Toxic Baby - The things our children teach us.

Many moons ago, in around 2005BC (Before Children), when I had a glamourous job in the media... Ok, well, maybe not that glamourous.  I worked for the BBC making interactive TV (that red button stuff) and lots of video for the internet.  But in 2005 I wrote, produce and directed my biggest (BBC ONE) and favourite (got nominated for a BAFTA for it - woop woop!) project "Shakespeare's Stories". But even more special than BBC ONE and BAFTA nominations I met the most wonderful director, Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, and better yet we became friends.

BAFTA 2005 Shakespeare's Stories Interactive
Don't we look young?  My team of brilliant women at the 2005 BAFTA's - Claudia, Tanya, Vicky, Me and Penny 
The first time I met Penny, I was mostly just impressed at how gorgeous she was, and incredibly impressed that this was within months of giving birth to baby, Zephyr.  I was interviewing Penny with an eye to her being the primary director on my project and pretty early on in the interview she asked if it would be possible for her baby to be on set, as she was still breast feeding.

As a young producer of my first BIG project, I remember a flash of panic as she explained that she would have to stop work and feed Zeph on demand.  I knew there would be BBC healthy and safety issues galore, and I felt responsible for this tiny being's safety.  I knew that he would need space separate, away from the chaos, noise and lights of a set, and Penny's mother would be there with him all day, but then that's another mouth to feed and more responsibility for the Producer, Me.  But after the momentary flash of panic, I thought about how I expected to want to continue my career after a baby, and that if women didn't support other women, how could we expect that support to be forthcoming from society as a whole.

Toxic Baby Penelope Jagessar Chaffer and Zeph

And besides all that she impressed me, as a director, more than any of the other candidates, she listened and 'got' what I had in mind for my project.  Penny had already been nominated for a BAFTA for her debut documentary "Me & My Dad" for Channel 4.  So, was I going to turn down the best person for the job?

I said yes.  Beautiful Zeph was a positive benefit on set.  Yes BBC health and safety was a bit of a nightmare, but, he gave us enforced moments of calm when we were stressed.  Actors and crew would sneak up to check out his latest cuteness.  Penny's mother was a wonderful lady to have around.  Zeph really brought something to the set, there was real camaraderie on set and he helped forge that feeling of family.  And all in all, I got to meet and become friends with an absolutely inspirational woman and her family.

I discovered I was pregnant at the end of the shoot, and I see the situation as a karmic moment in my life.  I learnt a lot from Penny, her mother and Zeph.  Once I told Penny I was pregnant I also found an incredible source of information, recent experience and ancient wisdom right there in Ms Penelope.  My daughter Una was born a year minus a day after Zeph; see what I mean about Karma?!

Zeph and Una, 2007
Una and Zeph

So, to bring all this up to date, since then, Penny has moved to New York, had another baby, Oceana and made an amazing film called Toxic Baby,
"... a cinematic look at how chemicals in our day-to-day lives can affect the health and development of babies and children... an epic detective story that tells the story of environmental chemicals through the science of some of the world's most revolutionary thinkers and seen through the eyes of a surreal cast of characters. ... the film explores breathtaking new scientific concepts to ask the question what does all of this mean, why don't we know about it and what can we do about it?" 

She has gone on to do a TED Talk and is now looking for funding to turn the vast quantity of research and interviews with scientist and experts that went into the making of Toxic Baby into the world's first interactive documentary app for the iPad.

Penny needs support and is seeking financial funding through crowd sourcing at Kickstarter


To find out more about the issue and to contact Penelope Jagessar Chaffer:

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