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Is it a true story?

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

Ian Patterson, writer & director of Fall to Pieces explains his inpsirations and influences.

In that environment, it's very easy to get close to someone and fall in love ... I'm surprised ITV haven't done a mental version of Love Island yet.”

Is Fall to Pieces based on a true story?

In the late 1980s, I was diagnosed with speed psychosis and spent a few weeks in hospital in what was, at the time, commonly called a "mental ward." People weren’t so careful in those days about the labels they used to describe these places, and the people staying in them. Fall to Pieces was inspired by my experiences there.

So are all the characters in Fall to Pieces based on real people?

Yes and no. They're all compound characters, but the essence of each is based on someone I've met. The characters of Edna and Addy are the closest to real people. I remember once reading an early draft of the story to a writing group, and one member took exception to Edna doing the hokey cokey and flashing her bloomers to everyone she met, saying it was "too cliched." Cliched or not, it represented the real life Edna perfectly. She was intelligent, mischievous, and liked to subvert people who took themselves too seriously. So I kept that scene in.

As for Harry, he's based loosely on me. Every writer writes about themselves in one form or another, no matter how abstract that expression is. He's not a bad person, but he does blame his situation and his shortcomings on everything and everyone else - something I was guilty of for a long time. All else being equal though, there comes a point where we have to own who we are. Only then can we decide to change if we don't like ourselves. It's extremely liberating when that happens and can be very inspiring to others.

There's some serious themes running through the film

Indeed. The story touches on responsibility, consent, choice, and freewill. These can be tricky areas to navigate at the best of times, but especially so when mental health issues are involved. I didn't want to be too heavy-handed though, and the film raises questions for people to think about, rather than trying to hammer home any particular dogma.

At the end of the day, it's a love story - albeit in an unusual setting. In that environment, it's very easy to get close to someone and fall in love. I've seen people get together on the flimsiest premise that seemed like a vitally important connection at the time, but might not be the best basis for a healthy relationship. I'm surprised ITV haven't done a mental version of Love Island yet.

Were your experiences there a catalyst for your recovery?

Not immediately. The very day I was discharged I was knocking on my dealer's door again. But they planted the seed that lead to me getting clean eventually. There is a saying in recovery circles that an addict is someone who can look down at you from the gutter, and this was especially true about judging people who had a mental illness. As far as I was concerned, you could be homeless, in prison or picking up cigarette ends from the street, but as long as you didn't end up in the "nuthouse," you were okay. In one sense, it was the best experience I'd had in a long time - three meals a day and no bills to worry about, but it was also an education, and a genuinely humbling experience.

My preconceptions about people with mental health problems evaporated overnight. It's easy to judge people by the label that's been assigned to them but being in a situation where you're on an equal footing forces you to look behind the labels. It also made me realise that I was there as a result of my poor choices, but nobody choses to have schizophrenia.

Could Fall to Pieces be offensive to some people?

No doubt.

The film has a strong Northeast flavour

“... it's not about the Northeast in the sense that you can't get moved for stottie cakes.

Yes, but although the story takes place in the Northeast, but it's not about the Northeast in the sense that you can't get moved for stottie cakes. It was a natural setting insofar as parts of the Northeast were very bleak back in the mid-1980s following the miners' strike, and whichever side of the political fence you stand, it's undeniable that it had a devastating impact on communities. Harry has given up trying, but he comes to realise that he still has choices. His story is a metaphor for the Northeast itself, a tale of hope and regeneration - with a bit of beef stew and Scooby Doo thrown in.

Do you really think people who like Scrappy Doo are c**ts?

Yes. I imagine there's a very strong correlation between people who like Scrappy Doo and serial killers.

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