Media Parents

5 minutes with senior producer Jodie Chillery

March 21, 2024 @ 1:06 pm Posted in News Comments

Sheffield’s iconic and longest running music venue, The Leadmill, was the location, writes Producer Jodie Chillery. It was a hot summers eve, I’d just watched Doc Fest’s screening of Joe Cocker: Mad Dog With Soul. Engaging in what I was sure was an important and career enhancing conversation with its director, my enthusiasm fuelled by Guinness and the heady excitement that doc fest induces, I thought; “If these guys can make successful feature docs, so maybe, one day can I!“ I even put this in a text and sent it to my series producer. Because of course, then, I was gainfully employed. We all were. He replied with equal enthusiasm telling me that indeed it is “a privilege to work in this industry, full of so much opportunity“. I don’t know what he’d been drinking! Jodie Chillery working with Richard Hammond on his Workshop for Discovery+ 2022

Six years later in 2023, and the industry was on its knees in crisis, with writers’ strikes, actors’ strikes, commissioning and advertising freezes. We’ve been told to “hold our nerve” we’ve been assured it will “pick up by September”, yet BECTU confirmed 70% of respondents to an industry survey were still not in work. But most appallingly neither was I. In 20 years I’d only had 6 weeks out of work, unless for childbearing reasons or choice. May 2023 was my fifth consecutive unemployed month and that of my 40something birthday: enough to bring on a midlife crisis and mild depression. I did not feel much of that afore-mentioned privilege right then.

Finally, an opportunity arose, at a fledgling company I’d never heard of, for a project seemingly shrouded in mystery. I arranged to meet the exec. I arrived on my bike in the pouring rain. I dripped all over the very obviously new rug in their basement meeting room, and had to keep removing my glasses to wipe my persistent steam.  None of this was the look I was hoping for at my first job interview in months.

That mystery project, it turns out, is possibly the most career-enhancing film I’ve ever worked on, without doubt it’s been an incredible privilege, and a feature doc to boot!

Jodie Chillery, Producer on location for Cop Car Workshop, UKTV

I’ve gained a gaggle of new best friends aged between 7 and 15 all facing huge crises of their own. I’ve laughed and cried with them in equal measure, as they allowed us into their lives to share their most vulnerable, and most resilient moments. I’ve laughed and cried even harder with the crew at the end of long shoot days from hotel Beefeater bars in Fife, Scotland, to gun slinging saloon bars in Fort Worth, Texas.

It’s a cliche, but it’s been a journey. One I never imagined possible back in midlife-crisis-may. And perhaps that’s fate. However bad the hardship freelancers of the unscripted TV crisis face, nothing compares to my new “BFFs” who have been dealt a seriously shitty hand.

My band of cheeky contributors have in common a cruel experience of childhood cancer. A brutal disease that is alleged to be rare in children. But it’s on the increase, and the need for new research into kinder, age-appropriate treatments never greater. Only 2% of funds raised for research into cancer treatment goes on the cancers that attack children. This is horrific of course, but I can sense you’re thinking; “Who on earth would choose to watch a feature doc about kids with cancer?” Well, wait till you meet the kids. The narrative is led by them, and shot from their POV, this film is not what you might have come to expect from a cancer doc. (Is that even a genre?!)

It’s about children, about their experiences, and all the madness of life.

Yes there are some devastating scenes, but there are many more uplifting ones. As with any 7- or 15-year-old, there’s friends, school, annoying siblings, pets, parents and piano practice, and then unlike the rest, there’s cancer. There’s no end to their stories, the impact continues for everyone and that is the overarching point this film makes. Cancer never leaves, in-fact remission is perhaps just the start.

It’s a compelling and important watch. I would say that. As I’m plunged back into this ongoing uncertain TV jobs market, at least this time, I’m safe in the knowledge I did produce a successful feature doc, and it was indeed a privilege. However bad my midlife crisis, its child’splay compared to the adversity faced by these kids. If they can carry on with smile, then so can I.

Jodie was the Senior Producer and additional Director on this new feature doc which is due to be released this summer, when we will be able to share all the TX details, watch this space to find out more. To contact Jodie log in to Media Parents and click here: - the jobs and social networking site for short term, part time, job share and regular hours jobs in media.


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