How we documented Laura Hall's battle with booze

Monday 24 January 2011, 11:32

Meredith Chambers Meredith Chambers Executive Producer

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I'm the executive producer of Laura Hall: My Battle With Booze. We read about Laura, like so many people, when she hit the headlines earlier this year.

Newspapers named her the "poster girl for binge Britain", while a judge even called her "despicable and rotten".

She'd become an overnight tabloid sensation for the worst possible reason - consistently getting drunk and offensive, mostly directing her drunken anger at the police, while out and about in her home town of Bromsgrove, and beyond.

Laura Hall

As so often is the case, we thought there might be more to Laura and the stories about her than the papers were saying.

We wanted to take a look at the girl behind the lurid headlines and find out whether there was more to Laura Hall, and reflect the problems that she was going through and drive discussion around them.

We felt that a documentary that did this properly would sit well on BBC Three, a channel that's proving to be a home for popular documentaries with real social purpose.

So we made contact with Laura. And true enough, when we met her, we found that she was articulate and clever, and from a good home.

Danni Davis, the director, struck up a relationship with her and was struck by the fact that Laura had real insight in to the depth of her problem with alcohol.

Laura felt the system had demonised and failed her rather than helped her. She didn't appear to be the epitome of the drunken lout.

We were fully aware she had 39 convictions, from drunk and disorderly to assaulting a constable, plus a range of public order offences - and that she could behave terribly.

But it quickly became clear that here was a girl that was vulnerable and needed help.

A magistrate even asked in court one time where the help was for Laura. Clearly Laura's was a young life that shouldn't be simply written off.

We told Laura that we wanted to film over a period of time to see if she could come good on her promise to stop drinking and go in to rehab.

She'd already sold her story for money in the past but we made it crystal clear that she would not benefit financially from making this documentary.

We told her that we would make a thoughtful film that examined the issues around her behaviour and alcoholism, which tried to show her attempts to stop and that ultimately gave a fair portrait of her.

We were clear that if she behaved badly we would show it, as this is the nature of an observational documentary, but that we would balance it.

However, throughout filming, the welfare of Laura was always of the utmost importance.

Laura saw that a film with the BBC might have the best chance of showing the other side to her. She turned down offers from other parties that had money attached.

We then went to BBC Three, where we knew that the Dangerous Pleasures season was gearing up for its second run.

This strand of documentaries, that already had broadcast films like Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning and Sun, Sex And Holiday Madness, had built up a reputation for filming with young people who live life to the extreme.

These people are then prepared to share their experiences with a wider audience, and be frank about the detrimental effects their choices have on their lives.

Laura, who is very honest, and who wanted to show how destructive a force alcohol was on her life, would be an ideal part of this season.

BBC Three saw the potential in the film. Laura would speak directly to its core audience and give them a clear and stark warning of the dangers of alcohol abuse from a first person perspective, without preaching.

The programme was there to reflect real life and living in modern Britain. We set about making the film and it was a very up and down six months.

At one point we filmed her coming out of 55 hours of custody with nothing but a plastic bag, yet within weeks we saw her take the bold decision to go in to rehab.

We did work closely with Laura despite making her no promises about the shape or content of the film.

We had a thick set of protocols agreed with lawyers and editorial policy that governed our behaviour at all times.

One of the main points for us was that making this film didn't make her difficult life worse.

We took our duty of care to her very seriously and had plans drawn up if she hurt herself or others.

We were always ready to do the most responsible thing and it was clear we'd never incite her to do herself or others harm or break the law.

The film is now finished and I'm glad to say that Laura managed to get rehab therapy, and is now working towards recovering from her addiction.

Although the road has been tough and there has been obstacles to overcome, she's only 21. Her life will be hard from here on in but I hope she stays motivated.

She shows that no matter how bad an addiction seems, you can have the inner strength to fight it - but an addiction can be there for life. So I think our aims and ambitions for the film have come through.

I hope the people watching it will find that there's more to Laura Hall than we think.

I hope the film will also make people think about what more can be done to help people who harm themselves and how society treats young addicts.

Finally, I hope it makes people challenge their own behaviour and treat other people and themselves with more respect.

Meredith Chambers is the executive producer of Laura Hall: My Battle With Booze.

Laura Hall: My Battle With Booze is on BBC Three on Monday, 24 January at 9pm. The programme is part of BBC Three's Dangerous Pleasures season.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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    Comment number 1.

    I am really impressed by the respect the documentary makers gave to the main subject of their piece...it's meaningful work. So many write others off for their frailties. It's important to give a second more thoughtful look without judgement. Thank you for your work.

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    Comment number 2.

    I am looking forward to the documentary this evening particularly after all the criticism I read over the week and weekend after Laura Hall’s relapse. I just hope the BBC have got it right and put enough emphasis on the difficulties people face with alcoholism and how the personalities of these people change so drastically in drink. Laura needs support not comdemnation.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 4.

    Poor Girl she is been demonised for been a drunk and a lout plus she has a badge of honour of 39 convictions. what is really disgusting is the fact that we are meant to feel sorry for her, there are young men and women her age that are coming back from war with arms and legs missing.Have a real hard think because Lauar is everything that is wrong with this country today.

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    Comment number 5.

    Yes, lets have compassion for someone who:

    1. Costs the taxpayer for her (or future) kidney and other organ transplants/operations
    2. Costs the taxpayer due to the police (and courts) having to deal with her
    3. Makes it unsafe and unpleasant for people to enjoy thier town/city centres

    We all have problems in life but we dont all behave in a way that spreads these problems to others.

    Post number 4 hit the nail on the head!!

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    Comment number 6.

    Have a real hard think ronin76 and please don’t compare Laura with our brave men and women returning from conflict. I have the upmost respect for our military but it really is a separate issue. Perhaps linked by both being a product of what was wrong with our country YESTERDAY which our young men and women of today, in and out of uniform, are having to deal with. You deem to comment before the documentary has been aired, before hearing what drove Laura to drink how she drunk. Perhaps what is wrong with our country today is the ignorance displayed by so many.

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    Comment number 7.

    I went to school with Laura and in fact I spent many a night out with her before she left high school. Despite Laura’s antics when intoxicated with alcohol she was just like any good friend was. I feel where most of us grew out of the stage of drinking alcohol in the “boozing” sense, Laura did not.

    It made me angry when the media reported Laura under such a bad light. I completely understand that her behaviour was not acceptable but seeing people react to a girl that was clearly at her wits end and need help with such negativity really hit a nerve. Furthermore I find it incredibly irritating that people believe everything that the media presents to them and how they can be so judgemental. I pity the ignorance of those who are incapable of rejecting anything that the media feeds them. As I said before I do not commend Laura’s behaviour but for those who do not know her your assumptions are without doubt based upon a media perception.

    I am so happy for Laura getting her life back on track. I hope she continues to believe in herself because I know she can do it. Hopefully rehab will have provided her with the tools needed to keep up the good work. I also commend Laura for having the courage to be so public about everything that has happened where others would not. Furthermore although people may still continue judge her, as people so often do, I hope that Laura’s honesty will help others in similar situations get there life back on track. Good for you Lau! X


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    Comment number 10.

    dont see the issue with her being given the ban, she should have soem self control and help herself to sort herself out

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    Comment number 11.

    Also whats wrong with people having self control these days, no one is making people like laura to drink excessively

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    Comment number 12.

    I find this documentary extremely interesting I am watching myself two years ago I was 25... and looking at some of the comments on the blog so far, I find it amazing that people still have such a negative on Alcoholism.
    Its no question of willpower or self control. It both physical and mental.
    Most people who are alcoholic drown in a sea of denial about their illness and die the views and opinions British Society does not help, people need to be educated it is an illness and this is where American and other countries are ahead of us.
    I got in trouble and was refer to organisations and was told "you dont look like an alcoholic, you just drink too much, your too young, you have a good job blah blah blah" (Rubbish)
    Laura has apparently gone back to treatment in recent weeks and already media are reporting that "it's embaressing that this programme has now aired" ??????????? who cares this is a young lady trying, attempting, wanting to get well why kick her whilst she is down? If you want it, you wish get well Laura, and be able to live and enjoy life without drink. Good Luck its hard but worth it.

    Good documentary so far BBC and I like that you haven't tried to rosy over it!

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    Comment number 13.

    I'm sort of with Ronin76 , I have known many Alcoholics , none of whom have been in the media , none of home have been on TV , none of whom had residential therapy , all of whom are now sober and happy. This programme will lead those with a problem to believe they need more help than ids avaiable to them , and thereby ultimately cause more despair than hope.
    I bet she will drink again , sooner or later.

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    Comment number 14.

    I wonder where Laura got the money too travel to ayia napa on holiday! and buy all the drink, and go bowling, and pay for taxis and hotels . . . i certainly hope it wasnt the bbc 3 production company!

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    Comment number 15.

    I really admire Laura and I wish her all the luck in the world with her recovery. I know too many adults living with the disease, it's progressive and without treatment just gets worse I've also had to watch loved ones die of it. It is a killer so well done Laura you're amazing and you deserve a long and very happy life because you're worth it.

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    Comment number 16.

    Interesting documentary, thank you BBC3.

    As a father of a 21 year old daughter I decided to watch this from a parent point of view, which raised a number of questions that I hope Meredith will answer:

    * If, as stated in the programme, Laura's parents were supportive of her, why did they not appear - was this to keep the programme interesting for your target audience?

    * I appreciate that this was about Laura's battle with the booze, but she clearly had other issues - self harming? - which clearly contributed to her state. To blame the booze for everything, which seemed to be the tone of the programme, was poor

    * Where did Laura get the money to buy drink? She appeared to have 'friends' that knew how she was, but were compliant in helping her to get drunk

    * to blame the 'system' for letting her down is lazy journalism - as usual in this 'blame everyone else but me' culture, why did you not ask Laura or the (supportive) parents why they had not tried to seek help before Laura became the 'poster girl for binge Britain'?

    I was pleased (and amazed) to read there was no fee paid - quite right that you insisted on this.

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    Comment number 17.

    I am the same age as her and I really feel for her.

    Ever since I turned 16 I have been addicted to gambling and have lost all momentum and opportunities of what I wanted to do because all the money I had went in to my addiction forcing me to drip out of uni, fall out with family and it now has recently turned to alcohol as I have so far cut the gambling out but its an ongoing battle.

    Ive gambled thousands and I feel like what I want to do in life will never ever happen.

    I am now on anti-depressants and diagnosed with depression. One point I feared I was bi-polar.

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    Comment number 18.

    A very illuminating documentary.

    Having grown up with Laura I can personally attest that she is a very sweet and kind girl. I hope she takes strength from the positive comments above and ignores the transparent ignorance that peppers some of the commentary.

    Who would really choose a life of alcoholism? It's not a simple case of just giving up and immediately being happy for most.

    For those who have loved ones that experienced chronic alcoholism, I'm sure the scenes were very familiar, I think Laura was incredibly brave for putting herself out there so that people could not only understand her, but a condition that is rife in society today. You only need to look at the poliferation of drunkards in the Aiya Napa scenes, who were no better behaved... This is a useful look under the surface of many people's realities.

    Good luck to Laura and all people like her that have the courage to face up to their realities and try to make something better of themselves. Even if they don't succeed the first time, they'll get there one day. They've taken the first steps by trying, which is more than many would.

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    Comment number 19.

    I totally agree with Ronin76. She deserves zero sympathy and perhaps should count herself lucky to be alive and not in jail or dead.

    She signifies what is wrong today, no respect and an expectation that she will get help and be sorted out and that she is the victim. She needs to learn to take control of he own life and be like the rest of us, where does she get the booze and money?

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    Comment number 20.

    Did no one see what seemed like the marks of very serious self-harm on her arms, and consider that this binge drinking was simply another manifestation of self-harm? Very disappointed that this aspect was not looked at, was not questioned...she may well destroy her life permanently, she may end in prison where you can read the statistics of women who self-harm, the bigger question is WHY? why do such women harm themselves? Get real researchers...do some blinking research and ask the important questions.

 

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