‘Did you know that when we’re born, we’re born with all our eggs? Already. Every last one is there from the very start. So if I have a daughter... No... When I have a daughter, inside her will be all her tiny little adorable eggs. Tiny as tiny gets.’ -Charlie, All Our Eggs
These words, spoken by Adrienne Pickering as Charlie in the pilot film for our web series All Our Eggs, are taken word for word from a conversation I had with producer Dan Prichard when we met up five years ago for coffee. It was the day after I’d read playwright Vanessa Bates’ memoir of IVF, Legs Up And Laughing, the inspiration for our show, which launches the first of a trilogy of micro-short episodes this Sunday (May 10).
30 more episodes, between 45 and 90 seconds in length, depicting the five-year fertility journey of Charlie and husband Jack, will follow, launching on Instagram and TikTok across 2020 and portraying an entire experience of fertility in a flicker of moments. You can watch the All Our Eggs pilot here.
Dan had suggested reading the book with a view to adapting it for the screen, and I read it in one go, intrigued, then enthralled. I laughed at Vanessa’s darkly funny description of the absurdities and indignities she underwent on her fertility journey. I cried at her pain, at her loss, and then finally for her joy, and came to that meeting determined to realize this project, but also shaken. Because the book had raised for me urgent questions about the way ahead for me as I entered my thirties, trying to balance the precariousness of a career in filmmaking with the timing of the decision to try for a family.
At the same time, the book revealed to me how little I knew about fertility, my own included, and the fraught, wonderful, terrifying, hope-filled journey that so many couples and individuals embark upon as they board, in Vanessa’s words, ‘the Great Big Fertility Ride’. It was a world I was determined to understand and to render honestly, truthfully, and sensitively.
‘And,’ I spluttered, ‘Did you know that when we’re born, we’re born with all our eggs? Already? Every last one is in there from the very start?’ Taking a sip of his coffee, Dan looked at me before nodding ‘All Our Eggs? Well, that sounds like a good name for the show.’
Five years on, and we are readying to launch the project in its innovative micro-short approach. My passion and my commitment to telling this story remain as strong as ever, although the process has not been straightforward.
Labcorp OnDemand Women’s Fertility Package (Ovarian Reserve Test)
Filmmaking is a complex, time-consuming, oftentimes frustrating, and expensive process, reliant on infinite supplies of hope, idealism, resilience, and determination. We had the good fortune of meeting Adrienne early in the process, recognizing in her the depth, courage, quirkiness, and vulnerability needed for our ‘Charlie’, and we made with her a well-received pilot in 2017.
However, as any filmmaker can attest, development hell is A Thing, while film financing is Another Thing, and life is the Biggest Thing. But while the show has undergone transformations in form before arriving at its final format, the beating heart of the show has remained the same throughout, Charlie and her husband Jack, a loving couple desperate to have a child.
In our adaptation, we have retained the humor, frankness, and emotional truth of the memoir, by telling the story in the style of Fleabag, with Charlie sharing her innermost thoughts with the viewer through incisive and laugh-out-loud asides to the camera. However, we have moved away from autobiography to explore the wider experiences of infertility, feeling it important the show not claim to be the ONLY possible experience.
Extensive research and interviews with medical experts informed the show’s science, while I spoke to numerous couples and individuals about their experience of trying to conceive, some with success, some without, and some who chose to explore other pathways to parenthood. This research has greatly informed the scripts, helping to expand the series' perspectives and enrich our characters.
Still from PINCH AND INCH, premiering May 10.
The first trilogy - PINCH AN INCH, STICK, and BLUE - depict Charlie’s first IVF round, and will resonate strongly with the fertility community, their titles already perhaps hinting to you what lies ahead. Telling the story in this style has challenged me as a filmmaker and a storyteller, while I’m excited about the immediacy of the medium
We are asking people to comment and share their experiences, on our social media and at our website in our 5 Questions feature, engaging in a dialogue with us, in order to influence the material we are developing, in a direct conversation between you and us.
At the same time, shifting my approach to a micro-short format meant un-stitching a lot of my notions about structure. Limitations yield creative solutions so our limited screen time has given me a license to experiment, which has been wonderfully inspiring. We catch glimpses of Charlie’s journey in small, intimate moments but also big, pivotal crossroads, and we challenge the audience to fill the gaps in-between.
It’s been exciting to explore the plot ellipsis inherent in the time jumps and to assemble our story through a range of audio and visual materials, supporting the clips with stills, soundbites, graphics, and text. It’s incredible how powerful the pairing of a frame with a single line of text can be.
We hope this series resonates with all those of you going through the process; or who know someone struggling to have a baby; or those who might be reflecting on their past journey; or about to embark on one, while we hope it can also inform and contribute to the public discussion around fertility and raise awareness of the emotional and physical challenges the road to parenthood presents to so many.
So, in Charlie’s words, let’s do this thing.
All Our Eggs can be followed on Instagram @alloureggs.
Martha Goddard is a director and writer based in Stanthorpe in rural Queensland, Australia. To date Martha has directed commercials, documentaries, and 6 short films, screening at over thirty film festivals.