The film opens with a young man yelping, arms flailing, his head bouncing from side to side as flashing coloured lights bounce off his wheelchair. It's unclear until a Beatles soundtrack kicks in and a smile appears across his face that 17 year old Josh is actually enjoying this sensory experience.
This 15-minute film, part of the In Transit project, is one of 36 personal profiles being produced by the visual arts organisation Project Art Works (PAW) to advocate for young people with complex needs at a time of transition between childhood and adult social care. Social workers make formal assessments about the future of these young people solely on the basis of dry, written reports, but Project Art Works recognises that there is more to say.
"The reports give no idea of the real person: what they enjoy, what they're able to communicate. There's nothing about their aspirations," explains PAW's deputy director, Alison Digance. "Our films, produced by established film-makers, give a more personal view and become a powerful advocacy tool for each individual to use at this critical time in their lives."
As the film progresses, the viewer learns more about Josh's love for music - from nursery rhymes to contemporary dance anthems - and much about his personality. "He knows when he wants contact and when he doesn't," says one of his teachers. "He's very good at communicating that: that's when his fingers go in his ears."
Assessments at the transition stage affect every aspect of the young person's future and it was important to ensure PAW's films had maximum impact. "The Foundation encouraged us to examine more closely how we might embed our film-making into the assessment process," recalls Alison.
"We're now working much more closely with the statutory services in East Sussex and by inviting social workers to nominate young people onto the project we've built in a mechanism for a significant commitment from the professionals we're trying to influence."
At first sceptical, Josh's social worker now concedes that his film has given her a 'completely different perspective' on Josh, whose behaviour she had once thought 'quite extreme'. She has since become a champion for In Transit, promoting the project amongst her colleagues.