On the Outside, is the outcome of a collaborative film project involving Director Paul Gray and a group of women who were serving prison sentences in Scotland at the time.
The film is told in four episodes that recount the four women’s stories, in their exact spoken words that were constructed from audio recordings of discussions held in the prison, including song and poetry. The stories are recounted by four actors, and explore the women’s life experiences – including family life, drug abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and their experience of being incarcerated – as well as their hopes for the future and the relationships and bonds that have formed between them.
On The Outside began when I was invited to develop an idea for a film project to involve a group of women who were serving sentences in HM Prison Polmont, Scotland. It was a collaboration where I would help with the development and realisation of stories that the participants wanted to share. The premise of the project was to empower the participants as authors of their own representation. I led workshops during which we watched films and explored story-telling through the medium of film. I also followed up the group work with one-to-one discussions. I didn’t have any fixed notion of what shape the films would take, and it gradually became defined by the willingness of the participants to share their stories very directly with each other, and with myself and producer Nasreen Saraei.
In the end the overarching idea that developed was a very simple scenario. We would recount stories while travelling on a car journey – the car being both a private space but within a public environment – a safe space akin to the education rooms we occupied during the project, and representative of a desire to be elsewhere. Participation in the project was voluntary and the resulting work consists of four scripted episodes, one for each of the women who remained involved throughout the process. The scripts were taken from recordings of our discussions, using the participants’ exact spoken words as well as including song and poetry. The stories, which are retold by four actors, explore the women’s lives, their hopes for the future, their experiences of prison, and the relationships and bonds that formed between them.