Documentary Proposal Brief for UKAGP Members

Simon Chu 

The following brief is to invite gestalt themed documentary film proposals to be pitched to a television broadcaster. 

2019 was my first UKAGP conference and I attended in my capacity as a second year student studying for an MSc in Gestalt Therapy and a documentary filmmaker with 25 years experience in making factual programmes for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Amongst my directing credits are BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, Channel 4’s ‘Secret History’ series, ITV’s ‘Secrets From the Workhouse’ and ‘Human All Too Human’ a documentary on the life and existential philosophy of Nietzsche for BBC 4. 

What struck me most was the vitality of the conference goers over the weekend. There seemed to be a genuine and deep sense of passion and enthusiasm for practicing gestalt therapy and a strong conviction that it worked. However there was also a shared sense that Gestalt was barely acknowledged as a vibrant, relevant modality in the wider therapeutic community and I detected certain fears that it was even shrinking in importance, status and perceived relevance. The closure of various gestalt training courses around the country seemed to confirm these fears. 

What I noticed is that whilst aspects of gestalt theory and practice are widely applied and adapted in many different areas of mental health including mindfulness, PTSD treatment, Somatic Experience, mediation and organisational development, the term ‘Gestalt’ is rarely referred to or acknowledged. 

My sense is that the Gestalt Community would like to increase the public visibility of gestalt therapy and to this end I propose that we start developing a small number of carefully chosen documentary proposals with a view to having one programme commissioned for broadcast on TV or made for online dissemination that can act as a platform to show how gestalt therapy and practice can make a positive difference in the world. This could be an one off film or series of films from 30 mins to 50 mins in length. 

What I am proposing is that anyone who has a gestalt based project which they think:

  • Would be suitable for a documentary treatment and 
  • The subjects or clients involved would be prepared to appear on camera and
  • Would have a high degree of public interest or mass appeal and 
  • Hasn’t been seen on TV before and
  • Lends itself to emotional engagement or drama. 

Jot down your proposal in a brief paragraph or two, including what access to filming people is possible bearing in mind issues around confidentiality and ethics. Don’t be put off if you have an idea but don’t know how to find the participants. TV productions tend to have good resources for finding contributors. 

The type of project I am interested in would be to follow a number of individuals or a group process over a set period of time as an experiment or case study which would lead to raised awareness amongst the subjects and entertain and inform the audience. This could be something you have already put into place or something that you would be able to set up specifically for filming. Events which have already happened will tend not to work as the camera needs to capture a process as it unfolds. To give you an idea of the sort of themes that I heard over the course of the conference weekend which could be developed, here are some social issues which I think could lend themselves to a gestalt approach: 

Using the dialogic method to promote understanding and communication amongst conflicted groups such as:

Brexit – at least one person at the conference (Leanne?) was interested in setting up Post Brexit dialogues to help heal the divided nation – this might involve using gestalt organisational facilitation to hold dialogues between Brexiteers and Remainers. Eg Candidates will be taught how to hold a dialogic attitude towards another person and then to try and apply it in a group conversation. People who volunteer for this will need to be open to the experiment and committed to entering into a dialogue with their political nemesis. 

Using Gestalt process/experimentation to help heal ruptures in society such as:

Gang violence – can group process facilitate communication between alienated faction/generations? 

Refugee counselling – can individual or group process help tackle PTSD, threat of radicalisation and foster integration?

Youth mental health – how can gestalt practice be used to address issues such as self esteem, drug abuse and debilitating anxiety in young people? 

Unconscious Bias – how can gestalt workshops be tailored to address issues of prejudice and discrimination in public life/ media / the workplace? 

These are just a few broad suggestions to give a flavour or what might be possible. Judging from the initial level of energy for a film during the conference, there could be a high number of proposals. Unfortunately it will only be practically possible for me to collaborate on a small number – up to three proposals – so I apologise in advance that not every idea can be pitched through me and that this will ultimately depend on my subjective judgement.

I should add an important caveat at this point. The task of getting an idea commissioned by a broadcaster is extremely difficult and requires a high degree of luck. I have made over 50 films of which just 3 have come from an original idea of mine. I have pitched many, many more which have never seen the light of day. But having said that I think it is worth taking a punt and I am prepared to use my experience and contacts to try and win a commission. This might involve going through an established production company first. Your specific role in the production can be discussed in greater length but generally I would expect you to be a consultant. I would be involved as producer, director or executive producer. 

If you are interested please email me at [email protected] and put as a heading – Documentary proposal / (your subject description).