The producer’s view – Emily Turner on 'Last Chance School'
“Are you here to be a teacher?” one of the kids asked me on my first day at Gloucester House, “. . . you won’t want to be one after today.” I left the building thinking what a remarkable and special place this was, and slightly overwhelmed with the idea of how we were going to make a film there. I could tell immediately how important the whole community was at Gloucester House. We would have to work hard to win the trust of all staff, students and their parents and carers in order to make it. Without everyone in agreement, we would not be able to make a film there. It would be another nine months before we started filming at the school.
During this long period of research, we had to identify what we would (and would not) be able to film at school. We began to build relationships with the Senior Leadership Team, led by Nell Nicholson, and addressed the concerns they had. We also met with parents and carers to find out what Gloucester House meant to them, and talked to them about being part of filming.
We had met Josh’s parents at the very beginning of making the series. Stig and Phil had always been supportive of what we were hoping to do, and wanted to raise awareness of Gloucester House and the positive impact it had had on their family. They introduced us to other parents, and we came to parent and carer events. Slowly, we began to get to know these families, and eventually we had permission to film several children – and to tell Luke and Danya-Leigh’s story. In March we took a camera into the school for the first time.
For different reasons, some children could not feature in the documentary. It would not have been fair to only work with a select few kids, and exclude those who could not be part of the process. To address this, we decided to run a filming project for every child at the school. Every Wednesday afternoon for a school term I ran the project, which was integrated as part of the curriculum for the year. Each child became the director of their own short film, which we premiered to staff and parents at the end of the school year. This was such a valuable experience, and one I think I enjoyed at least as much as the kids did!
The staff at Gloucester House are by definition unsung heroes: Nell and her team did not enter their careers to be in the spotlight. They are also incredibly busy, and their jobs are sometimes very demanding. With all of this in mind, it would have been easy for them to say no to filmmakers adding to their workload. However, they trusted us, and they believed in the film we hope to make. I want to thank everyone for their time and help in making the film. We are honoured to have met you all, and to have brought to a larger audience the vital work you all do. I will always remember my time at Gloucester House very fondly.
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