Q & A


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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.

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