Sam Forsdike is Creative Director of Pixel Learning and directed The Stranger on the Bridge – the documentary used in ThinkWell. He is also Managing Director of Postcard Productions, an independent production company committed to making films that matter and engage with social change.
When I first started thinking about how we were going to make "The Stranger on the Bridge" I was fascinated by the idea that whilst Jonny’s exchange with ‘Mike’ was intensely personal in a way that only the two of them could ever really understand, their exchange also had a universal relevance that I believed everyone could relate to.
We – as viewers - might never have stood on the edge of a bridge with the intention of taking our life but we can all identify with moments when we have become so overwhelmed by things that it seems impossible at that point in time to see how it might ever get better. Similarly, I felt that we would all be able to understand the value of a ‘Mike’ as someone who has intervened in our own lives at such moments and helped transform those feelings of despair. Again, it might not be as dramatic as someone talking us off the ledge of a bridge but perhaps it was the unexpected friend that helped us through a break-up, the colleague we’d never spoken to at the office but who supported us through a tough time at work or the stranger who offered to buy us a cup of tea when we were stranded after missing our train.
To me, the idea of Jonny’s ‘Mike’ was an everyman figure. We all have Mikes in our lives: people who have supported us when we least expected it and most needed it. Just as Jonny needed to find his Mike to thank him for what he did that day, I felt this film could inspire us to think both about the Mikes we never properly got the chance to thank and also about how we might be able to be ‘more Mike’ to others.
I was told by many different people that no-one would be interested in this film -or this “overly ambitious” and “impractical” idea – but we forged ahead and this little nutshell of an idea grew beyond what any of us could have hoped for. 350 million people around the world followed our #findmike campaign and I am convinced that as much as this was a desire to see Jonny find and thank his hero it was also because it was a story that made people reflect on their own lives and experiences.
The messages that poured in from all corners of the globe telling us how much Jonny’s campaign had touched different people were phenomenal. Emails arrived from individuals saying for the first time they had spoken to loved ones about difficulties in their lives that they had been bottling up for years, those bereaved by suicide told us how Jonny’s story had given them light where previously there had only been darkness and several people got in touch to say that they had been planning to take their own lives until they had seen the film now felt that they had hope that things could get better.
Inadvertently, by trying to find his own Mike, Jonny had become a Mike to so many other people. And what if those people could then use that experience to be a Mike for someone else? This idea of celebrating the Good Samaritan and paying it forward became something that as a team we called the ripple effect: our film starting out as a little drop in the ocean that reached out and touched others and in so doing starting new ripples that could spread out and make their own marks.
ThinkWell is now both its own ripple and cause of many more visible and invisible ripples. We are proud that the legacy of our film is reaching out to new people and that the world is – and will continue to be - a little less scarier, a little less lonely and a lot more supportive with us all knowing there are Mikes out there and by thinking about how we might be a bit more Mike.
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