Skin : A short film that explores identity

Skin : A short film that explores identity

‘Skin’, directed by Paul Harnett and choreographed by Sergio Giacomelli, is a short film that explores identity. It takes a look at the inner and outer representation we have of ourselves, and how these can sometimes be conflicting. We chatted to Paul to find out more.

We’d love to know a bit more about you and your new company Proud Unicorn

I trained as an actor and following that I worked as a director on a number of theatre and film projects. Proud Unicorn is a media company created by myself and Olly Pike. We produce lots of our own projects and we also create media for charities, theatre and showreels.

What was the inspiration behind the name ‘Proud Unicorn’?

We wanted people to know instantly that although we aren’t exclusively for LGBT+ projects, we are an LGBT+ friendly company and a lot of our personal projects reflect this. So that explains the ‘Proud’ part, the rest of it is because we just love unicorns! I mean, who doesn’t?

You’ve recently unveiled an awesome new short film, ‘Skin’. It tackles a subject that is still a bit of an unknown to many, gender identity. How would you describe the film?

Skin is relevant to so many people. ‘Who am I?’ Is a question most people will ask themselves at some point in their lives. I wanted to show how different a person can be on the outside to who they are on the inside. Even though Skin is specifically about gender identity I hope that people will relate to the film in different ways. I’d love for someone out there to take comfort from it by knowing that they are not alone.

Where did the idea for the short film come from?

I love collaborating with other creatives and so I approached Sergio Giacomelli and asked him if he would be interested in choreographing a piece for me. The concept came out of meetings we had together. I wanted to make something powerful that kept the ethics of ‘Proud Unicorn’. We decided to focus on gender identity because we felt it was a story that needed telling.

“‘Who am I?’ Is a question most people will ask themselves at some point in their lives. I wanted to show how different a person can be on the outside to who they are on the inside.”

Why was tackling this subject matter important to you? Is it something you’ve personally experienced?

This isn’t something I have personally experienced, however, being gay I can clearly remember the feeling of being different and the struggles I had in my head before I came out. It was a very difficult time in my life and so in a small way I can relate. I feel like this is a story that needs telling. Life for the gay community is getting better in many places around the world and I would love to see that change happen for the whole LGBT+ community.

The film features sign language too…

We wanted this video to be inclusive of all different people and so the use of sign language is just one way of doing this.

WATCH : Skin

Director : Paul Harnett
Choreography : Sergio Giacomelli
Girl : Freya Field
Boy : Aaron Jenkins
Assistant Director : Olly Pike
Assistant Choreographer : Marina Guarnieri
Music : ‘Let it Happen’ performed by Tame Impala

The film features beautiful choreography. Did bringing this element to the project involve any collaborations?

The video was choreographed by Sergio Giacomelli. His work is absolutely stunning and he is a master of telling a story through movement. I also have to give credit to the performers, Freya and Aaron. It’s difficult doing take after take when you’re only having to think about acting, add dancing to that and you’re working at a whole new level. They embraced the project from the start and gave the characters the kind of depth needed to allow the audience in.

We love the soundtrack to the film. How did you go about choosing the song?

I have to give Sergio credit for the soundtrack, he came to me with a few choices but this one always stood out. Just listening to the lyrics it’s clear that we couldn’t have chosen any other song. The song featured in the film is ‘Let it Happen’ by Tame Impala.

Image : A shot from ‘Skin’

“Being gay I can clearly remember the feeling of being different and the struggles I had in my head before I came out. It was a very difficult time in my life and so in a small way I can relate. I feel like this is a story that needs telling.”

Was it all plain sailing turning the idea for the short film in to a reality?

From the idea to the filming day everything ran pretty smoothly. The main challenge was getting all of us in the same room at the same time. If you want to use the best people it’s always difficult to pin them down but we got there in the end. The location was the best find, we filmed in an old belt factory, it was so beautiful.

What are your hopes for ‘Skin’?

The video is a project of passion. I want it to create awareness and I want it to be a source of comfort for people. I also want to show the world what our company is about and, even though it’s early days for us, what we are already capable of.

What’s been the reaction so far?

The reaction to the video has been great, I think people are really getting something from it. We’ve had great feedback about all aspects of the film from the choreography and the actors to the direction and editing.

What’s next for you and Proud Unicorn?

We are currently working on a number of commissioned projects whilst developing our next short film. We also produce ‘Pop’n’Olly’, a YouTube channel for children which educates about LGBT+ and equality. ‘Pop’n’Olly’ was created by Proud Unicorns Co-Founder Olly Pike, who constantly inspires me with his talent and creativity.

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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