Lecturer reflects on the Shannon Matthews documentary before 'The Moorside'

"We interviewed many people including Julie Busby and the film we made told the story from their perspective."

Fiona Graham, Senior Lecturer, BSc (Hons) Film Produciton Technology

Following the success of BBC 1 drama The  Moorside Staffordshire University lecturer Fiona Graham explains how she developed the original documentary for Sky.

Fiona, Senior Lecturer on the BSc (Hons) Film Production Technology course who has worked for BBC1, ITV and Sky among others as well as with West Midlands Police, was the originator of the idea and interviewed residents on the Dewsbury estate for the documentary film after Shannon Matthews abduction.

Fiona along with Helen Tonge, executive producer of Title Role Productions in Manchester, interviewed the people for real at the time in their homes for a documentary for Sky including Julie Busby, played in the drama by Sheridan Smith, and other characters represented in the successful BBC 1 drama shown on Tuesday night (BBC1 9pm).

The original documentary, Shannon Matthews: The Disappearance Crime & Investgation Network, was made by Manchester based Title Role for Sky where students and other staff later gained work experience in the production of the drama reconstructions for the film.

Fiona Graham was the head of development who found the main people involved with the Shannon Matthews disappearance from those in the police to people on the estate in Dewsbury. She worked with Helen Tonge interviewing people on the Dewsbury estate over two days. This became part of the film produced by the Manchester based independent company which was nominated for a Royal Television Society award.

Fiona said the BBC1 drama with Sheridan Smith portrayed the factual case extremely well: "My experience at the time with people there was very positive and welcoming. It was an extremely traumatic time and heightened stress for all. We interviewed many people including Julie Busby and the film we made told the story from their perspective. This was an important Crime That Shook Britain at the time.”

This practice based research directly informs the teaching and learning on the BSc (Hons) Film Production Technology courses and positively impacts on the student experience. Staff development with experience in the industry field was also achieved for various lecturers on the course through Fiona’s initial development and access.

Fiona added: “We use case studies like the Shannon Matthews story from real world practice in many of our film modules reflecting and dissecting the development processes through to the filming processes used and cameras chosen to the distribution pathways. Students get the full picture of what it’s like to be a documentary film maker today.”