It is believed that documentary is often a socially engaged and responsible art form that is capable of challenging inequalities and other injustices, or changing the world for the better.
O: [That production] involved actual people who experienced actual vulnerabilities, but it was sort of these powerful privileged cis-white-males making decisions to make themselves look good. I smelled that I had been hired to make them look better, as a woman of colour, but I think I was in denial about it. ...The ‘actors’ were from precarious situations. The characters and actors that the two directors wanted to focus on in particular were of colour. And there was no one – yet – of colour on the creative team.
They were ultimately just making things on their whim, and they didn't seem to care what the collateral damage was for the people involved who they kept saying were their friends. There was this sort of pretence of, you know, 'we're all the same', just ignoring the fact that the director, F, is an upper middle-class guy who talked a lot about being a heroin addict back in the day. But being a middle-class heroin addict is completely different from being a heroin-addict who had no money. Then the other director, J, would often talk about being 'working class', but I just felt it was so incredibly insincere, because you can't be a successful artist and not have much money, your network, your privileges... It was ridiculous to me that he was comparing himself to them.
One of the actors, N, was thrown out of her boyfriend's flat, so she didn't have anywhere to go, because he was abusive. My reaction was to do everything possible to support her. The reaction of the directors and the execs was we need to do everything to support her and make sure she's on set.
I think you could actually make a film about the behind the scenes of this film, and it would be like a Haneke film – the horrors of privilege.
.I insisted that we had to get proper psychological support for the actors during the process of production, but the director – who never made a film before and didn't know what the hell he was talking about – completely blocked it. And the chairs of that arts foundation [executive producers of the film] who are just disproportionally esteemed in the art world supported him.
N who had to leave her boyfriend's home reconciled with him, but came on set inebriated once, and then another time had slept [on the street] again. I said we need to get her off set, she needs support. I've been told that I was infantilising the cast, that they can make their own decisions, which is so manipulative a thing to say. Because, well, if something happens to them, are you going to be looking after them? No, you're going to go back to your big house, and these people will be living on the street.
N, who had been kicked out of her boyfriend's home, she basically slept in the bushes one night. It happened after production [had been finished]... and it was probably in no small part because of being involved in the production. I had a discussion with the arts foundation, and they categorically told me that it was none of their business. And that's the thing that ended it for me. Now the production was over, and it was someone's actual future. During this time I discovered that B was on holiday in Italy with his family and one of the execs of the arts foundation and his family. They were having [a good] time in Italy while this actor was sleeping in the bushes. This was a game over for me [and I resigned after that].