The highs and lows of a bionic girl

The highs and lows of a bionic girl

When 24 year old filmmaker Louisa Mayman was involved in a horrific car crash, many said her journey to recovery was worthy of the silver screen.


Now four years later, not only is Manchester's own Bionic Woman fighting fit, but a self-made film of her struggle is receiving awards and plaudits all over the world.


It was 4pm on the 17th December 2006, and Interactive Arts student Louisa Mayman was making her way home for the Christmas Break. A passenger in her friend’s 1970's VW Beetle, the pair were driving along a dual carriageway just outside Manchester, completely unaware of the life-changing drama that was about to unfold around the next bend.


An oncoming car, whose driver was not paying attention, misjudged a corner at full speed. Striking the kerb his car careered across the road, launching like a catapult head-on into the vintage blue Volkswagen and its helpless passengers.


"The traffic officer at the scene said it was the worst accident he had seen without a fatality." Recalls Louisa: "Thankfully I don't remember any of the crash, though apparently I was conscious and talking to the paramedics. When I came around in the hospital I was really confused. I felt uncomfortable and I was so swollen I looked like the elephant man." Laughs Louisa, who sat opposite me, shows no sign of the ordeal she has been through.


"I was told I was lucky to be alive, but at the time I couldn't see a future. All I thought about was getting my life back to how it was. It took a long while to realise that this was for life, not just a short term thing."


In the summer break she began to reflect on the life-changing experience: "I collected everything I had from the accident, photographs, documentation, any sort of ephemera, and started going through it all thinking what can I do with this, what am I trying to stay?" 


She began the painstaking task of re-visiting the crash, describing the process as therapeutic but undeniably difficult. She would spend the day’s writing, and collecting footage from her everyday life with a video-camera.


I wanted to tell my story and realised whatever I did had to have a narrative. Then it hit me, it had to be a film. Louisa Mayman


Having never made a film before Louisa dived in at the deep end. Taking the early footage, she formed the basis of a story which would guide the audience through both her mental anguish, as well as her physical one. 


"I wanted to reveal the accident at the end because that’s not what it’s about; it’s about the journey to recovery." Working to a deadline in order to get the film finished for her final degree show, Louisa says she kept those who saw the film to a minimum until the final edit was done. Yet she does remember how after watching it for the first time her house-mate began to cry. "I thought well at least its touching, I didn't set out to make people cry, I just want to show it how it is; a heartfelt account of what happened."


It was at the degree show that Louisa received a handout about a film festival in Hanover. With nothing to lose she entered her film, what had now been named 'The Highest Low'. 


“I had no idea if it would go down well, because most people who had seen the film at this point were those I knew, so it was obviously closer to home to hear the story." She continues with a beaming smile: "I kept checking the website closer to the date when they announced the people who had got in. Then when I found out I was one of them I was over the moon."


The success in Germany gave Louisa the confidence to enter more festivals, and in March she was asked to show The Highest Low at the prestigious European Independent Film Festival in Paris. Louisa Recalls: "I was really interested in seeing what other people were doing in Europe and the rest of the world on a low budget.” However she says what happened next is 'kind of a blur'. Her film was not only to be screened at the festival, but Louisa was nominated for best student film.  


The culmination of three years heartache and struggle was about to pay off. Louisa was back on course with her life, surpassing even those dreams she had prior to the crash.


The recognition in Paris has opened up many doors. Pursuing her aspirations of becoming a filmmaker Louisa hopes to begin film-school in London later this year, having graduated from MMU with a First Class degree in interactive arts.


She has become an ambassador for Hitachi's G-Technology, and only last month the British Film Institute (BFI) inducted The Highest Low into their archive; preserving it for generations to come.


Even though she still struggles with the affects of the crash and always will, Louisa is happy and confident with the way her life is progressing. As she optimistically says in the conclusion of the film: “There are things to dwell on, but more things to look forward to. The life I had before is starting to become a distant memory, yet I feel closer to being myself again more than ever."


For more information on Louisa, visit her cracking little website -


By Adam Yare


Writers / Contributors: