Q & A
MICHAEL CORDELL, RECRUITS
The production company behind Ten’s popular Bondi Rescue goes behind the scenes with another type of lifesaver concept for Recruits, a documentary-style series that looks at both the training of a diverse group of New South Wales police cadets at the NSW Police College in Goulburn and the fi rst weeks on the streets for a group of academy graduates.
Narrated by Underbelly and Rush star Rodger Corser, it’s a story of everyday people dedicated to a demanding line of work. Executive producer Michael Cordell explains further.
What’s the origin of Recruits, Michael?
We had been making Bondi Rescue for a while, and there was an episode last year where there was a drug bust on the beach. These two young police offi cers dealt with the off ender, and there was quite a confronting scene as they searched this bloke – the situation became quite tense. After that episode, Ten’s chief programmer David Mott said it might be interesting to do a show focusing on the police. We did some further research – we’d actually considered the idea of doing something on police recruiting a few years ago – and we got the access we needed, which was very diffi cult. What makes it diff erent was that we decided to cut the stories of the young recruits at Goulburn with the stories of a group of young probationary constables on the street for the fi rst time.
The two-tiered approach of the students and the new constables defi nitely works in the show’s favour, I think.
I think it adds a few diff erent levels. It makes the show a bit more dynamic and exciting. You’re actually seeing real-life policing rather than just an academic exercise. It also gives us these wonderful opportunities to intercut between what the students are learning and how the police actually put those lessons into practice on the streets.
You mentioned getting access was diffi cult. Why was that the case?
The NSW Police Force, perhaps more than any other police force in the country, is a bit nervous about the media. They still refer to a documentary on the ABC a few years back called Cop It Sweet – the police approved the material that was in it but it had a lot of stuff that the general public was outraged by. I really think they’ve been quite brave with Recruits because when you’re dealing with young students, it’s only natural they’re going to stuff up and make mistakes. But they’re happy to have an honest portrayal of what goes on at college out there.
How did you select the people the show focuses on?
You defi nitely want people who make some kind of progression throughout. It’s more interesting following a student who might have issues with physical fi tness or who might struggle a little bit for whatever reason. Picking the perfect student who has great academic results and top-notch fi tness, there’s potentially very little progression and not as much of a journey. You can view that as a bit cynical but focusing on situations where there’s something at stake is more interesting. One of my favourite characters is Michael, a 39-year-old man who’s moved from Port Macquarie to Goulburn to do the course, leaving his wife and fi ve kids – two of them have quite serious health issues – for eight months to do it. It’s a big commitment on everyone’s part, so there’s a lot at stake if he doesn’t get it right. It’s a powerful story.
Any documentary-style program is going have unexpected moments but here you have circumstances where anything could happen. It must be exciting but also challenging for everyone.
It’s completely fascinating. There are situations where these young people, when they clock on for a 12-hour shift, don’t know if they’re going to see their fi rst dead body or face someone with a gun or a knife or just direct traffi c – it’s unpredictable, which is part of the fascination. And you’re always thinking that these are ordinary people taking on massive responsibilities. When you see that as a viewer, it’s hard not to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you’d cope. So while the show is not a PR exercise by any means, I hope Recruits gives the public a greater appreciation for the work done by the police and how important that work is.
Law and Order: Executive producer Michael Cordell ( inset), takes us on the beat with the NSW Police cadet college.