Guest Blogger – Noel Harris
Noel Harris is the creative director and screenwriter behind the short narrative film Touch.
When I was asked to write this blog, I thought of the very essence of what my film is about. We, every single day of our life, strive toward a goal. Everything we do, from putting on our socks, to the stretching of the dollar, to being a shoulder to lean on, all of our actions are a means toward the goal of attaining and realizing our true essence. I promise to state what I feel this essence is, but first some background on writing Touch.
I grew up one of the youngest in a large family. Through my parents’ example we stood by each other and managed to make ends meet. When we were kids one of the things my parents and older sisters and brothers always did for the smaller Harris kids was scratch our back, literally – especially when tired, grumpy, sick, and especially during those times when we were worried about something. The soft back scratch always seemed to make the worries go away. Getting a tender back scratch, to this day, remains one of the most connective humanistic moments in my life. It is a tradition that continues to this day in the Harris family. When my niece Robyn was 5-6 years old and visiting the Harris homestead, she would, without a word, go get the nail clippers, hand them to me and lay on my lap. Robyn loved the gentle back scratch of just clipped fingernails. As I softly scratched her back she would always fall asleep. My sister would jokingly get frustrated when she wanted to leave and little Robyn was out solid.
One day, I was tasked with scouting a run-down location for a television show. I found a place. It was the home of a single mother and her three children, all under the age of six. They were living in abject poverty. It was obvious this mother truly did love her children and vice versa. Though it was my job, I could not bring myself to take reference pictures. I said the windows did not match what was written in the script. I left, drove up the road out of sight and pulled over. For the longest time I just sat in my car, shocked.
When we began shooting at a nearby location, every morning the mother would come out, wearing her work uniform, and head to the bus stop, with her three children in tow. She and I would say hello and from afar I always observed the care and tenderness she showed her children. I thought to myself, these kids did not know the difference and to them their living conditions are normal. Over the ensuing days, other family members such as aunts and uncles would visit and the kids were genuinely happy to see them.
I began thinking about ways I could bring a viewer into the world of a single parent family living in abject poverty, yet, doing the things a “normal” family would do. Would we view the family who live in poverty the same way? How often do we think that people living in poverty as not showing love and affection to their children? After witnessing this family, I wanted to, in story, bring the viewer into a world where a family, despite being under the colossal weight of poverty can indeed show that our essence prevails. The end result was Touch.
In the end, I want the viewer to be moved. Nothing moves me more than seeing a child in need or in danger. I feel most people are the same. I want the audience to worry and in the end be rewarded for their investment of worry. If it sparks some greater debate on why kids, in reality, do indeed have to live like this, bonus.
And oh, that essence I promised to describe, it is the thing that makes you and I each day put on our socks, stretch the dollar, and offer a shoulder to lean on – Love.
— Noel Harris