Pharmaceutical giant Roche wanted to make a documentary that charted the history of cancer treatment over 50 years, but wanted the film to be editorially independent. Its purpose was to educate and inform those affected by cancer. We were given an educational grant by Roche to make the film, and together with science journalist and television presenter Vivienne Parry OBE, we embarked on a year long journey to produce the film.
We quickly realised that to deliver a film with real credibility and reach, we needed to partner with independent experts and so negotiated a partnership with Cancer Research UK. Together, we spent months researching and talking to patients and experts and immersed ourselves in the subject. We sought contributions from global experts such as Professor Robert Weinberg, Professor Umberto Veronesi, Lord Ara Darzi, David Nathan, Brian Druker and many more. We were then able to develop a structure and script that provided a global look at the history of oncology. Of course this meant we needed to film interviews and pictures all over the world, so a great deal of time and effort went into planning a shooting schedule that used the budget in the most economical way. Only once we had signed off the script and schedule did filming began.
Filming for the documentary took place over 6 weeks including 3 weeks in the USA and a week in Europe with our presenter Vivienne Parry OBE. Given the subject matter, many of the interviewees had to be treated with the greatest sensitivity and we worked hard to make everyone feel comfortable. We produced the documentary with the highest production values. In post production over 12 weeks, we made two versions of the film, one for an external audience and a second film for its own staff.
The film was very well received and was given a favourable review in the Lancet medical journal. It has since been translated into 8 languages. It was also awarded an “Excellence in Journalistic Skills” award by the Medical Journalists’ Association. We met some incredibly brave people in the making of this film and it is dedicated to the interviewees who lost their lives to cancer during the filming.