The making of ‘Lost Connections’ – something great out of lockdown!

Lost Connections – a new archive-based short film, is being enjoyed by a wide audience both online and in cinemas since its release at the end of September. The result of a creative collaboration led by the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) supported by Film Hub North on behalf of the BFI Film Audience Network (through National Lottery funding), Lost Connections brings together footage from FAUK Members  –  the 12 regional and national moving image archives.

FAUK catches up with Andy Burns, co-writer and editor of Lost Connections and Hussina Raja co-writer and also the wonderful voice of the narrator to discover more about their work together.

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns made us realise how we value and count on the human connection. Suddenly we had to distance ourselves from loved ones, from our everyday lives of work and play, put our lives on hold and re-assess what is important to us. This film draws on the collections covering 100 years of moving image heritage prompting us to reflect on our loss, loneliness and isolation but focusing on hope, renewal and the re-connection with our communities and the world around us.

Andy Burns, Editor and Co-writer

Andy first explained how he responded to the exciting lockdown proposal from Yorkshire Film Archive – “My aim was to do something as a response to the pandemic – using the emotions and feelings of other people filmed at a different time but reflecting our situation today.” Something that was quite a challenge too when it involves working with content from across the last century from 12 national and regional film archives!

Andy has worked on a number of screening edits for YFA and NEFA over the last 10 years and in 2018, edited Born a Rebel, a short film using footage from Yorkshire, North East and North West film archives in partnership with Cinema for All, in response to the lack of women’s voices in the archives which received wide acclaim.

“Over the last 10 years,” he explains “the creative side of my work has expanded – the focus is working on making film more engaging.  Nowadays peoples’ attention spans are a bit shorter and it is good to work with content to give them as much footage and content as possible but in a very entertaining way “

For Lost Connections, Andy worked initially with a curatorial team of Graham Relton and Sue Howard, (Yorkshire and North East Film Archives)  and Frank Gray (Screen Archive South East) and a call for a broad brief of 4 categories – isolation, community, nature and the present day went out to 12 archives with a proviso to be ‘people focused’.

Andy Burns

The response from the curators at the 12 partner archives was amazing with more footage than they had ever anticipated and the team set to work through the massive selection – some with audio as background or spoken commentaries which worked wonderfully. Andy and producer Graham Relton (North East Film Archives), worked remotely through the first lockdown assessing the footage and then collaborating online to share their selections saving them to an initial timeline.

“I started to piece together a narrative – with a beginning, middle and end speaking to the themes but it also had to make some sort of sense! There were so many different voices –I’d be listening for certain words, certain phrases that I could mix and match to get certain points across. We had a palette of films – like ‘colours’ we could pick and choose – the hardest part was “what can I leave out?” – we went through so many different versions as well. I wanted to use a shot because it was so beautiful but it just didn’t workSometimes a phrase was fabulous but too long – I had to condense it so got to the point quicker as I was very conscious of sticking to the running time of 13-15 mins”

Andy had learnt from beginning with Born a Rebel that 15 mins max was a good length as a short pre feature film. “Anything longer?” he added, “ the interest wanes and the punch gets less – it gets diluted.”

The curatorial team including members from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, the North West and South East, had considered making a much shorter version – condensed to about 6 mins long but quickly realised it didn’t work cutting out so many elements such as the pauses, the quiet moments that give you the space to pause and reflect.

In the initial edit they selected certain elements of some clips separating audio and visuals but it was clear that they needed a contemporary voice to bring the archives from across the decades to life.

Hussina Raja, co-writer and narrator

It was here that Hussina Raja writer, visual artist and actress was brought onboard. Graham had worked with Hussina before and both he and Andy felt that her soft and contemporary voice and experienced writing skills would work well to bring the production together and move the different sections along.

Hussina contributed to the curation too and was keen to ensure that Lost Connections included archive of underrepresented audiences and showed a true reflection of society. A further call went out to the archives for more content with a great response and, in total about 200 clips made the final edit.

Andy shared his timeline and ideas with Hussina – “I broke it down into sections to give an idea of what I was after and asked her to take it away to use her own words to piece the sections together. She came back with something even better – and wrote a lot more content which I ended up using in the film – with more phrases and sound bites that sounded fantastic.”

Music also played a huge role in getting a sense of emotion across in the film. For Lost Connections, Andy was conscious that they needed music to show reflection – “ It was a bit different to Born a Rebel which was angsty and gritty – we needed this time for the music to be a little bit more in the background and let the voices come forward – so we had to make sure tracks weren’t overbearing and that it was the voices that were going to do the talking. It was a nice mix of setting the essence and emotion at various points in the sequence

Hussina, lockdown working from home

It was obvious that Hussina had really enjoyed the challenge of working on the project “The curatorial group gave me a lot of time on Zoom but were not prescriptive about the edit –  they would make suggestions but gave me a lot of free rein to work. It was a challenge as it wasn’t a narration as such – the film evokes emotion and I was able to create an ambience, an atmosphere – it made me realise and recognise the power of archive film.

Image: YFA


Image: NEFA

Hussina was particularly taken by the image of the little girls skipping and how the old footage of communities showed such joy juxtaposed with the image of the old woman in the tower block showing such loneliness




Andy too had his favourites

“I think certain clips I did become very fond of and some didn’t make it to the final cut! One particular favourite was from the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive where the little boy goes to school and it’s completely empty – he lives in dream world where things keep happening in actuality but he was dreaming it – we wanted a bit more of that but – it only made tiny shots in the entire film.

Also there was a very poetic film from the National Library of Wales Screen & Sound Archive –  black and white, quite dark and a fantastic atmosphere. We used a few of the shots –the  clock on the mantelpiece, the house on the hill – it was very atmospheric. I loved that film – it was beautifully created. It had a wonderful voiceover too but it didn’t work for this piece.


Image : NSSAW
Image :NLS MIA


Working with archive content is an art in itself – it requires a special talent and understanding of how, when and why the original footage was shot and a creative way of working with the content to make something so powerful and appealing to todays’ audiences.

Hussina is now working on an installation funded by the New Directions Fund looking to connect the past with the present and I feel sure we will see more working with archive film from Andy too.


Jane Jarvis, FAUK


Lost Connections is available to view for FREE on the BFI Player and  YouTube  and also available FREE via Film Hub North to UK exhibitors for screening

Partner Archives

The creation of Lost Connections offered the first opportunity for moving image archives across the UK to come together in a unique collaboration to explore their collections with one specific purpose; to produce a new piece of work using archive footage to reflect our own contemporary experiences.

East Anglian Film Archive

London’s Screen Archives

Media Archive for Central England

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Wales Screen & Sound Archive

North East Film Archive

Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive

North West Film Archive

Screen Archive South East

South West Film & TV Archive Collection at The Box, Plymouth

Wessex Film & Sound Archive

Yorkshire Film Archive