This is a bit of a late night blog after doing an evening shift. Why was I in the office so late? It was linked to the documentary currently showing the work of the Serious Sexual Offences Unit – The Detectives.
I have to admit to being a bit sceptical of taking part in documentaries. They are often poorly conceived and cheap television. At their worst they can appear incredibly exploitative of individuals going through traumatic or difficult moments in their lives. However, when it is good it can be a thought-provoking piece of television that can help to educate and inform not just entertain.
The Detectives has in the first two of its three parts proven to be work well worth getting involved in. It sheds light on an aspect of police work that people rarely see and shows what takes place behind closed doors. If it proves to be really valuable then it will encourage people to come forward and seek help. It will mean an increase in reports. It will help to challenge attitudes people have towards rape and sexual offences.
A lot of time has to be invested to bring such documentaries to the television screen, both from the production company and the subject of the programme. It takes courage of people to be shown dealing with such traumatic experiences both victim and police officer. I have been particularly in awe of the victims who have been brave enough to talk through their experiences in such an open way. They deserve their experiences to be sensitively handled and I hope that is what has happened.
In a busy television schedule with multiple channels available it is still amazing to see how many people can be reached with one programme. If all those people watching take away some messages about how to report serious crimes, what help is available and how they can help make a difference then it was an investment of time well worth taking.
Many companies, organisations or businesses will receive regular requests to get involved in documentary filming. Few opportunities are taken but when they are they should be a window into something people will not normally have access to. I hope that is what The Detectives has been.
If you have been involved in a documentary how did you find it and what did you feel was achieved?
In my organisation, we took part in How To Get A Council House in 2013. It was a Channel 4 show filmed jointly in Tower Hamlets and North Manchester. We thought very carefully about how best to approach it and whether to be involved at all. I’ll be honest and say that I was a programme-maker’s nightmare. I very closely monitored access to our tenants – for sheer fear that they would be exploited. I thought season 1 of the show was fantastic – one show of the three was ours, the rest was in Tower Hamlets. It was a sympathetic and honest look at what goes on in social housing. Perhaps cos I was such a pain in the rear end, we weren’t invited to take part in season 2 and I was really glad. When it aired, it was typical Benefits Street type telly. I think it’s just about judging the risk against the possible return. What was also interesting, though, was how much of my time it took up. I was very very busy with it, for what was only 52 minutes of telly. It dominated my work for a whole summer. I’m not sure if it was worth it.