Made for free by Wunderman Thompson UK, the domestic abuse themed film has attracted 750,000+ video plays in its first few weeks of release
A unique, 50 second UGC film highlighting domestic violence, made for the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) during the strictest phase of the lockdown, has been chalking up viewing figures to pique the interest of the movie mainstream.
‘Abusers Always Work From Home’ was made free of charge in April 2020 by creative agency Wunderman Thompson UK and directed remotely by Geej Ower of Stink Films. It has attracted nationwide viewing with 750,000+ video plays in its first few weeks of release. NCDV commissioned it to draw attention to one of the lockdown’s darkest side-effects: domestic violence levels which have soared by 50% above the norm for the time of the year.
Shot on a smartphone, the film opens happily: everyday takes of a young family in lockdown phoning family on video calls, cheering on the NHS and playing together. Then come telltale signs of something seriously amiss – snatches of argument, a slammed door, the sound of shattering glass. Finally, we see a chilling reveal of a mother and child forced to hide from the looming threat of their now violent partner and father.
The film is narrated by BAFTA award winning actor Vicky McClure, who plays a woman trapped in a controlling relationship in Channel 4’s 'I am…Nicola (2009)'.
Part of the reason for the film’s growing success online is the support it has been getting offline. Wunderman Thompson has called in favours from national media partners including JC Decaux, Clear Channel and Blow Up who have also donated giant outdoor sites for free or nominal rates; The Stylist magazine which adopted Abusers Always Work for Home as a campaign; and a host of individual celebrities who have posted links to the film such as 'Normal People'’s star Daisy Edgar Jones, Josh O’Connor, Genevieve Gaunt, Royce Pierreson, and Shelley King.
Recalling the process that gave birth to the piece client lead, Sally Emerton and Jo Wallace, creative director, from Wunderman Thompson said:
“Back in March Covid was all so new to us. We were getting used to the lockdown and then these stories about domestic violence kept on popping up. I started to think there was simply no escape for some victims. That’s when we thought home is no longer a place of safety, but danger: abusers always work from home. Once we had the idea we were able to write the script in a day.”
Emerton takes up the story: “We knew we had a theme that might shake the average viewer from the comfortable notion that homes are simply places of refuge. But then we had to be single-minded enough to make the film responsibly at a time when the entire film industry was shut down. Our brilliant agency producer Liberty put the brief out to independent directors and received strong interest from five, from which we picked Geej. Then, working with, rather than against, the grain of the lockdown restrictions we settled on the idea of an ‘observed piece’ and UGC as the format which underpinned the film’s function.”
Since it was not possible to conduct normal casting sessions, casting director Hannah Lane managed to track down a family with both parents working as professional actors who would be able to work safely together. A shooting plan was devised with them and Ower directed the actors remotely through the required scenes. Retakes were few - even if some ingenuity with blankets was needed to get the sound quality right in places. All post-production work, including the colour grade took place in editors’ homes.
Mark Groves chief executive of NCDV said: “This unique film accurately portrays the sinister and insidious reality of domestic violence – something that NCDV wishes to make socially unacceptable. It is also an important document of the lockdown and the very real pressures that has piled onto our most vulnerable families. We cannot thank enough all those who donated their time, effort and ingenuity in creating such a powerful piece of work in testing circumstances.”