As an only child, brought up by a single mother, Bianca Juliette O’Neil had more than her fair share of loss. For a long while, until several people very close to her died, she was spared. Friends and family. In relatively quick succession.
Grief, she says, is part of the cycle of life, but society does not allow one to grieve. Rather, it forces one into the shadows to deal with the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of profound loss.
“Grief”, O’Neil says, “is not an exercise routine you can follow step by step.”
Recently, she lost both grandparents in relatively quick succession, each under very different circumstances and equally devastating. Although she had seen her grandfather seven months prior, circumstances prevented her from travelling to his bedside to bid that final farewell. Something, she says, she’ll always regret. The same year in which her grandfather died, in late May, shortly after her birthday, grandmother went to hospital. She adds that her grandmother had always been sickly, but had always recovered, so her death devastated O’Neil.
That double blow, surrounded by more and more loss, was the fertile ground for the germination of Yellow Daisy Butterfly.
Meeting Dorette Nel
O’Neil grew up in a home with three generations of women: an only child in a small house with a huge garden and under the same roof as her mother and grandmother. Of that, she says, and the ten-pin bowling alley in which her mother worked, she has treasured memories.
O’Neil, however, was never able to grieve: either as a child or as an adult. The animated film which she is co-producing with Dorette Nel, centres on a little girl coming to terms with profound loss.
Mentoring from “the Pod ” enabled O’Neill to sharpen the script to a narrative that has attracted funding from the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF). The funding from the NFVF has enabled O’Neill to start working with acclaimed animator Diek Grobler, who was closely involved with Ruby & Roach.
It is essential, she says, to enrich the script: art animation is such a different a genre from the live action to which she is accustomed. They’re experimenting, too, she adds.
Now, with a team, and under the watchful eye of Dorette Nel, she’s developing a film about her personal journey of grief, with the life cycle of the butterfly as a metaphor. In concert with yellow daisies: her grandmother’s favourite flower.
The film, she says will help children to cope with grief. Sherylee is a little girl confronting the loss of her granny.
Yellow Daisy Butterfly is a stop motion animation film with water colour cut outs. They’re also drawing on emerging artists and experimenting with a range of techniques to create movement and a unique production.
If the universe allows, O’Neil says, Yellow Daisy Butterfly is on track for completion in late 2022.
Bianca Juliette O’Niel is a performer and producer. She has an honours’ degree in drama from the University of Pretoria and a Masters’ in Education from the Tshwane University of Technology. She has a special interest in teaching literary skills through dramatic story telling.