After graduating with a degree in Media Studies, specialising in Television Production, Maddie began her media career as a music and lifestyle journalist. Passionate about mental health, she then joined Mental Health Media and worked on the UK wide Mad For Arts Project. Her filmmaking education began at the seminal broadcasting charity, The Media Trust. Their charity and third sector clients included MIND, Addaction, Oxfam, Comic Relief and Macmillan. They also produced content for the Community Channel.
Maddie next became a featured director on the Channel 4 programme ‘The Shooting Party’. Where she directed her first short film. Called ‘The Human Whisperer’, it was about a horse that helped her heal from depression.
Her first documentary ‘Even Hitchin Cowgirls Get The Blues’ was made for Anglia/ITV. A grass roots, community activism story, about the little people taking on the big guns of private housing, the government and winning.
Her interest in mental health and addiction, led her to work at her local NHS Drug Service with clients to facilitate filmmaking workshops for the Recovery Street Film Festival. She is a committed supporter of the Mind Media Awards.
During her career, she has worked with Roger Graef and received mentoring and guidance from Paul Watson.
As a director I was always frustrated by seeing films being made about my ‘lived experience’ by professional film makers. For me, for a film to be truly authentic and insightful, it should be made by the people who have lived through those experiences. These are people who have struggled with addiction, mental ill health and trauma issues and whose self-belief, self esteem and confidence holds them back. In such a competitive market, where a lot of production is based on contacts, I feel there is a whole untapped group of talented people who are being marginalised.
Diversity is the key for Sobriety Films, in an industry, indeed a world, where neurotypicals are dominant, those neurodiverse individuals bring a fresh outlook and knowledge to their work. In the uncertain times that we live in, we strive to connect and support the creative community of people in recovery. The use of alcohol and drugs could increase in an uncertain future and individuals who struggle to work flexibly will be further pushed out of the work place. Creating more alienation.
When facilitating workshops with service users trying to achieve recovery, I am enriched and enlivened by their boundless creativity that has been forged from a place of ‘outside’. These are people who don’t have a voice. I know what it’s like not having a voice. Filmmaking has given me that voice.
I have always been fascinated by the marginalised and the unseen power of the oppressed mind. I know what it feels like to feel excluded and ignored. That was my experience. When facilitating in these groups, I see the look on service users faces. It takes them away from their suffering and gives them a glimpse of hope that they can recover. I see their concentration, the pride with which they express their ideas and have them heard, validated and acknowledged.
In the filmmaking industry, when you are competing with the mainstream, you are always at a massive disadvantage. Talent doesn’t only originate from high functioning individuals with extensive education. It’s often the ones who are described as ‘different’ or part of a sub-culture that have the most interesting things to say.
When we make a film, we want the audience to come to their own conclusions about what they have seen, we don’t make films that are didactic.
The most important thing for me is the contributor, when I meet the person and hear their story, I feel an electricity pass between us, an understanding and I feel compelled to put it on film.
The documentaries we make aren’t mine they belong to everyone who works on them, especially the contributors who go out of they way to expose difficult and private issues that the majority of people would prefer to hide.
Recovery has played an enormous part in my creative development and I hope that it is reflected in the films we produce. Mental ill health and addiction pushes you to the edge of being. These extremes of experience are expansive, generating self-knowledge and awareness – growth is essential for survival.
Therefore, Sobriety Films is a film making entity that champions those ‘without a voice’, whether they are production crew or contributors. It is an inclusive collective of like-minded individuals. A ‘utopian dream’? – maybe, but we all need to have dreams.
I’ve met some extraordinary people though my work; communication is key to my personal vision. I want the films to speak loudly and truthfully.
‘I had a dream and in this dream I could not speak, I had no voice, I was turned away alone and shunned. I cried in pain god help me. How will I recover? Will I ever love and be loved again?’