
About the writer
★★★★★ "Doubtlessly a well-rounded success" Broadway World for Divine Proportions
★★★★ "Smart, sexy immersive theatre" The Stage on Red Palace, chosen as one of the top 50 shows of 2019
★★★★★ "the script, written by Cressida Peever, was far too good... the show is near-enough flawless. This is exactly what I was waiting to see." Edfringe Review for O,FFS (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2018)
Reference film: "Lady Bird" directed by Greta Gerwig
When Annabella introduced me to the script for Happiness Batteries, her obvious enthusiasm had me intrigued. On reading the script I instantly saw why. Cressida’s writing is compelling. It felt at once personal and universal. I could sense Cressida’s emotional connection to the lives of Hazel and Jen but through such a joyous lense. Their stories are told with a sensitivity that makes them feel relatable while the imagination sequence brings a freshness and originality to the story of a mother-daughter relationship that hasn’t been seen before.
As a Producer, I have been working on a BFI funded feature in development with Untold Arts alongside exec producers, Independent Film Trust. I will be drawing on my experience running small budget large scale projects alongside my recent experience working as an Assistant Director on set to run an efficient production that will attract an incredibly skilled crew willing to work on a dynamic and fresh film. Alongside this, I will use my connections within charity and working with young people to provide an element of participation in the film development.
This short has some ambitious sequences that will set it apart as a short while the decision to shoot in Bath allows us to draw on connections for locations to shoot within a tight budget. I’m excited to be working with an inspiring Writer-Director tea to bring Hazel and Jen’s dynamic day to life.
"Before you go, you charge up my
And you’re back before they run
Reference film: "Lady Bird" directed by Greta Gerwig