Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Mad Hatters Collective debuts short film
We’re all a little mad around here these days... but there’s very few people who actually find a method to their madness. This week we got the opportunity to have a chat with a group of talented young individuals who do just that: they’re called the Mad Hatters’ Collective.
If you’re not familiar with the name, it’s because they recently came into the spotlight. Born as an initiative by two friends doing stage dramas in school in 2017, Nigel Wayne White and Reihan Stephen developed and expanded the collective to be much more.
Just recently they released their debut short film, titled “An Isolated Incident” which caught the attention of social media circles. The film highlighted the issue of domestic abuse, garnering more than a thousand views in just over 24-hours. Speaking with the co-founders of the collective, Nigel and Reihan, recalled writing a script for a school drama, and within a week made the set, practiced and performed the play (titled Nightmare in Wonderland) and managed to win second place, and a few more awards as well.
The year after, they came up with the name of Mad Hatters with another play called Monsters. On a whim, they also sent in their script for a drama competition by the Peradeniya University, and were selected to the top 6.
During this time, the Mad Hatters’ Collective grew from two individuals who wanted to tell their stories their way, to five individuals doing the same thing. Nethmi Gunasekera, the creative mind, Kovindu De Seram, writer, and Eshan Thilakasena the finance guru all became part of the family.
While initially specialising in performing classic fairy tales with a twist, the Mad Hatters turned to raising their voices for social issues upon realising that there are many stories that need to be told.
“An Isolated incident” was spurred on by team member Kovindu in light of the recent spike in domestic abuse when the nationwide curfews were put into effect following the first wave of COVID19. “But we didn’t need a trigger per se,” Reihan elaborated. “The fact that this happens, every day, and it’s so normal in our culture, that was a trigger enough.”
It was difficult to film, Nigel shared with us, and difficult to listen to the depth of the problem as they spoke with survivors in order to get a more in depth understanding about the psychology behind the issue in order to keep the realism alive. “We needed to do it as more than just fact, but also as something emotional, raw, and truthful,” he says.
The reception has been unexpectedly humbling, Nigel said. “It’s not just that people like the film or like the project,” he explained. “But it’s the fact that people can analyse and comment and give feedback, that’s the best part.” To have people engage with their content was unexpected, he added.
Following the release, Mad Hatters have been engaging with many individuals who loved the message behind it and the stance on social issues that this displays. Collaborations are very much on the horizon, and it’s not just on social issues, but on documentaries and even comedies as well. They shared that they’re actually in production for their next film these days, despite all of them having very demanding day jobs. “We’re just people who love what we do,” Nigel says, as Reihan ads “we’re just our own little family, who want to tell our stories, and I think that dynamic is really what makes us work .”