'Our Catherine' Picks up her first award...


Our 2018 drama Our Catherine has picked up the award for Best Regional Focus at the 2019 Sunderland Shorts Film Festival - the event was an absolute joy to be a part of, and we thank SSFF for the opportunity. Not to turn this into an Oscar acceptance speech or anything, but we’d also like to thank out very small but passionate & dedicated band of cast and crew (Kerry Browne, Mark Beckham, Rachel Adamson, Sarah Parry, Debbie Thompson, Tom Kelly) - you guys are incredible, and every time someone messages us to voice their emotional resonance with the film, there’s a pang of gratitude for you all and your efforts into bringing our vision to life. It truly was a labour of love, and we’re so pleased such is being recognised. Thank you also to Richard Barber and The Word for commissioning the project, and giving us the freedom with it that you did.

Our Catherine tells a universal and transcendent tale through the lens of the famous North East England born author, Catherine Cookson, as she revisits the places of her youth in modern time, reflecting on the cultural and personal impact of her writing.

Our Catherine Trailer.
Our Catherine Full Film (16min).

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The Call to Adventure, our 3rd Birthday, and a brand new website

Get ready for the launch. Well actually, it’s already launched. You’re on it right now. That’s right - it’s our new official Unified Media website. Huzzah!

So why a blog post about it? Well, it’s not just the site launch we’re excited about. This week, it’s also Unified Media’s 3rd birthday. And that’s got us thinking where we’ve come from, where we are, and what it took to get here.

To say ‘a lot has happened’ in that three years would be like saying ‘music’ is ‘noise’ - it just doesn’t do it justice. In the last four years (Unified took about a year to properly materialise), as mentioned in our about section, we all left our jobs and started Unified together, and set off on a journey none of us could have possibly envisaged.

You could say that we heeded the call to adventure.

Here we are shooting drone footage in the almost-too-stunning-to-be-real Mount Snowdonia in Wales. Notice me (Jon) itching my head profusely? 

You see, there’s this idea in mythology known as ‘the call to adventure’, which is the part in the story where the hero is invited to - you guessed it - embark on an adventure. Most stories you’ll find contain this idea. It’s Luke Skywalker being invited by Obi-Wan to accompany him in rescuing the princess & learning the ways of the force; it’s Bilbo Baggins being beckoned by Gandalf to ‘share in an adventure’ and face the dragon. It’s there, time and time again, in thousands of great stories.

There’s been more than just a few seriously insightful thinkers in history who have suggested that our individual lives contain these moments and themes, just like that of a character from a film or story. The suggestion is that each of us is the hero in our own story, and that we are ‘invited’ to heed the call time and time again in life. Most commonly, the call is that part of you that knows there’s something better you could be doing with your time. It’s the voice in your head that nags at you to make a huge change in your life for the better. Let us tell you, for each of us, before we started Unified, that voice was always there, nagging away, making us aware we weren’t quite living up to our potential. Before we started Unified, we’d ignored and repressed the life we knew we really wanted for a guaranteed amount of money in our bank accounts at the end of the month. Adventure had taken a backseat to safety. Sure, we might have been unfulfilled and constantly at odds with ourselves about our lives, but at least we knew the rent would always get paid on time.

But the voice, the call, kept coming. Culminating in a freakishly coincidental manner one summer week, where circumstances unfolded in a way where, at the time, it was essentially now or never for us. All of a sudden, we had to choose, and make up our minds once and for all. Some people refer to this as ‘shite-ing or getting off the pot’. This was our Gandalf inviting us, beckoning us forward. We knew what we had to do, if we had the guts to do it. And that was to go into business for ourselves, to be our own bosses, and to make films together for a living and as a way of life. To blur that line between work and play, once and for all.


Of course, on any adventure worth hearing about, challenge is part and parcel of the journey. A lot of people, or rather us in our old lives, would refer to ‘challenges’ as ‘problems’, or something that we simply wished didn’t have to happen. But, just like Luke must contend with the forces of evil, and Bilbo must face down the dragon if they hope to become better, wiser and more powerful, we too had our fair share of dragons to face if we knew we ever going to get the treasure. Our dragons came in the face of some of the following, to name a few… financial strife, serious illness, existential crises, consistent challenges involved in shifting one’s attitude about the world, and what is possible within it. The obvious challenges that arise from trying to improve your life. It’s not a walk in the park, nor should it be, because maybe then it wouldn’t be worth all that much.

Maybe that’s why the great scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell, advised us to ‘follow your bliss’, but later reconsidered his wording and said he should have stated, ‘follow your blisters’, as that would perhaps be a more fitting description of the hero's journey, which is likely to challenge you to your very core. In other words, in order to get the gold, you’ve gotta’ face the dragon. It’s the very meaning implied in the phrase no mud, no lotus.

The dragon in this instance being a fancy metaphor for everything that was holding us back; insecurity, confidence issues, fear of the future not working out - all of the classic stuff common to human beings. I suspect some of you are thinking, but why? Why the flip would you say yes to something like that? Well, maybe because saying yes to the adventure, although undoubtedly challenging, is actually the least painful thing you can do. Does that sound paradoxical? Maybe it does, but perhaps if we think about it like this... What’s more painful? Experiencing the inevitable challenges that life throws at you in the life you want to be living, or have to face all of the inevitable challenges of life within a life that feels so alien and un-you that you can barely get out of bed on a morning. How are you going to face those challenges from that place? Surely that would be a thousand times harder. Thankfully, we might never realise just how hard that could really get. Personally however, I’d feel some semblance of how hard it could be every Sunday night, where I’d dread the working week ahead, never mind the unexpected challenges that life can throw at you on top of that. That's 5 days out of 7 every single week that I wished just wish would go away, even when things were otherwise going well. For example, no serious illness to contend with, no deaths in the family or any other manner of tragedy that can, do & will occur in life. 

Maybe we could put it like this... though, don't take this to be preachy or self-helpie. When we say 'you', we're speaking to the general, all-inclusive you, which really is us speaking of ourselves, and by implication, everyone else, if that makes sense. We're in no means telling people how they should live their lives - just what has worked for us, and what really seems to work for others. So with that said, maybe it's something like this: When you're living your life, even the hard parts feel like they’re meant for you. They feel appropriate, they make sense, they fit in to the story of you. They’re challenges, but they’re yours, and you can see how they’re inviting you to be better in a way that makes sense, if your life was a story, which of course, it is.

And maybe that’s basically right. Because the journey unfolded (or is unfolding) in a manner a lot like that.

Perhaps that’s where the new website is sort of symbolically relevant. It’s cleaner, better, more reflective and more appropriate to who and where we are, as a business, as filmmakers, as friends, as individuals. It’s a symbol of what we’ve been through, and who we’ve become as a result. It’s more refined, like the smooth stone you find on the beach that is so smooth because it’s had the hell beaten out of it by the powerful force of the ocean. How’s that for a metaphor, eh? EH.

Perhaps this post runs the risk of becoming an autobiography, so we’ll leave it there. Though, I reckon we’ll sum up with a quote from the philosopher, Terence Mckenna, for those we might be toying with heeding their own call to adventure...

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it's a feather bed.”

Have you, or do you plan on heeding the call to adventure in your life?

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Give us a comment, because we’d love to know about it. Until then, we hope you enjoy the new website, because to us, it's so much more of a truthful reflection of who we are. Cleaner, more refined, more established, and works better than ever. Who knows what the next one will be like. The hero's journey is full of surprises.

- Jon, and the boys at Unified


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