On this episode, we are joined by Sue Collins, filmmaker of the impact film Conquering Cancer. The film is a global social impact communications initiative designed to stimulate and celebrate efforts to eliminate cervical cancer around the world. Sue shares what she learned about cervical cancer, the challenges faced in filming, and the impact she hopes the film has on the world.
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Thanks for listening to the GOSH podcast. GOSH stands for the Gynecologic Oncology Sharing Hub, an open space for real and evidence based discussions on gynecologic cancers. We'll share the stories of gyne cancer patients and survivors and hear from researchers and clinicians who are working behind the scenes to improve the lives of people with gynecologic cancers. Our podcast is produced and recorded on a traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. It is produced by the Gynecologic Cancer Initiative, a province wide initiative in British Columbia with a mission to accelerate transformative research and translational practice on the prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship of gynecologic cancers. Hi, I'm Nicole Keay, and I'm Stephanie Lam and you're listening to the GOSH, podcast.
The GOSH podcast presents a three-part series to celebrate the Conquering Cancer campaign. Conquering cancer is a global social impact communications initiative designed to celebrate the efforts made to eliminate cervical cancer around the world. While cancers are a leading cause of death worldwide, a global movement is building to put cervical cancer in the history books. The aim of the conquering cancer campaign is to propel change by supporting the World Health Organization's Cervical cancer elimination targets through a 3 pronged approach of vaccination screening and treatment. In this three part series, we interview three important women behind this campaign. Dr. Marion Saville, executive director of the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer. Sue Collins, filmmaker behind conquering cancer and Kirsty Brown, a cervical cancer survivor and patient advocate. Through the conquering cancer campaign these three women are seeking to raise awareness about the prevention and elimination of cervical cancer and how by implementing vaccination screening and treatment it is entirely possible and will save the lives of an estimated 62 million people around the world.
Welcome back to the Gosh podcast. We're really excited. Today we are joined by Sue Collins. Sue is a multi award-winning producer, writer, research and content creator. She's a graduate of the renowned Victorian College of the Arts, which is where her interest in public education projects began. Her passion is in creating work that directly benefits others through advocacy, such as her impact film conquering cancer.
The film is a global social impact communications initiative designed to stimulate and celebrate efforts to eliminate cervical cancer around the world. It will amplify the outcomes achieved in countries where elimination is imminent and also inspire decision makers in other countries to join the movement and prioritize urgent action.
The film was supported by partners such as the American Cancer Society and Cancer Council Australia. Thanks for joining the podcast Sue.
Thank you so much for having me on.
Yeah we're very excited to chat with you today. To start us off, what inspired you to work on this impact film?
That's a really good question. I have been working in film in impact filmmaking for probably 15 years or so now. And so I've I've done a lot of time traveling the world, and I've got a real interest in public health.
And particularly in health equity, and so when I came across this story, it became so apparent that it really is a health equity story because I'm in a very privileged position here in Australia, where I've been receiving regular what was previously pap tests and my whole my whole life really.
So when I embarked on this particular project and learned the the majority of women around the world have such limited access to a really basic service like a a Pap test, or what's now in HPV test, I was really shocked because it's such a simple preventative measure, but it's not accessed by all women. And of course this is creating an enormous disparity in health and health outcomes, so that was what really inspired me how to make a project that would really help to you know help raise awareness of that.
Great, thank you so much Sue. That uh that's so amazing to hear and I think from some of the other podcast recordings that we did with Marion and Kirsty really does highlight that it is a really important health equity issue and highlighting that is so important. So what was the filmmaking process like for this documentary. Uhm, clearly you've been able to travel around the world to make this documentary. How was that like to highlight those stories?
Yes, that's a really great question given the couple of years we've just endured, so the normal filmmaking process was a little disrupted I have to say so. We had a few challenges, but fortunately we'd roll camera prior to the pandemic, so we'd already had the opportunity to meet some incredible people and film some amazing stories, particularly in Malaysia where we filmed a new program that was being rolled out called the Rose Program, which Marion may have spoken about on your previous conversation because she's so integral to that program and it was just so uhm, rewarding for me as a filmmaker to. It it's always such a privilege to go into people's homes and sit down with them and talk about their really deeply personal experiences and the women that we were speaking to on this project were really young, you know, young mothers, women who are just in the prime of their life just starting their families, really in getting into their careers, or are, you know, the breadwinners for their family, you know and being finding themselves with this very serious illness.
Uhm, so it was it was very it was very emotional to be honest. It was that, you know as a filmmaker it was a very emotional experience to to meet women in such difficult circumstances so. But at the same time, they were so incredibly open with their stories and so passionate about wanting to share their stories so that they could help other women and help them understand the importance of, you know vaccination and screening so that they didn't end up in similar situations so you know, being able to share that and know that those stories are then going to go on and do a lot of good is yeah, very rewarding as a filmmaker.
But we did we did encounter some travel challenges definitely on this project with actually going to countries the way we normally would so we had to innovate a little bit and there was a lot more. Pre interviewing over zoom and things like that that we would normally do, but but we got there and I think the final film actually turned out really well and I think you probably don't really notice, hopefully but it was a disruptive process in the outcome.
So Sue how has this film and you know the filmmaking process changed the way that you see gynecological cancers?
For me, I think on a personal level I don't think before I embarked on this project, I even understood what cervical cancer was. I just dutifully turned up for my screenings and it's I think possibly because in Australia we have such incredibly low rates of cervical cancer because we have such effective screening programs which have been in place for quite a few decades now and now we also have a very robust vaccine program, so we just simply don't have cervical cancer you know prevalent amongst people we know in the way you would with you know, for example breast cancer or other types of cancer. So I just don't think I had the familiarity with how serious gynecological cancers were. So it was a really big learning journey for me and. I think I I think I just learned so much and so it's I'm really glad I'm able to share a lot of that through this film to really help other women understand the importance of, you know, being empowered to look after their own health as well.
Yeah, yeah, I think it's you're absolutely right that unless you've really had that exposure to these sorts of cancers, either through a personal or professional level, it's just sometimes really out of mind out of sight or out of sight out of mind and you don't really think about kind of the larger and broader implications of these sorts of cancers. Uhm, I know that that that was definitely the case for myself. Having not having no kind of immediate family members, we've had to deal with gynecological cancers. You know, it wasn't until I started working in this space that you really start. You know, understanding what some of the key issues about these types of cancers are really about. So go continuing on with learning more about the documentary, where do you hope is the impact of the film that you're making that you've made?
That's such a good question.
I think that this film we really hope that it works on a few different levels, so I really hope that when women and their families watch the film that they realize that they should go and get a screening if they're overdue. So that would be the you know absolute primary hope so that women stay up to date with their screenings.
And then the second layer of it would be for women in countries or countries that don't have services in place for vaccinations, screening or treatment of cervical cancer that they see the film and they see the possibilities and they see the importance of implementing those programs into their own countries so that women can access the services because those barriers to service access are very varied right across the globe. And it really relies on governments to to put those programs in place. Women can ask for them, but the governments have got to provide them. So if women in those countries can take this film and screen it for their, you know, local member, their local health clinic where wherevers appropriate and help them understand why it's really important, and then they can start advocating for why they need these services and hopefully that will help with the change because you know the WHO has has said that's what all countries need to do. So this film is really to support what the WHO is already telling countries around the world to do.
Yeah, absolutely. I think it. Marion talked a lot about the power of storytelling to be able to actually move forward on the WHO’s call to eliminate cervical cancer and and yeah, I believe that's really important to really be able to touch the hearts of people you know everyday people. But also policymakers and people who are able to implement some of these programs.
Absolutely so uhm. If the film can achieve that, I'll I'll feel like it was a success. It was fun. Actually. Even one of my team yesterday. She's helping us coordinate events. At the moment we're doing a big push for International Women's Day for people to host events of the film, and she's just received a letter from from her GP saying you're due for your cervical screening. And instead of feeling fearful or hesitant, or you know. Oh, I don't really want to go and do, she was so excited being like should I document this. This is, you know, I want other women to know I'm so excited I get to be, you know, part of you know preventing my body from developing, you know, a potential problem down the line. So you know that's fantastic 'cause that's really shifting attitudes. And I mean, I know that she‘s very close she's working on the film, but you know if that would be an effect for other women, so that would be really wonderful.
We we talked a little bit about that with Kirsty and Stephanie was sharing her experience, and I do think just that change in mindset and being able to talk about it and share. We were Kirsty was talking about, you know, just that that education piece and normalizing those conversations just just a big piece to you, know, making sure we we pay attention. We get booked and you know it's not something that we just put off so you know if it becomes something we celebrate and something we we talk about with our friends with our family members with our colleagues like you know that just helps helps everyone be educated and make sure that they're taking those necessary steps to get that screening' cause it's so important.
Yeah, it it only takes one person and that one person can then spiral effect and then impact so many other people just by having the everyday conversations if it if it can become everyday conversations to be like hey, I'm going to get my Pap smear next next week. Like you know, when did when did you get yours and just kind of checking in on each other uhm, that spiral effect is so powerful. Uhm, so I think the impact of this film will definitely be able to, you know, shift perspectives of people around the world to be able to come to push them to advocate for themselves and to get access to that screening that they really need.
Uhm so so just to close this off. Uhm, where can people see this film? Or if there are organisations who want to host a screening of this film, where can they go to learn more about this documentary?
The best thing to do right now is to email and I'm just checking the email address, so I tell you the right thing.
It's the email address for the project is email@example.com
And you can also go to the website which is conqueringcancercampaign.com and you can find all the information there.
And can our listeners also find you on social media?
Definitely, so we're on all the usual Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and it's just conquering cancer campaign. So if you do a Google search you should find the campaign really easily through those channels.
Great uhm, and is the campaign like is there a certain time frame that's come? You folks are kind of running this campaign more more intensely, I guess.
We're we're launching it at the moment. We've just had World Cancer Day, so we did a a big push for World Cancer Day. And now with International Women's Day coming up in in March, that's another opportunity for people to you know, host events 'cause it's a good kind of day and date where people can kind of rally around it. But people can do that any time of the year, so you know if if you wanted to get a group of friends together or hosted in a local cinema, or if an organization wanted to do something virtual screenings. All of these things are possible, so we'd we'd just be thrilled if people want to use the film in any way to advocate for women to be able to access services and, and you know, progress the cause.
Yeah yeah, love that. Well, thank you so much Sue for coming on and for telling us a little more about this film in this documentary. Uhm, it's really great to hear all of these different avenues for storytelling and advocacy around cervical cancer and gynecological cancers.
So thank you so much for the work that you do as well for sharing that some of that with us here today.
Ah, thank you and thanks for the work you're doing as well.
I mean, it's fantastic that you're having a a podcast that's talking so openly about, you know women gynecological issues, 'cause it's just so important.
So thank you, and thanks for having me on.
Thanks for joining us on the GOSH podcast. To learn more about the Gynecologic Cancer initiative and our podcast, make sure to check out our website at gynecancerinitiative.ca.