The Making of People Loving People
Watch the People Loving People film I forget that People Loving People was a project dancing around in my mind before I even started working at Manto, but it initially started as a photography project back in 2021. I loved the idea of just capturing queer couple portraits around Leeds and seeing what that representation…
I forget that People Loving People was a project dancing around in my mind before I even started working at Manto, but it initially started as a photography project back in 2021. I loved the idea of just capturing queer couple portraits around Leeds and seeing what that representation looked like at the time. I was beginning to realise how much stories represent us and how people can feel invisible when they are not seen in stories. Capturing folk in their most comfortable environment with their loved one, through a queer lens, would normalise the love as the same as any other love story.
When the opportunity came up to make a test project with Manto, I felt this idea would translate perfectly into film. Queerness is still hugely underrepresented in film and I remember finding a stat when I started the research that just 2% of films have explicit queer representation (Observer, 2020). I was adamant I didn’t want the focus to be on LGBTQ+ discrimination, or the trauma some folk in the community go through. I felt some of the films released in the 2010’s such as Boy Erased, Moonlight and The Miseducation of Cameron Post (all great films BTW!) focused on the hardships of the community, rather than the beauty of being queer. Yes, it is vitally important to nod to that when relevant, but I wanted my film to focus on normalising the connection and love between queer couples.
My main aim throughout this project was to focus on small intimate moments between a couple, nodding to the mainstream hetero/cis typical ‘fairytale’ romance trope to illustrate this. Especially those ‘honeymoon’ feelings everyone can experience at the early stages of a relationship, whether you’re gay or not, felt important to capture. I discovered a web-series that inspired the look and feel of what I was trying to illustrate called Love Language – a beautiful alphabetical anthology series of queer short films. At this point, I had my friends, Andy and Henry, who were happy to be vulnerable on camera and share their unique love story. (Side note – Andy has now transitioned and now goes by Eden which is the name I’ll be using for the rest of this blog!)
So I came up with this logline to always come back to throughout the project:
People Loving People is a short meditation on the small, tender moments of falling in love, through a queer lens. Andy and Henry star in this episode, a couple who fell in love in Leeds. They openly discuss their love in hopes to normalise queer relationships.
Now that I had my concept, a reference and my starring cast (!), I started to brainstorm how these intimate moments would look; close-ups of the couple, soft and warm lighting, handheld/naturalist shots with lots of ambient sounds and conversational dialogue, all felt like key elements. I also knew I wanted to experiment with mixed media, pulling in some 35mm stills, collage-like stop motion and doodle-esque animation inspired by a graphic novel turned TV Series Heartstopper. All these elements were visual storytelling cues to initiate the different emotions felt by the couple.
The Filming Process
Natural-sounding dialogue from the couple was important. So rather than the traditional interview style with a huge set-up (that can sometimes feel intimidating), I decided to start with a casual interview. We were in a space that felt safe to Eden and Henry, with only a microphone and we just had a conversation. I think Eden and Henry felt the conversation was quite cathartic for their relationship, openly reminiscing on their queerness and how their relationship came to be, which was a joy to witness.
This interview was then the foundation for the visuals. I created a list of shot ideas, props and a kit list. I was going to be filming solo so wanted to make sure I had everything (and accounted for everything after the filming!) The shoot was over 2 days, with the first day shooting inside Eden’s living room. Then the second day was just over an evening, filming along Leeds Dock, near where Eden and Henry first met.
Post Production and Editing
As post-production got underway, I wasn’t quite sure how to stitch all my planned elements together. I also wanted to include a short stop motion sequence for a certain scene picked out in the dialogue. The scene could’ve felt quite serious, but I wanted the animation style to feel playful, as Eden emphasised the situation felt quite blasé to her. I was inspired by the characters in the children’s show Charlie and Lola which focuses on colour and texture. Matt’s wife kindly drew the illustrations of the characters (with different expressions!) while I worked on creating the set out of tissue paper and coloured card. Interspersing the edit with footage from the shoot, stills, sourcing images of Eden and Henry from when they were younger, and the animation elements, brought this mixed-media piece together that I felt proud of.
Since The Film’s Release
Eden and Henry loved the film when I screened it to them. It was wonderful to create something for them at an important milestone in their relationship. It was then screened last summer during Pride Month at a local film screening ‘North by North East’ which was great to see it on the big screen in front of an audience. It was such a pleasure creating this project from start to finish and shining a light on the beautiful parts of queerness and what a healthy, supportive queer relationship looks like. I’ve considered making it into a series with other couples in Leeds who want to share their love story; so if you’re queer and in love, let me know!
If you’d like to see more of Team Manto’s test projects, visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel, Manto Collective.