A little while ago I recorded a podcast with well-known mental health campaigner Mark Williams. In the final few minutes, we got on to talking a film that was being of his mental health journey called Daddy Blues. Typical of Mark’s style, he just casually mentioned there was a deal in place to distribute the film on Amazon Prime. My jaw hit the floor: Here was a major network about to show a film about a man’s struggle with perinatal health. I wanted to know more, so Mark put me in touch with Dr Parvinder Shergill, the film’s writer and director.
Dr Shergill very kindly agreed to tell me about the film. Not only is Dr Shergill an award-winning film maker whose work has featured on Channel 4 and the BBC, but she is also an NHS doctor. She has a particular interest in raising awareness of mental health in her creative work.
Before Dr Shergill tells you about Daddy Blues, here are a few thoughts from me. Firstly, I am delighted to see a film like this on such a major platform. When I watched the film, I found myself feeling a real connection with both Tom (Mark’s character, played by Benjamin T. Williams) and his wife Maggie (played by Dr Shergill). It’s important to stress that both mother and father experienced post natal depression and the film does tell both their stories. While their is more of a focus on Tom. Maggie very much a part of the plot.
Dr. Owusu (played by Lewis Amaluzor) is a great character. He play’s Tom’s therapist and I found him to be very uplifting and encouraging during Tom’s most troubled moments.
At 40 minutes long, it is a short film. I would recommend watching it if you have any interest in mental health, post natal depression or if you’re simply a film buff. I’ll let Dr Shergill go into more detail.
For the benefit of readers, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Dr Parvinder Shergill. I work in the NHS for mental health as a psychiatrist, and I am also an actress-filmmaker-writer with an interest in mental health creative projects.
What is your interest in men’s mental health?
I am generally interested in mental health, obviously working in mental health in the NHS, it is a passion of mine. When it comes to my personal film projects, I like to educate my audience with an interesting storyline they haven’t quite seen yet on screen with a diverse cast. Daddy Blues focuses on paternal mental health (fathers mental health), and I personally have not seen substantial work highlighting this on screen, and so I wanted to take the opportunity to help create a film about this topic.
You’ve made a film about the life of mental health campaigner Mark Williams, the one you mentioned above called Daddy Blues. What inspired you to launch this project?
I have been following Mark’s work for a few years and helped write an article about fathers’ mental health to highlight the work he does. Mark and I had a chat last year and we completely had the same interest and passion in raising awareness of mental health. Mark told me about his book (also called Daddy Blues), and I felt automatically drawn to the story and the power of the journey of his own personal mental health. I felt so inspired that somehow by the end of the chat, Mark and I had the idea to make his book a film, with me as the film’s writer-director-producer-actress, and two months afterwards we were on set!
What exactly has your role been in getting Daddy Blues on to the small screen?
I am the writer, the director, producer and leading actress in the film. Within two months, I wrote the film’s script following true to the book by Mark, and organised the entire production. I sourced locations, cast and crew. After we filmed, I also then helped to get the film distributed for global release.
Where is the film available to watch?
The film is released on Amazon under the title Daddy Blues.
Mark is well known as a campaigning father. What was it like working with him?
Mark is absolutely fantastic. He is incredibly kind and generous with his time, and has the most infectious enthusiasm for mental health. This project with Mark, has truly been an honour, and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The work Mark is doing is historic, he is a walking legend, and its inspiring how much he is doing for mens mental health. I am sure we will see plenty more waves being created by him, as he is just at the start.
Where was Daddy Blues filmed? Was it shot around Mark’s home territory in Wales?
As I work mostly in London, and my cast and crew were from London, I filmed in three locations around west London.
You have a fascinating background as a psychiatrist, actress and film maker. How do you balance three such demanding roles?
I have always wanted to work in film since I was a little girl. However, I am a big believer in varying one’s education and so I did philosophy and medicine before I went to acting school. I want to experience life on various levels. My keen interest in science has, I feel, really helped in my professional acting and film career. I personally feel I am a better doctor due to my film work, as I am more flexible and creative with my patients when I see them and being a doctor has made me a natural leader as a director and producer. I think because I am so organised, as you need to be as a doctor, I am very good at time management, so I make sure I look after my well being, have time for a social life and my work. I think film and medicine actually go hand in hand. Being a doctor I put on a role everyday, which is what I need to do as an actress. I also feel creativity and film is the future with medicine, as we know from COVID everyone has been looking at technology for support, and so we as clinicians need to also move with the times.
Presumably the doctor part of you has been in greater demand over the past year?
I think it doesn’t matter which year, as every year is always a challenge to be a doctor in the NHS, so all the years in way feel the same, whether it be Brexit or COVID. For me, I know how I work, and I know when I need to switch off from work.
What other projects are you working on? I see from your twitter feed you are working on a film at the moment?
I am always working on multiple projects at the same time, as it keeps things fresh for me. I am about to film an eating disorders film with three named cast, which I am excited to make, as eating disorders have been on the increase this year, and I hope it helps raise awareness.
How can people find out more about your work?
I am on social media @thesecretpsychiatrist.