On Saturday we filmed our crowdfunder video in Brighton. I hadn’t slept properly all week I was so nervous. In my head we only had one shot of getting it right, despite being told by all around me that we can edit or re-shoot if necessary. It would be the first time I would hand over control to strangers, when I had been the only person living and breathing this project on a full time basis for the last six months.

In the planning phase, I researched successful crowdfunder videos and then, after talking to the Brighton5 teens wrote a script which I felt would resonate. My nephew Ellis (our music producer) mentioned his mate Javier was directing and producing ads, and was about to shoot Drake’s next music video. He suggested we all meet up in London. When we met I realised Jav did not rate my script at all. “Yeah – we don’t need that. We’ll shoot it for ya” – it was all very casual and easy going. I came away from the meeting absolutely terrified but knew if we were to make something that the teens think is cool, and want to be part of, I, at the marvelous age of 49 shouldn’t be the one to do it! Jav sent me links to his suggested Director’s work, Michael Holyk, and when I got home I watched some of the videos with my two teenage daughters. “YES MUM”. Obviously.

Then the wait began – we needed to get a date in the diary that all involved could do. Finally, Saturday April 21st was set. There were no pre-production meetings, no call sheets. Nothing. On Friday night about 11pm, I got an email from Jav with a list of questions – “why are we making this film?” etc. The answers to his questions were easy. This was the sum of our pre-production planning.

I was up at 5.30am on Saturday and a few hours later my house began to fill up with wonderful adult and teen contributors. By 9am, Director Michael Holyk and Camera Op Raja Virdi arrived. This was the first time we had all met. As soon as they entered the house I knew it was going to work. They both have a rather beautiful and calm aura about them. As Jav said – “Stop worrying, we do this in our sleep!” (not that they seem to get much of that). The three of them sat in my garden and talked. Meanwhile, I sat with Tayler, Saba and Jane in the kitchen worrying for Britain. The teens were busy being teens, sorting out what they were going to wear etc. while our stills photographer, 18 year old Mose, was already clicking away recording the proceedings.

Then filming began. Michael and Raja filmed the girls walking to the beach, goofing around, chatting. The weather was glorious. After about three hours we came back to the house for the one-to-one interviews. We filmed each girl in various rooms, where I asked them questions about their experiences of anxiety and depression. Their answers spilled out – eloquent, brave and beautiful. As one expressed, “I have never done this before – it feels so cleansing!” Thank you to Lola, Lotti, Ella, Chloe, Molly, Grace and Maya. HUGE respect.

Next up and about two hours later than planned we filmed our adults – parents and experts in the field of teens and pastoral care. I can’t thank Lorna Marsh, Fiona Paterson and Saba Ali enough. Their drive to help make positive change bowled me over. Once again eloquence and passion shone through.

Finally it was my turn. To appeal direct to camera to express why we need “YOUR” donation. I had printed out prompt cards the night before to be sure to remember everything. But unlike the other contributors to the film, I was not eloquent. It felt like my brain had fallen out and I couldn’t get my words out. We were eight hours into filming and I had completely forgotten how to speak. Director Michael politely stopped my pain. “Just tell it to me”. I went on a passionate rant about why it’s so important – being a mum of two teens; my worry about device addiction and why giving teens something TO DO and MAKE themselves is key. He smiled as I was ranting and then said “That’s it right there, we don’t need the other stuff”. Done. It’s a wrap. Knackered and over the bloody moon, the party began.

Michael and Raja had to get back to London as soon as the filming was complete, we didn’t want them to leave. Michael flew to Vietnam the next day to shoot a music video and is then flying on to LA for another project. That’s what success looks like.

Jav stayed and partied with us, a well earned end to a very very industrious day. Javier Alejandro is a kind, generous spirit. He pulled many favours to make this happen and invested his company cash too. A big thank you goes out to him.

Brighton5 is all about collaboration – bringing together great minds, creativity, passion and determination. Now, we wait for an edit date. But having worked so intensely with Jav, Michael, Raja, Ellis, Mose – all of our brilliant adults and teenage girls – we know it will be worth it.

This morning I attended the ‘Managing Anxiety’ meet up organised by some local primary mental health workers. The session was advertised via three Brighton secondary schools, aimed at parents and carers. At first, it felt like an AA meeting (not that that is a bad thing) as I nervously joined the group sitting in a circle. Strangely only parents from one school attended. This highlights the issue of communications and how you get the good word out there. Time of day may also have been a factor.

Listening to other parents talking openly (albeit anonymously) about their teens’ problems illustrated clear patterns of behaviors related directly to anxiety including pressure of school – especially attendance targets, panic attacks, lack of sleep, isolation…

Of course, some of these problems are age old as kids hit adolescence and become socially dysfunctional – we were told about a study the proved that the level of stress an adolescent experiences by just being looked at is far higher than an adult, as they have a heightened sense of themselves. However, the majority of discussions were taken up talking about screen dependency and the added pressures social media can have on our teens.

The culmination of these honest heart-felt stories make Brighton5 all the more crucial. If kids are all over social, then we owe it to them and ourselves to use that medium to create positive ways of tackling difficult issues. It is glaringly obvious that younger teens need other older teen role models, for help, advice and friendship.

Bring on the girls. Bring on the Brighton5.

Useful links provided at the meeting:
Hey Sigmund – written in language children can understand
And this book about overcoming anxiety in kids – a must read apparently

P.S. If you came to the meeting this morning, please get in touch (tab top right of page)

This week is full, once again. No zero days. By full, I mean thinking time and collaboration time. The world of Brighton5 is evolving rapidly- alongside some amazing local collaborators. And my time is taken up thinking, mapping, scheming and dreaming with these wonderful people.

Some question how I will be able to make a telly programme that is entertaining enough to keep teens and adults watching, when covering difficult issues like self harm or peer pressure. Sure we can pull on heart strings, but actually I have a theory that if we give our kids enough playtime, an amazing physical space and the tools to create and craft, some mad and wonderful things will happen. Couple that with some brilliant direction, animation and editing, and I know we can create magic.

For years I worked in brand experience, creating emotionally-driven physical spaces whose sole ambition was quite simply to make our audience gasp…”Ooooh! Ahhhhh!” (these two words were once our only brief from Imagination founder Gary Withers!)

Netflix have placed documentary storytelling in a new league… think Making a Murderer, The Keepers, Strong Island… whether a Netflix original or not – they are placing these astonishing bodies of work directly into our homes. Entertaining? they certainly are.

Tonight I listened to Sally Wainwright’s interview on the BBC writers room podcast where she says on the subject of authenticity… “the truth is more interesting than any old shit I can make up” (don’t you just love her!)

So we will have have truths, but we will also have dramatic well thought-out storytelling, which will multiply and layer through social media, because that’s where our teens live.

One thing I do know is I won’t be chasing ratings.

For any working parent, half term can be difficult to juggle. My half terms seem to combine random teenage demands with me moaning myself into a stupor about about the state of their bedrooms. For years I have told myself to book the time off. To down tools and be there for the kids. But that never quite happens. I might get a day or two – but that usually ends up with me tackling jobs in the house I wouldn’t normally have time or inclination to do, not properly interacting with the kids at all. So, here we are again, at the end of the half term week and I am in exactly the same place as I always am – slightly defeated, spun out of my routine, wondering if my teens will ever clear up their rooms.

Brighton5 is about challenging norms that don’t work – using the energy of teens and experience of adults to make (good) trouble. My half terms don’t work – unless we are lucky enough to go away on holiday somewhere – but these days my teens aren’t too keen on that unless their entourage of mates can come too, which of course my purse and psyche won’t stretch to! The school system doesn’t work either – well not for everyone.

So, what exactly did I learn this week? I am learning that ordering my teens around (or trying to instruct a clear line of daily duties) in half term is futile. Their brains aren’t developed to cope with or care about adult priorities and instructions. Maybe I should completely rewrite my half term playbook, and think more laterally – even if I do think things are starting to grow in my teenagers’ floordrobes. Oh and am I allowed to say – roll on Monday?!