Independent filmmaker Cat White has announced a new partnership with inclusive swimwear brand SOUL CAP on the production of her latest film, Fifty-Four Days, with the aim of setting new standards in mental health, wellbeing, and inclusivity in the film production industry.
With a dedicated mental health co-ordinator on set, a programme of mental health training for their cast and crew – and inclusive training schemes to help people from under-represented backgrounds take their first steps into the film industry – filmmaker White hopes to set a leading example for other creatives to make inclusivity and mental health an everyday part of their productions.
Pioneering practices like these come at a time when the British Film and TV industry is going through what the Work Foundation calls ‘a mental health crisis’, with 87% of workers in the industry having experienced a mental health problem.
These issues are especially prevalent in the Black community, a demographic which the Mental Health Foundation recognises as having a higher likelihood for both mental health diagnosis, and for being detained under the Mental Health Act.
For Cat White and her latest film, the issue of mental health is fundamental to her work – both on-camera and behind the scenes – and she believes that her film may be the first and only production to have a dedicated mental health and wellbeing coordinator.
Her film, Fifty-Four Days, follows the struggles of a Black family as they cope with grief, trauma, and their battles with mental health – and how the psychological healing effects of wild swimming can be a therapeutic means of overcoming loss.
With the theme of Black mental health entwined into both the film’s narrative and its production, the conception of Fifty-Four Days has set the stage for White’s newest partnership with SOUL CAP, an inclusive swimwear brand that actively campaigns for greater representation and participation in the world of swimming.
“I’ve been swimming since I was a little girl, and doing it competitively for many years,” said Cat White. “But at some point, when I was a teenager, I stopped. I hated what the chlorine did to my hair, and I didn’t see anyone else who looked like me competing at a high level.”
Cat White, Filmmaker & Writer
Wild swimming – an open-air sport that involves swimming in natural, outdoor waters – is proven to boost dopamine levels and increase overall happiness. But despite this, Swim England reports that 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England don’t swim – and only 1% of registered competitive swimmers identify as Black or mixed race.
It’s a problem that inclusive swimwear brand SOUL CAP is all too aware of. As well as its recent partnership with White on the film, SOUL CAP has been actively campaigning for inclusivity and Black participation in the world of swimming – through campaigns such as “Black Girls Don’t Swim”, in partnership with international champion Alice Dearing, who this year will become the first woman of colour to represent Britain at the Olympics.
“This is about much more than swimming,” said Michael Chapman, co-founder of SOUL CAP. “The film touches upon different areas of race and mental health – particularly Black men’s mental health – so we’re proud to be a part of the conversation around that.”
SOUL CAP’s range of inclusive swim caps, designed to cover and protect all hair types, including braids, locs and afro hair, are used by swimmers from every background all over the world.
“Discovering SOUL CAP quite literally changed my life,” said White. “I had a cap that fit me for the first time in my life, and I could see their ongoing mission to improve inclusivity and diversity in aquatics. It showed me that there was a space for me in this world, and it helped me rediscover my love for the water.”
It was through these caps that filmmaker Cat White first became aware of SOUL CAP, and the campaigning that eventually led to her partnership with them.
“It means a lot to us that our swim caps can play such an important role in someone’s swimming journey,” said Toks Ahmed, co-founder of SOUL CAP. “We receive so many positive messages with similar stories, so it’s amazing to be able to partner on a project like Cat’s to highlight how, when barriers are broken down, the benefits of swimming are so powerful.”
With their new partnership, SOUL CAP and Cat White are out to change the types of films audiences see – but also the way those films are made.
Together, they’ll be working to encourage the hiring and training of more diverse production crews, creating new opportunities for ambitious filmmakers from under-represented backgrounds – as well as promoting the therapeutic effects of swimming for anyone experiencing problems with their mental health.
They’ll also be working to provide ongoing support and mental health training to every member of the production crew – giving them the tools they need to survive and resist the ‘mental health crisis’ that’s currently affecting the film and TV industries in Britain.
“I’m doing this for every little Black or brown girl who’s dreaming of becoming the next Alice Dearing of competitive swimming,” said White. “I’m doing it for every person from an under-represented background who has dreams of working in the film industry. But most importantly, I’m doing it for every Black or brown person who simply wants to give it a go and jump in.”