Steve’s Story

Imagine being unable to communicate with your loved ones and the world around you. That is exactly what happened to Steve as Motor Neurone Disease took hold. But that is not where his story ended; Tobii Dynavox have developed the I-Series+ computer which tracks eye movement, and has given Steve his voice back.

Music by Tony Anderson – ‘Eyes Wide Open’

Tobii is a company that creates a variety of amazing technology. Some of their products (including this I-Series+ computer) are specifically designed for people with disabilities, and they make a huge difference to their users’ lives. Tobii approached us to make this film, not to tell the story of what they do, but rather why they do it.
With that goal in mind, to tell a personal story behind the tech, we went into the project with Steve’s character and the message he holds as our focus.
It was amazing to meet Steve and his family and to film his everyday life. We really got a sense of how he uses this device, and how it genuinely has changed his life.

For more about Tobii Dynavox and the work they do, check them out – www.tobiidynavox.com

Steve was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease when he was 30 years old and over the course of 2.5 years the disease has progressively degenerated and wasted his muscles.
Steve and his family have been through so many struggles and challenges, a lot that we don’t know about, nor would we really be able to fully understand. But despite such life changing circumstances, Steve and his growing family, have learnt to adjust and to communicate.
So whilst there is a tragic side to Steve’s story, our instinct for this project was that this really is a story of hope. And that is what we’ve tried to draw out in this film.

The filmmaking process is often all about problem solving. And in this case, the turn around from conception to completion had to be very fast, giving us plenty of fun challenges to deal with.
Hopefully, this doesn’t sound like a list of complaints, but rather an insight to this project’s limitations; we had a limited amount of pre-production, with only 1 day to shoot, and limited space in Steve’s house (it also ended up raining so we were completely indoors).
This meant that we approached our visuals with a much more documentary, hand-held vibe. We might’ve liked to push the cinematography to a much more controlled and cinematic place, but in this project, being able to move around quickly and film the natural family moments were the priorities for capturing the heart of the story.
And when it came to the interview, we encountered something completely new to us; how to film a conversation with someone using a computer to speak, rather than their voice. We had a 2 camera set up and quickly realised that because syncing with mouth movement was obviously not needed, we had to focus in on the subtleties, the little moments where Steve smiled or his eyes lit up became incredibly significant.

Post production really centred around finding the balance of the story. Whilst the film is about Steve, the Tobii Dynavox technology and how it functions also needed to be included. Thankfully, Tobii had come to us to tell a tale of the heart. They didn’t want a video with a sales pitch, so it gave us the freedom to create the edit to serve the story.
With a beautiful music track from Tony Anderson, a little bit of warp stabilisation for some shakey camerawork, and some fine colour grading (if we do say so ourselves) using the Blackmagic footage and Da Vinci Resolve combo… the post production was a real pleasure.

Here’s an example of our colour grade:

One of our fondest moments was actually captured on camera, and we used it as the last 2 shots of the film; Steve’s wife adjusts his glasses for him, and they both smile as though both aware of an in-joke.

Meeting Steve and his family was easily one of the best parts of making this film. It was beautiful to see how this device was helping his family to communicate to each other.
A voice is such an important part of who we are, and getting to hear who Steve is was a real joy! Plus, he also gave us some of his home brewed beers (The Burning Bush Brewery) which certainly didn’t hurt the whole experience.
We really enjoyed the process of making this film, and the challenges of it’s limitation.
We’re pleased with the finished product and we hope you liked it.

Tobii’s YouTube channel has been racking up some nice view counts for the film, so if you fancy supporting and maybe give it a thumbs up – click here