Written by Malin Evita
*TW: Talk of eating disorders (anorexia, specifically) and mental health. View links and resources at the end.
Abbie Jackson is a young British actress and writer who is currently working on a film about a subject very near and dear to her – recovering from eating disorders. In between the hectic moments of working through the post-production of Recovery with her team and co-creator Alex Kal Arnold, Abbie sat down with me for a written interview where she opened up about her creative roots and the making of this vital short film.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, anything our readers should know about who you are as a person and as a creative!
I’m Abbie, a 22 year old actor, writer, and filmmaker from the UK! I’m in recovery from anorexia, hence the making of this short film, and I’m a big advocate for mental health awareness. Alongside that, I love coffee, vegan food, charity shopping, playing the guitar, and spending too much time on social media.
When did you first fall in love with film and filmmaking? Was there a specific movie/show that really did it for you?
I started out just as an actor, mainly doing theatre, but as soon as I got onto a film set I was so interested in the production side of things (as well as the acting!) Really I have to credit the crew of the first short film I did called Feen, they were so professional and kind, and I loved just watching them work and learning about everything that goes into filmmaking! In terms of any specific film or tv show that inspired me, I remember buying a book about the making of the film Hugo (2011) which I think sparked that interest.
What type of cinema inspires you, and what kind of stories do you want to bring into the world?
Cliche answer, but I think everything inspires me. Whenever I watch a film, there is always a part of me thinking about how it was made, how it was directed, was that line written or improv? So anything I watch can be a source of inspiration.
I want to bring stories that focus on mental health and recovery into the world, which are told in a truthful, sensitive way. A lot of media around mental health can be triggering, and I want to tell stories in a way that helps people, instead of hindering them. I’d love to make a film about OCD, which I also struggle with.
Recovery and the Portrayal of EDs in the Media
Tell me about your project “Recovery.” What is it about and why did you decide to write it?
Recovery is about an eating disorders therapy group, set on an online video call. I really wanted to write something about eating disorders based on my own experience, but for it to focus on the recovery aspect. We see lots of stories about the downward spiral into an eating disorder, but not many focus on the recovery side which I really wanted to do.
What has the production process been like?
It’s definitely been different due to covid! Everything has been done online via Zoom calls, which has its pros and cons. I’ve still really enjoyed the process, even with dodgy internet signals and technical issues!
Do you have a favourite memory or moment from it?
I think my favourite memory would have to be when I had finalised the cast and the crew of the project, and we all had our first video call to do a read-through. It was so lovely to see the script come to life despite the circumstances of the pandemic meaning we had to do it in a different way to usual! Watching the first draft of the edit was also special.
When it comes to the way ED and ED recovery is portrayed in film and TV, what are some of the biggest misconceptions you see? How do you want to combat the stigma and misinformation?
A big misconception in the media is that you have to be underweight to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and your weight does not determine the severity of your illness. To combat this in Recovery, I didn’t think about weight or size at all when casting the project – it had no relevance. Another issue with the way eating disorders are portrayed in TV and film is that the portrayal is often triggering, with mentions of weights, specific calorific information, and emaciated actors. We avoided all of this in Recovery – again, it just isn’t necessary in telling these stories.
What are some ways people can assist loved ones who are going through recovery?
My advice would be to ask what they find helpful and unhelpful for their recovery. When I was first in recovery, my family and friends always meant well with what they said and did, but sometimes it was really unhelpful! I’d also say that it’s important to remember that as much as you might want to help your loved one, ultimately it is up to them to begin recovery. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to help “fix” them, just being there is enough.
What do you want people to take away from this film?
I want to people to take away that there is hope. Recovery is incredibly hard, but it is possible. You really only have two options – to give recovery a go, or to stay unwell and risk dying. It’s a hard fact to face, but I needed to realise that when I was sick. I hope this film gives others that realisation.
Get to Know Abbie
Who are your top three directors and why?
Right now, I’d say Greta Gerwig, Martin Scorsese, and Marc Webb. I have to say Martin Scorsese because he directed Hugo, which sparked an interest in filmmaking when I was a kid, and Marc Webb because he directed (500) Days of Summer, one of my favourite films! (I’m a walking cliché at this point, but I love Zooey Deschanel.) I love Greta Gerwig, Little Women made me cry, and I love that she uses her own life as inspiration, as well as allowing actors to incorporate their own personalities in the roles they’re playing.
What are your three favourite movies of all time?
I’m such a bad person to ask this question because it changes all the time! Like I said, I love (500) Days of Summer, so that would be up there. Can I say all the Harry Potter films?! They just make me feel so nostalgic and are easy to watch! There are also so many films on my to-watch list… I’ll have to get back to you on a top three!
What does film mean to you?
To me, it means being creative, having a platform, and sharing stories.
Give a shout out to a woman who inspires you – whether in a personal or professional context.
Shout out to the women in my family – my mum, both my nan’s, my sister. And my wonderful friends! I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing, inspiring women.
Where can people follow you and keep up to date with the film?
Any last message you would like to give to anyone who might be reading?
If you’ve been affected by an eating disorder at all, please reach out for help. There are some brilliant charities such as BEAT, SEED, and ABC who can help.
Written by Malin Evita
Evita is the host and producer of the podcast, Instagram curator, and a writer focused on script, cultural commentary, and film analysis. She is a Vocal grand prize winner and currently studies Professional Writing at college. Through storytelling, she aims to amplify empathy and human connectivity.