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In Conversation with EUTV – SPIKED: A Student Safety Crisis 

CW: Spiking, sexual violence

SPIKED: A Student Safety Crisis is the new documentary by Edinburgh University Television (EUTV). The documentary is a great watch; it is informative, important and, at times, emotional. The Student sat down with the five students involved in its production –  Momo, the presenter; Chloe, the president of EUTV, who also helped edit, produce and film the documentary, as well as creating graphics; Molly, who manages post-production at EUTV; Kate, the co-producer and lead camera operator, and Michael, the lead of EUTV’s music team. We talked to the team to find out more about each of them, what goes into making a project of this scale and why the film needed to be made right now.

Although everyone was interviewed separately, the team all expressed the same reasons for getting involved in the making of SPIKED. The documentary itself was triggered by the nationwide spiking crisis that was brought to attention in November 2021, as well as injustices such as the murder of Sarah Everard, and campaigns such as Girls Night In, where people were encouraged to boycott nightclubs and bars until action was taken to reduce the number of spikings taking place. 

The team also noticed reactions and discussions in their own circles, such as this response that Molly noted: 

“I was in a Committee for a separate society at the time and the debate surrounding whether we should even use our Instagram story to support Girls Night In was really interesting. 

“A minority of the group argued that Girls Night In was about politics and thus something we should remain neutral on, but the rest of us really quickly realised that spiking isn’t about two sides of political debate but it was a safety issue and we had every responsibility to uphold issues of safety on behalf of our membership. 

“It was an incredibly sobering reminder of actually how dangerous putting safety issues away in a box marked ‘feminist’ is.”

EUTV’s documentary in 2021 was on the subject of mental health, and co-producer and lead camera operator Kate said that she felt it was important to complete another project on a prevalent student issue. Momo, the presenter, said she was interested in learning what was going on at university and what the university are doing to address the issue. Chloe, president of EUTV, added:

“I wanted to help find out how prevalent it is in Edinburgh, and what the University of Edinburgh was doing to tackle the issue themselves.” 

A desire to keep the conversation on spiking going was an important idea behind the making of the documentary. Spiking is an ongoing problem and, as Chloe pointed out, the conversation around it has gone down significantly since the team first started to make SPIKED.

“It was widely discussed in our early stages but we’ve released it at a time when it’s not being widely discussed anymore.” 

Momo agreed that the documentary is even more important now as the conversation has quietened. With many people just about to move away to university, potentially going on their first nights out and exploring new cities, she argued that it is important to be aware of how some people may feel about going out, but also to be aware of the support systems that are in place in case something does happen. Momo also added that creating the documentary was a form of support in itself, showing people who have been spiked that others have been through the same thing.

SPIKED is difficult to watch at times. It is harrowing to hear of people’s experiences and feelings on such traumatic events. Asking if the team had felt the same, they all agreed that it had sometimes been challenging, troubling and shocking. Molly said:

“There were points during editing where I found myself utterly enraged by students’ experiences.” 

Chloe also said that sitting in on interviews and editing was moving and intense, and that it was hard to edit as there was so much important dialogue that couldn’t be included in the final piece. As the presenter and interviewer, Momo said she found she had to try and be emotionless or she wouldn’t have been able to objectively interview people. Despite these feelings, the team all express the happiness they feel in being able to give people a chance to have their voices heard and tell their stories, and all hope that a sense of justice can be found for those involved. 

Chloe also spoke of the challenges they faced in creating SPIKED – as a large project worked on alongside degrees and other commitments, the team sometimes faced setbacks, time issues, and logistical problems, asz those involved inevitably had to take time off for exams and essays. Although the process of making the documentary was long, Chloe told The Student, it was easy to stay motivated as she knew the story needed telling and it might be able to help just one person. 

Michael, lead for EUTV’s music team, spoke in particular about the challenges and experience of creating a score for a documentary. Television documentaries and reports often do not get an original soundtrack, because music is expensive and takes a lot of time to produce. He said: 

“I try to give a tiny bit more than they’d get from using tracks out of the can – every scored scene gets a unique vibe and style. I try to keep consistency throughout the project; that’s really the easy part.

“The hard part is making it work for the documentary. Writing for factual programmes might be the hardest kind of scoring work, for me at least, because you don’t want things to get too dramatic or too casual and at the same time you still want the music to add something. 

“I tried to only emphasise what was already on the screen, without necessarily telling the viewer too much about how they are supposed to feel. The hard part about this is that I might feel one way about a scene, the producer might feel different, the editor might feel different, and, just like with feature films, not all of the music I write is used the way I intended.

“There are lots of tracks in the documentary that ended up working in a completely different way than I’d imagined. But they work, and that’s what’s important.” 

Michael also added that the full soundtrack to the documentary is available on most streaming services.

The team all expressed a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the final piece. They say that it turned out pretty much as planned, if not better. They also all commented on how pleased they were that they were able to get such a range of conversations, including interviews with university staff. Momo said that there was “an element of progress with the different perspectives”. Chloe and Kate both expressed their surprise at how willing university staff were to be interviewed. Chloe said:

“I was quite surprised at how open representatives from the university and the student union were in their responses as well – they were more balanced in the institution’s shortcomings than I had anticipated.” 

She added:

“[The final piece] paints a picture of how women are scared of nights out in a way men aren’t. In particular we struggled to get many men to talk to us about spiking – I think that’s a real problem in itself.”

The team told The Student that we should all watch the documentary to be inspired, to help tackle the problem, and to support others. Ultimately, they argued, the spiking crisis is not over because it is less prevalent on social media – there are behaviours and attitudes that still need to be addressed. They believed it was also important to show the university that so many people are passionate about the issue, with the documentary showcasing a range of interviewees and perspectives.

The team wanted viewers to have a renewed drive for justice, as well as feeling a sense of support and community; that others have experienced the same things and feel the same way. Momo emphasised that “there are people, societies, and events that are there to support you.” The documentary also aimed to help students and show what support is available. Chloe said:

“I want everyone that watched the film to know the Report and Support system at the University of Edinburgh exists to help support the victims of spiking as well as other problems like stalking, relationship abuse, sexual assault and violence and sexual harassment. 

“I want them to know they are not alone if they are victims of such instances and there is support available – there’s also support outside of the university, but they can report anonymously to the university as well.”

The whole team expressed a desire to get involved with something similar in the future. Chloe and Kate have both worked on EUTV documentaries before, such as on the documentary about mental health. Kate said that “it would be interesting to do a follow up project to see what has changed in a year or two’s time.” Momo added that she would be interested to do a “general take on student support at Edinburgh, and the effects and aftermath of Covid on students”. Chloe added: 

“Thank you to anyone that has taken the time to watch the documentary! It’s been a long process and the whole team has been amazing throughout so thank you to them as well.

“[If you want to get involved with EUTV] it would be great to have new and old members get involved in the process, to create a documentary on a topic we haven’t looked at yet that is affecting the student population.”

SPIKED: A Student Safety Crisis can be found here

Useful resources:

The University of Edinburgh’s Report and Support system, where you can make a formal complaint against anyone at the university who has committed a crime against you. This can be anonymous.

The University of Edinburgh’s Student Code of Conduct, which outlines the procedure for investigations into and punishments for crimes committed.

Drinkaware have produced a guide on what to do if you or someone you know has been spiked.

Rape Crisis Scotland offer free and confidential support, which can be found here.

Image ‘Hand holding pill over glass’ by Wheeler Cowperthwaite is licensed under CC BY 2.0.