Electricity - epilepsy hits the big screen
A new film starring super model and actress Agyness Deyn will bring epilepsy to the big screen next month. Electricity - the powerful story of a young woman's struggle to find her long lost brother while coping with uncontrolled seizures - will have its first screenings at the BFI London Film Festival on 14 and 18 October, before launching nationwide from 5 December.
The film is based on the debut novel by Ray Robinson and is both an intimate and candid portrayal of epilepsy through the eyes of Lily O'Connor played by Agyness Deyn. Epilepsy Society worked with Stone City Films to advise on the representation of seizures and the impact that they can have on a person's life.
'Electricity is very much Lily's personal experience of her temporal lobe epilepsy,' said director Bryn Higgins (above). 'The film focuses on her hallucinatory experiences during frequent tonic clonic seizures and the impact that they have on her life. Her take is very much "Thrash, get up, get on with it."
'But we are very much aware that epilepsy is different for everyone and have also tried to be truthful to the aspects of epilepsy that seem to be common to many people - the suspicion of the medical profession, the fear of taking and changing anti-epileptic drugs, the unpredictability and uncertainty that go hand in hand with seizures, the daily anxiety.'
Clare Duggan (above) is the producer of Electricity. 'The idea that as a human being you are always on amber alert and how that affects your life, is immense,' she said.
Epilepsy on film
Bryn describes film as the perfect medium for representing epilepsy. 'Lily talks about her life as being full of "out takes" which happen when she has a seizure and loses hours, even days,' he continued. 'One minute she will be walking along the pier, the next she will wake up in the back of an ambulance. In film terminology we call this 'jump cuts' where you abruptly switch from one scene to another. This is exactly what happens in Lily's life.'
Lily is Agyness Deyn's first leading role in a film and Bryn says he has never known an actor to research a part so thoroughly.
'Agyness was perfect for the role of Lily. We wanted Lily to be ordinary, strong and beautiful, someone who audiences would really identify with. Agyness is all those things. She is strong, intelligent, emotional, a bit daft and good fun. She spent a long time watching Epilepsy Society's seizure DVDs with real life stories of people with epilepsy and she found them incredibly moving and helpful.
Bruising from seizures
'She also bruises very easily. Lily is always observing the world through angles - assessing the corners and sharp edges where she is likely to fall. Agyness was permanently covered in bruises from Lily's seizures. At first we accused make-up of over-doing the bruises on her legs, but they were all real.
' I think we have all grown in our knowledge and understanding of epilepsy through the film. It has been a huge learning experience. I did not know before just how many types of seizures there were and how differently they affect people on a daily basis. Epilepsy is always live - waiting to happen.'