Hard-hitting new Leeds-based drama already making a big impact on local young people

Leeds health professionals have teamed up with an award-winning media company and local students to produce a gritty, interactive film that tackles some of the biggest issues facing young people in the city today.

Filming has just finished on the latest TryLife interactive drama, which has been commissioned by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) Partnership to raise awareness of health and wellbeing issues among young people in a way that will capture their attention and enable them to safely explore different options.

Director and company founder, Paul Irwin, created TryLife films after years of international youth work. He said: “I wanted to find a more engaging way to educate young people about issues affecting health and wellbeing. TryLife films have evolved from the old choice-based adventure books that allowed you to make decisions affecting the storyline. Our interactive series allows teenagers to learn by making choices in a safe environment.

“TryLife dramas are extremely complex to produce as there are so many paths the storyline can take. This film has 16 possible outcomes depending on the choices those watching make. They become the director.”

TryLife has a massive following on social media, so the NHS Leeds CCGs Partnership decided to use this innovative approach as a way of helping young people explore some particularly challenging subjects – mental health, domestic violence, and grooming – which consultation with key community organisations revealed as key issues in Leeds.

Dr Jane Mischenko, Lead Strategic Commissioner: Children & Maternity Care for the NHS Leeds CCGs Partnership, said: “In Leeds we recognise the importance of directly involving young people in creating educational resources to ensure that the message resonates with their age group.

“Collaboration with young people from across the city, combined with the unique nature of TryLife’s interactive films, have given us the ability to educate teenagers about health and wellbeing issues, enabling them to explore actions and consequences in a safe way. The film and accompanying educational resources will go on to be used as a learning tool in schools and youth clubs across the city, as well as signposting anyone who’s been affected by the issues raised to local services.”

As well as being the target audience for the film, local young people have been central to its creation. More than 1000 young people from Leeds College, Leeds Trinity University and Leeds Beckett University – many of whom had direct experience of the film’s themes – took part in auditions and workshops to develop the script; 30 students were also involved in the actual production, carrying out every role from make up to directing.

According to Paul Irwin, “The film was designed with top down issues but has been created from the bottom up with young people affected by the issues being involved in every part of its production. The film has been created by the very people that we want to educate and they have become true ambassadors for it.”

Georgina Burgess, a third year student at Leeds Trinity University studying Television Production, took on the role of producer. She said: “I love the fact that TryLife allows young people to gain vital experience on a film set, whilst working alongside professionals to train in certain roles.

“I am a much more confident film producer, and have more experience with the workings of how a film is pulled together. I am also more aware of the social topics that TryLife cover, and believe it is vital that these topics are brought to light in an educational and impactful way.”

The fourth TryLife film is due to launch in Leeds this Spring and will be showcased in Hollywood in April. You can keep up to date with developments or watch the latest trailers on the Trylife Facebook page www.facebook.com/TryLife.tv

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Issued by the communications team at NHS Leeds CCGs Partnership. You can contact the team on 0113 84 35528 or 0113 84 35470. Alternatively please email us: leedsccg.comms@nhs.net