Across the Tracks

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Catherine Feltham

What motivated you to make your impact video?

I was motivated to make this film for a number of reasons. Since working at WaterAid I have heard several stories relating to violence against women, which of course are shocking to hear.  I started exploring making this film when both violence against women and sanitation became topics that were gaining attention in India. I had heard about a project in Rakhi Mandi slum and how WaterAid’s corporate partner, HSBC, was interested in telling a story from the area.  After reading a small amount about it, it became apparent that sanitation was the strongest angle and that there were connections to violence against women.  The Clean India campaign was being announced and it seemed like a good time to produce a piece that could contribute to the debate around the topic of sanitation in India.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

WaterAid is an international charity that transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation.  WaterAid has teams in 37 countries across the world, working with our partners to transform millions of lives every year.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

Working closely and collaboratively as a global WaterAid team and our corporate partner HSBC on the entire project from start to finish was essential to making a film that could work both locally and globally – from the film being broadcast on Indian TV and HSBC’s internal TV channel, to being played at WaterAid events in different countries and even being translated into Japanese.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

Through this film we want to show just how important something as simple as a toilet can be for health, safety, dignity and freedom. We want to send a message that everyone should be able to have a safe and secure place to go to the toilet, regardless of where they live. We also hope that after watching this film people will have a better understanding of what WaterAid does and how we work in partnership – from local partners and communities to the organisations that fund our work.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

-The Clean India campaign
-Sanitation in a challenging urban setting
-The impacts of not having a toilet
-Sanitation and behaviour change
-The particular impact on women of not having a toilet


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Rakhi Mandi slum is now on the verge of being declared ‘open defecation free’, with the Clean India campaign offering support to the remaining households to build their toilets. Shramik Bharti is playing a key role in this by providing behaviour change support to ensure that toilets will continue to be used and maintained. Radha has also taken the next step on the ‘sanitation ladder’ by building brick walls to complete her toilet.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Firstly you can share this film and story.  Tell your friends about it, share it on social media, on your blog and via email.
You can also visit this webpage ( which gives you lots of ways to get involved including campaigning, fundraising, volunteering, donating and taking part in events.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:

Water Aid:

A multimedia piece giving more content and information around Radha’s story:

Links to different versions of the film:
10 minute film:
20 minute film:
5 minute film:


Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Good question – there are lots! I actually started keeping Pinterest boards recently to capture all the films that inspire me! (
Documentary wise I remember really being moved by Children of the Tsunami, which broadcast on BBC 2 in 2012. In fact I wrote a blog piece about it while I was studying:
The reason it impacted me was due to great storytelling with wonderful characters treated sensitively; it was beautifully shot and had great music and sound.  It was a unique and eye-opening way of examining post-tsunami Japan.  In addition the quality and depth of the interviews with the children was inspiring, as interviewing children for film is a challenging thing to do.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Across the tracks was shot primarily using a Canon C100, with the Canon 5D as second camera. We also featured some drone footage from the Phantom DJI 1, which used a GoPro.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

At the end of the shoot Kalavati, the incredible older lady who supported Radha to build her toilet, made an inspiring thank you speech to our team and said ‘please go and share this story with as many people as possible so that people hear what’s happening in Rakhi Mandi.’  She is an amazing woman and hearing her story of how toilets had made such a change to her life and how it had motivated her to do what she’s doing now was very inspiring.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your impact video to help tell your story.

We used a drone in the film in order to help us get across the scale of the slum, and the location of it – squeezed between a main road and a railway line. Using the aerial footage really added to the story, as well as lifted the production values.
The majority of the film was shot hand-held to help the viewer feel closer to the subject, but there was also use of a slidetrack for some shots such as the set-up interview shot of Radha.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

The story evolved over a period of about six months. There was a lot of planning in pre-production, which involved a recce by another team member who was already visiting the area and regular Skype calls with colleagues in WaterAid India and our partner on the ground Shramik Bharti.  This meant by the time we went we were fairly clear about the story we were hoping to tell. However, despite this we spent the first two days of the shoot without cameras, meeting the characters we hoped to work with to ensure they were happy with our plans and to check we hadn’t missed anything vital that would impact the story.
Once we started filming we had a clear plan and idea of what was needed to be captured. We worked very closely with the main characters and Shramik Bharti when deciding what to film.
We had always planned on cutting a 10 and 20 minute version of the film for different outlets. It felt natural when we came to editing that the 10 minute film would primarily focus on Radha, whilst the 20 minute film would involve the two other key individuals we met who we felt were vital in telling the wider story around Radha and how the project was working.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video. 

The most rewarding part of making the film was spending time with Radha and her family, Kalavati, Laddan and the Shramik Bharti staff.  We all worked very closely and the process felt like it had a positive impact on the wider community.  It seemed the community was interested in our project and pleased that we were interested in telling their story.
It was also fantastic to receive photos and quotes from community members including Radha, Nisha, Kalavati and Laddan when they first saw the finished film. It was great to hear that they were pleased with how it turned out.
Finally of course it’s been fantastic to be able to get the film out in so many places to different audiences and to be nominated in film festivals and competitions. Hearing feedback from audiences after them seeing the film is always great too.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

I would say from the outset consider distribution.  Making powerful films to inspire change is one thing, but getting it out to an audience is another and it’s such an important part of the process which should shape how you approach telling a particular story.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

I love being a Producer and working on a film from start to finish.  It’s fantastic and a privilege to meet people, be able to talk at length about often personal things, and then be able to share that person’s story to hopefully inspire others.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

A bumbag for the essentials!  When filming or producing I find that being hands-free and not having to worry about going into a bag or rucksack for extra batteries, sim cards, a pen etc. and a quick snack bar is much easier.



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