Meet Chris Heaton and Laura Ziderman. Both are twenty-five years old. Both are committed homebirds, with absolutely no intention of flying the family nest anytime soon. But as they enjoy the easy life, their parents have reached the end of their tether. Something has to change…

Chris and Laura are packing their bags for a crash course in independent living. What they don’t know is that their new housemates will be no-nonsense octogenarians with no time for their modern selfish ways, and a determination to make them grow up and stand on their own two feet.



There are two reasons to cast a director as a camera operator. The first is that it’s an easy way to save money. Boo to that. The second is that working as a small unit can sometimes reap rewards.

With observational filming it can allow intimate relationships to be built with contributors in a way that isn’t always possible with a three-man crew. In addition, ‘one man and his camera’ can be pretty much constantly on standby for when the ‘moments’ happen. Happily this programme fell into this second category and, to my mind, succeeded as a result. But before the record button had even been pressed on the first day of filming, the cards had already been stacked in our favour as a result of some simply brilliant casting.

From start to finish I was supported by an amazing research team (Louise Metcalfe, Rachel Millar, Abigail Williams) who never seemed to run out of energy or options when it came to casting. If they ever got bored of hanging out in nightclubs at the Corporation’s expense, looking for young people who might be fit for purpose, they certainly never let on…


I didn’t want this to be a disposable ‘life swap’ programme. It needed substance and that meant that, although aspects of our characters would inevitably be played for stereotypes, there had to be real depth and heart involved. Getting the right mix of old and young people was crucial and, fortunately, the BBC gave us the time we needed to pull it off.

All credit to Chris and Laura for not running a mile when the reality of what they’d got themselves into became clear. Although admittedly that may have had more to do with the remoteness of the villages they were in than it was to do with their commitment to the cause!


I’m particularly proud of the way Chris’s story played out. Pat’s instinct was to wake him up after his drunken night out, so that he could accompany her to church. I was aware that what happened next would be a big moment for the film and I had to handle it with caution. The decision had to be Pat’s but, if she woke him, Chris wouldn’t have had to face the consequences of letting her down, and the opportunity for Pat to give him a lesson in responsibility would have been missed. I offered myself as a sounding board and Pat came to this conclusion for herself.

Chris may have decided to fall into line to get back into Pat’s good books. Or perhaps he was just worried about looking bad on telly. Either way, as a result of that decision, he turned an important corner that would not only build a genuine bond between him and Pat but would also open his eyes to the possible upsides of taking responsibility for himself.

Unfortunately, Laura’s journey didn’t play out as positively as Chris’s. Unfortunately, that is, for her and Eve – not for the programme. The challenge we had with her story was that Eve could only respond to what Laura presented her with. She didn’t have the advantage of seeing Laura’s backstory, and Laura herself was very good at playing the game. She’d wrapped her parents around her little finger for years, and she was in danger of doing it to Eve.

Laura’s parents had no desire to be screen stars, and it took some persuading to bring about their lunch with Eve. But it would be the defining element of Laura’s storyline. I never get tired of seeing Laura’s mum defend her daughter’s behaviour, only to have Eve retaliate with “It’s wet”! Eve’s blinkers had been lifted and the course was set for the final showdown. “Slutty, slutty”. Priceless.


So what do we learn from all this, ladies and gentlemen?! Well, fifteen years ago a survey was done to find out what parents thought their main role was. The majority said: “To equip my children for life”. When that same survey was repeated, just before we went into production, there was a different answer: “To make sure my children are happy”. Food for thought.

Producer/ Director/ Edit Producer/ Camera: Nic Guttridge
Duration: 60mins
Production company: BBC
Network: BBC1
First broadcast: May 2009 at 10.40pm

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