“I turned my back on my film career to protect children online”
“A lot of my work before, even if the form was comedic or the tone populist, was to give people who had no voice a voice in a certain direction,” says Baroness Kidron.
This included the 1995 American road comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, who “put drag queens center stage and said they should be included too,” she says. It was a “joyful film”, she adds, about the gay community at a time when the AIDS pandemic loomed over it like a tombstone.
She shot a lot of InRealLife herself without the financial backing of a production or distribution company until she joined Steven Lambert, producer of the hit reality shows Undercover Boss and Faking It. Baroness Kidron knew she was going against the mainstream orthodoxy that technology was the key to the future.
“Everyone had taken the Kool Aid that technology was going to save us, that anyone who had a review was a Luddite. And that was the politics of the day: if you didn’t adopt the technology, you were against it,” she says.
When InRealLife came out in 2013, Baroness Kidron toured film festivals around the world and found unexpected allies for her concerns.
“It didn’t matter where I was in the world. When the lights came on, the room was full of teachers,” she says.
“The difference between a parent and a teacher is that a teacher is all day, every day with groups of 20 to 30 kids. What the teachers were saying was, ‘We see this change, we experience this change, we are anxious as you are anxious.
“While as a parent you think your kids are like this or like that or they did this or they didn’t do that last Wednesday. But because the teachers see it [across the group]they were the fastest.
That same year, Baroness Kidron set up her charity 5Rights to promote children’s rights online, but it was still a lonely journey. “I had contacted all kinds of people who should or could have been interested, but they weren’t. It wasn’t that anyone was failing, it just wasn’t on their radar,” she says.
That’s when her husband, Lee, screenwriter of the hit movie Billy Elliot, came up with a reality check. “He sat me down and said, ‘Look, you’re a really successful director and it seems to me that you’ve kind of turned your back on that to be a middle-aged woman against Silicon Valley. Are you sure?’
“Apart from it being a great line, I turned to him and said, ‘The pain of conscience, what can you do?’ So, I didn’t really feel like it was a choice.
“People have this time in their lives over really big and really small things. I think the people I’ve talked to – not about this problem, but about their own lives – understand that there are certain things once you see them you have to fix them.