Blue Bag Life is a story gleaned from material collected over a lifetime. Lisa Selby, an artist and lecturer, has always documented her life in paint, words, photographs and film. As Lisa struggles to comprehend why her mother Helen didn’t raise her, Helen dies. Helen was charismatic, articulate, beautiful and addicted to heroin. Lisa now begins to get to know the woman she never called Mother, through the things she left behind and the memories of people who knew her. Lisa’s partner, Elliot, relapses on heroin and is incarcerated. Through her own sobriety and her love for Elliot, Lisa comes to understand addiction, and Helen, differently. She also uncovers a new possibility towards motherhood deep within herself.
Director Rebecca Lloyd-Evans and writer Josie Cole met Lisa Selby when they interviewed her for their BBC radio series, Prison Bag. Lisa and her story were so compelling, and the footage she was generating was so original and raw, that they felt it had the potential to be a film. As this was a film that would be primarily constructed in the edit from found footage, we needed a creative editor and found one in the form of Alex Fry, with whom Rebecca had collaborated with many times before. He immediately felt drawn to Lisa’s intimate yet art-based approach. Alex became one of the directors on the project - we recognise that editors are often hidden - when in fact their creative vision is at the heart of shaping a film.
The puzzle was complete when producer Natasha Dack Ojumu, founder of Tigerlily Productions, saw the project’s potential and threw herself in. Unbeknownst to the team, Natasha had been searching both for a longitudinal archive project, and for a new way of working on productions.Now the team was complete and all five of us were wholly committed to working as a collective. Each tired in our own way of working within the traditional hierarchical systems of filmmaking, we set out to listen, support, and create in a different way.
When Doc Society got behind the project and put up development finance, a first act began to take shape and the daunting suitcase of dusty (in some cases broken) hard drives, old laptops, VHS tapes, photographs, flash cards and memory sticks became a story that needed to be told. Further help from Doc Society, who encouraged, mentored and supported us at every turn, took us to a feature length film, and BBC Storyville then stepped in to provide the final chunk of funding needed for post production and an original score. The suitcase of material Lisa had generated over a lifetime became a film which won the audience award at the BFI London Film Festival.