The film's screenplay was based on Jaqueline Wilson's 2001 novel Dustbin Baby, and was written by Helen Blakeman, who had previously worked on Pleasureland. Dustbin Baby was co-commissioned by CBBC and BBC One, and was produced by Kindle Entertainment, a production company specialising in children's television. According to The Guardian, the film was billed as "a key part of BBC1's Christmas family line-up". Blakeman said that when she had read the novel, she "knew it was something [she] had to write". The film's executive producers were Anne Brogan and Melanie Stokes for Kindle, with Sue Nott as executive producer for CBBC. The producer was Julia Ouston. Director Juliet May, at the time of filming, had 14-year-old twins, and so found "the fact that the lead, April, is 14 years old ... very interesting" as she felt she could "kind of understand 14-year-old children".
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