By David Metcalf, Director of ‘Charlotte in Sunderland’

As the director of both series of “Charlotte in Sunderland”, a production by Chatterbox for the BBC, I’ve been privileged to capture emotional moments, unscripted drama, and unexpected twists in the life of reality TV Queen Charlotte Crosby. Our series set out to provide an unfiltered, humorous, and emotional journey through Charlotte’s life, yet the depth and range of experiences we documented far exceeded our expectations.

Over the course of two years, our camera captured a range of life defining moments for Charlotte, her partner Jake, and her parents, Letitia and Gary. I was one of two crew members permitted into the operating theatre for the birth of Charlotte’s daughter, Alba Jean. As someone who doesn’t have children, that experience was profoundly moving… and I can now officially add “silently sobbing whilst filming” to my CV. 

Charlotte Birth

David Metcalf Series Director & Matt Jones DOP

Through the more challenging times, like the heart-wrenching struggles of illness and death within the Crosby family – we were given privileged access to capture it all.

Each of these events comes with its own set of emotions, narratives, and ethical considerations, and the trust granted to us by Charlotte and her family was immense. It’s one thing to live your life in front of the camera, but it’s quite another to let it capture your most vulnerable moments. This trust was particularly evident when Charlotte’s new boyfriend Jake, a newcomer to the world of television, allowed us to film his proposal to Charlotte; which he was so nervous for he ended up having an anxiety attack, before popping the big question. 

Capturing these once-in-a-lifetime moments require a delicate balance between authentic documentation and respectful distance. Our approach involved meticulous planning, using long lenses and carefully chosen camera placements to ensure we captured every nuance without intruding. But no amount of planning takes away the immense pressure of capturing these experiences felt by me and the crew. There’s no room for second takes here. I don’t think I’ve ever checked the camera was recording as many times as I did when Jake was preparing to propose… 

The series also delved into the tougher aspects of life, such as Letitia’s battle with breast cancer and the loss of Charlotte’s grandmother. These episodes required a different kind of sensitivity, where empathy and respect were paramount. Our relationship with the Crosby family allowed us to document these challenging times, adding a profound emotional layer to the series, and allowed audiences to connect with the family further.

Charlotte’s vast fan base has been with her through the highs and lows for over a decade. “Charlotte in Sunderland” offers an honest and surprising perspective. The anticipation for series two has been overwhelming, and the emotional rollercoaster it promises won’t disappoint… get those tissues on standby. 

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Chatterbox, the acclaimed BAFTA-winning production company behind hit TV series Meet the Khans, Extraordinary Portraits and Charlotte in Sunderland, has made the series out of their new Northern headquarters, known as Natterbox, in Gateshead. 

The Brighton-based company has moved into offices in Gateshead’s state-of-the-art digital production facility, PROTO, alongside a host of other TV production and immersive technology companies, with plans to create 20 new job opportunities in the North East.

This move builds on the continued growth of the screen sector in the region following the formation of the public sector-led North East Screen Industries Partnership (NESIP) and the BBC’s commitment to commission a minimum of £25m programming spend over the next 5 years.

Operating as Natterbox, the team hopes to harness the unique potential and cultural richness of North East England, shining a spotlight on some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes and attracting new commissioning spend to the area. The latest Charlotte series is proud to have used strong regional talent, including talented producer Bex Wallace, who was able to edit producer for the first time, DOP Simon Glass, researcher Sam Angell and production team Hannah Grencis and Amanda Wetherill.

Natterbox is also looking to foster local talent through the creation of new apprenticeships and training programmes, providing fresh routes into the television industry and empowering aspiring creatives in the North East to pursue their passion for production.

The female-led team regards diversity of thought as integral to its DNA and wants to nurture the next generation of creative talent through early career mentoring and guidance, creating jobs for local residents.

Natterbox was founded by former Channel 4 Factual Entertainment Commissioning Editor, Nav Raman, and experienced Director and Producer, Ali Quirk, whose credits include Gogglebox, Come Dine With Me, Lion Country, Sky Cops and Gold Rush.

Nav Raman, Founder and Executive Producer, Natterbox, said: “Our mission is to collaborate with the best creative talent in the country, both on and off screen, to produce bold, entertaining and compelling content for major platforms and broadcasters.

“Launching Natterbox in the North East will not only help us do that, it will allow us to join an exciting ecosystem of incredible businesses who are at the forefront of innovation in all aspects of screen entertainment.”

The second season of the hit show, which follows TV personality Charlotte Crosby, as she looks to settle down in North-East England after making a name for herself with appearances on Geordie Shore, Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.

The programme’s first season averaged 300,000 viewers (28 day/4Screen) and generated 448,000 engagements via social media with a combined total of 36m impressions. Season two has already hit a massive 45 million social impressions, creating another smash hit for BBC3 and Chatterbox.

Alison Gwynn, Chief Executive, North East Screen, said: “This investment from Natterbox is testament to the flourishing screen industry we are building in the region, and we look forward to working with Nav, Ali and the team to shape the future of our vibrant television landscape.

Jennifer Hartley, Director, Invest Newcastle, said: “The screen industry is emerging as a significant driver of investment, place transformation and new opportunities in our region, which should give confidence to Nav and Ali that they are establishing their new headquarters in the right place”.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the Natterbox team on securing their move to the North East and we look forward to helping them take advantage of the fantastic creative talent on offer.”

Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said: “We are delighted to welcome Natterbox and look forward to seeing how they contribute to the growth and enrichment of our region’s creative ecosystem.

“This investment is further evidence that we are building a unique facility in PROTO that is capable of attracting ambitious companies with national aspirations.”