As calls for heightened duty of care for contributors on reality TV programmes continue to grow, the industry’s less visible workforce – the many thousands of women and men working behind the cameras across both the TV and film industries1 – could be facing their own unspoken crisis.
Insights gathered from over 2,000 calls to the Film & Television Charity’s recently launched industry Support Line – providing 24/7 advice and support on issues such as debt, depression and harassment – has prompted the organisation to take action and lift the lid on the scale of mental health issues in the sector and coordinate an industry-wide response.
Launching today, the Film & Television Charity is rallying the sectors’ workforce to participate in the survey and have their voices added to this unique and timely study – the first of its kind in the UK industry.
The anonymous survey will run until July, after which the outcome, along with in-depth quantitative and qualitative research set to be conducted over the summer by The Work Foundation2, will be revealed to industry this coming autumn.
The first of its kind, the ground-breaking industry study ‘The Looking Glass’ will provide the largest and most focused review of mental health and wellbeing in the sector, offering analysis on: how the prevalence of mental health problems within TV and film compares with the general population, as well as workforces across other UK industries; how the specific characteristics of the industry could be adversely affecting workers’ wellbeing; the perceived barriers to effectively managing the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the industry; as well as how people can be best supported.
Despite being a much-loved and desirable career by those working in the industry, the largely freelance working culture – often synonymous with a lack of job security and difficulty accessing statutory benefits such as sick pay and pensions – may take its toll on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing.
Alex Pumfrey, the Film & Television Charity’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We know how much people love and are proud of their work in the film and TV industry, but the highs and lows can take their toll. The suicide of a well-loved colleague from the film community in 2017 was the catalyst for our new Film & TV Support Line. Before he died, he wrote of how lonely he found his job and that he had not felt supported by his own industry. Since then, the stories of stress and strain that we hear every day through our support line continue to shine a light on the uncomfortable truth when it comes to the wellbeing of those working in this sector.
“This is why we are now working with industry to face this issue. It’s time to establish a robust evidence base and piece together a true reflection of what’s really going on inside our sector, and the first step is our industry-wide survey. We are calling on everyone who works in film, TV and cinema to take part and share their experiences so we can get a true picture of the wellbeing of the industry and use this insight to create real change.”
To coincide with the launch of the new study, the charity has assembled an Industry Taskforce and an Employer Forum to develop an understanding of shared challenges throughout the industry and help steer and challenge the work.
The Taskforce consists of a range of industry figureheads including the BFI’s CEO Amanda Nevill, VUE International’s Chief Executive Tim Richards and David Sproxton OBE, co-founder of Aardman Animations.
The Employer Forum – which will draw on the views of HR and diversity leads as well as mental health champions and professionals from organisations including the BBC, STV, Channel 4, Endemol Shine Group and Cineworld Cinemas – will lead the way in responding to the findings and channel energies into creating practical, scalable, industry-led interventions to support the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the film, TV and cinema and ensure that the industry can continue to attract and retain the best possible people.
Pumfrey, added: “While the industry is now more open to dialogue around mental health, we appreciate that employers struggle to support workers, particularly freelancers – who may be experiencing mental health concerns whilst working. Through this programme of work we aim to be an honest broker, creating a step change by bringing the industry together to create lasting solutions that enhance the wellbeing of our sector.”
The UK screen industries are a vibrant and valuable component of the UK economy, with the film industry alone directly contributing £17.8 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 20181 with a creative and highly skilled workforce.
To mark the launch of the study, the charity created a thought-provoking 90-second film ‘Smashed?’ with the Fawnbrake Collective and directed by award-winning director Tim Pope. Pope is best known for directing 21 music videos for goth-rock group The Cure, as well as Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Slash Dot Dash’ and Sheridan Smith’s candid ITV documentary ‘Coming Home’.
Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, said: “I am very pleased to be part of this Industry Taskforce, and support the crucial work of the Film & Television Charity. The mental health of our workforce has for too long not been given the support it deserves and so this new research project is incredibly important and timely. The cornerstone of our industry and its continued success are its fantastic people, and it is vital we have a happy and healthy workforce. Therefore, I encourage all my colleagues across the industry to take part in order to provide an accurate picture, so practical interventions can be made.”
Tim Pope, award-winning film director and creator of ‘Smashed?’, said: “I am pleased to help support the work of the Film & Television Charity, an organisation that has existed for over 100 years. Working in the film industry, you’re always aware of the highs and the lows. The cost to our lives can hit us financially, emotionally and mentally. The film we have created hopes to highlight and dramatise this, bringing to
life the struggle that people encounter when trying to ‘break’ into the industry and posing the question – but at what personal cost? It was a delight to work with the film’s writer Julian Borra, lead actor Alex Reece and voice over Adrian Lester OBE. The soundtrack ‘The Kiss’ was kindly donated by The Cure, a band I have worked with since 1981.”
Those working in the film, TV and cinema industry are being encouraged to have their say by completing the online survey. The survey is now closed.
1 Source: DCMS Sectors Estimate 2018. The UK is one of the best places in the world to make screen content – whether TV, film or video games. In total these three sectors contributed £17.8 billion in GVA and 261,000 jobs [https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/dcms-sectors-economic-estimates]
2The Work Foundation: is a leading British, independent authority that provides consultancy and in-depth research on the world of work and improving the quality of working life