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For Isaak – York animator’s deeply personal film about the family impact of stillbirth

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 21:23

By Chantele Hodson

“We need to be able to have these conversations so bereaved parents know they’re not alone”

Animator, Director and Lecturer in Animation at York St John University, Richard Jacobs and his wife Rebecca are launching their very personal new animated film ‘For Isaak.’ The film is in memory of their son Isaak who was stillborn at the beginning of 2020. 

As they grieved during the pandemic lockdown, they turned to Richard’s film making expertise to honour the son they had lost, to try and make sense of what had happened to them as a family and to help other people in similar situations.  

They found that the support materials they were offered as bereaved parents were helpful in providing facts, information, and signposting to baby loss support. But they felt that what was lacking was something that made them feel they were not alone in the experience.  

The film aims to fill this gap and is supported by the UK’s leading baby loss support charities including Sands, Petals and Tommy’s.  

It is six minutes long and is made with traditional 2D frame by frame animation. This style of animation has a timeless quality and charm that they felt was a perfect fit for this type of story.  

It shows the impact of loss on a mother, a father and on a little girl, based on their daughter Evie who was 2 at the time. They worked with a team of animators and designers made up of close friends who offered their time for free.  

Rebecca Wilson Jacobs said: “After losing a child, life is never the same again. All occasions, even the happy ones, are tinged with sadness. As a parent your outlook changes, you feel the fragility and temporary nature of things more acutely. Looking to the future and making plans can be hard.   

“When you lose a baby, you start a battle to secure and cement your child’s place in the world. It is important not only to mourn a loss but to try and celebrate and share their life. Finding ways to mark Isaak’s time here is incredibly important to us, and we want to people to know of him and share his name. I think this is a core motivation for making the film.” 

Richard Jacobs said: “Film development helped us to share our thoughts with one another, and working on the script was a way to remember and celebrate Isaak while we were isolated during lockdown. Animation has always been an escape for both creators and audiences alike; and working on the film was a way to get out and explore our ideas within the confines of home.  

“We hope that ‘For Isaak’ speaks to those who have experienced baby loss and articulates something of the complexity of the emotions parents and siblings feel. We want to say something about the need to mourn a loss but also to celebrate a life. We also want the film to open a wider conversation around baby loss and to start to normalise the discussion in places it has not previously existed.” 

Karen Burgess, Petals CEO said: "It was our honour to support Rebecca with our specialist counselling service following the stillbirth of her son Isaak in 2020 and again during the inevitable anxiety of her subsequent pregnancy.  That Rebecca and Richard have gone on to create this beautiful film is truly inspiring.  

“Stillbirth and baby loss are sadly still taboo and all of us at Petals welcome anything that helps to begin conversations on this important topic.   

“For Isaak is a brave and moving film that we hope inspires more people to have these difficult conversations and to reach out for support if they need it - huge congratulations to everyone involved in its production.” 

Rowena Pailing, Head of Bereavement Support Services at Sands said: "For Isaak is a profound and beautifully made animated film. Every experience of grief and bereavement is different and unique and this is a deeply personal response by Rebecca and Richard to the loss of their son Isaak.  

“Sands is available for anyone affected by pregnancy loss or the loss of a baby, so we encourage anyone who needs support to contact us on 0808 164 3332 or via email helpline@sands.org.uk"   

The film will be officially launched at York Theatre Royal on Saturday 3 June, 2 to 4pm. The audience will be cast and crew, friends and families, charities who have supported the film project and families who have experienced baby loss.  There will be a Q & A and a talk alongside the film screening. Following the launch, the film will be screened at selected festivals in the UK and at a forthcoming ‘Republic of Parenthood’ symposium before a wider release online. 

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