Starting setbacks

So if you had a quick scan of my first post, then you will know by now that this documentary wasn’t my first (or even second) idea for my major project. I think it’s important that I tell you exactly what happened prior to When Life Gives You Lemons, and it might just make you cry (not really).

The initial plan at the start of the term was to make an immersive, Louis Theroux Weird Weekends kind of documentary, where I would spend time with a cultish Christian religious group, who’ve been branded as such after being embroiled in a whole host of scandals over the years. For fairly obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into too much detail about who they are or what they do, but just know this: it was going to be a totally amazing tongue-in-cheek exposé of how bizarre these people’s lives really were.

Or would it? Perhaps, I thought, I’d find out that they weren’t really as bad as people believed. After all, I’d known about them for years and still knew very little past the veneer of public perception. What I did know was that they’d been praised for doing some excellent charity work in the past, and that they regularly helped the homeless throughout the year.

Could they really be that menacing? I wasn’t sure. Did they have an agenda that they didn’t want people to know about? Would I end up ditching my degree and running off with them?

I’m relieved to reveal that things never really got that far. Trying to establish trust with the group initially proved difficult, and whilst I eventually convinced them to grant me access, I felt that it was strictly on their terms, and would be used merely as a PR ploy.

This would be fine, providing that I could balance their side of the story with an alternative narrative. Unfortunately, those who had left the group were extremely reluctant to be interviewed, not least because they feared the backlash at the hands of the cult, but also because many of them were involved in ongoing criminal and civil cases at the time. This felt like a very dangerous place to start digging, and my media law training told me that it wasn’t worth risking prejudicing court proceedings.

Without that side of the story, I felt that the balance and journalistic integrity of the whole project would be skewed, and although I didn’t want to admit it, it seemed like a good time to jump ship.

Whatever would I want to film next? Fear not, idea two was on my mind: The rise of the female pornographer. There has been masses in the media about this subject in the last year or two, but I saw a gap in the market for a documentary – and I was going to be the person to fill that hole (no pun intended, you naughty thing).

As it turns out, the majority of female porn directors either don’t live in the UK, or have conveniently just left the country in search of sunnier skies. I was in talks with Erika Lust Cinema, a porn production company based in Barcelona that focuses on producing ethical, female-centric pornography, hoping to gain that key insight into the life of the female porn director.  I was so desperate for things to go my way at this point that I decided I would go to Barcelona just to interview Erika if I had to, but at the time Lust Cinema weren’t sure if they would be accommodate me in their busy schedule. With time ticking on, I decided I couldn’t afford to wait for them to make that decision – especially after the first setback – and finally embarked on my next, and thankfully final documentary idea. Irony would have it that they later offered me an interview.

So now I’m here, talking about fruit, and things have been looking markedly more positive. So far I’ve interviewed two fruitarians – look out for the previews soon – and have just started a one week trial of the fruitarian diet myself. I’ve also managed to Skype Dr Steven Bratman in the US to talk about the link between fruitarianism and Orthorexia Nervosa: an eating disorder where the sufferer develops an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food –  a diet he thinks is so restrictive that it is orthorexic ‘almost by definition’.

But although I’ve made significant progress, there’s still a long way to go. At this late stage, I am struggling to find a dietitian who is able to talk to me at what is an especially busy time of year. I can only continue to send out plenty of emails and make lots of calls to ensure that I get what I need to make this documentary balanced and credible. I’ve been in touch with the British Dietetics Association (BDA) today to see if I can arrange an interview with someone who can give their view on fruit-based diets, which thankfully, is beginning to look slightly more promising.

Although it’s clichéd, I suppose what I can take away from these major setbacks is that things really don’t work out the way you plan them to, and that’s okay if you can generate lots of new ideas. It’s been a huge learning experience that has challenged me to be much more creative in my approach to finding stories, and has taught me how to overcome obstacles that could quite easily occur within industry.

The most interesting observation I can make is that it seems I have an underlying interest in the idea of non-conformity. Whether you’re part of a religious cult, paving the way as a female porn director, or eating only fruit, you’re doing something that goes against the grain of society – and that fascinates me.

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