As we see the New Year in and have some down-time to reflect, this is an ideal moment to stop and think about exploring current and future action on mental health & well-being, bullying & harassment, equality, inclusion & diversity. Along with Gabrielle Rey our new PR Assistant here at RA, we have put together a four-part article on these issues, which will lead to an ongoing series….
If you know me, you will know I have a genuine interest in mental health and well-being. I care about raising awareness on these issues in particular with my close clients. The interest and compassion comes from my own personal experiences, especially during the 10 years I spent myself previously working as crew, when I had my fair share of ‘ups and downs’, bullying and harassment.
As can be confirmed by any of my clients here at RA, we openly talk about these subjects and related issues regularly. However, I wanted to take further action and see how I can better support my clients and look into what services are available. There is only so much an Agent or individual can manage from a distance as, of course I am not on set in person.
Over the year 2021 these were the three main services that caught my eye, which I will now be recommending to my clients and urging production to actively promote and use:
- 24hr Bullying Advice Service from the Film and TV Charity which I did call to try and requested a call-back and spoke to Justine. I thought she was very good, a supportive/non-judgmental listener , equipped with correct and clear information. From now on I shall be calling back if I need any advice, however small or insignificant it may feel. We hear from Justine directly ‘If you’ve experienced bullying in any form, whether it’s part of an everyday pattern of navigating a difficult relationship at work, to dealing with more serious instances of harassment or abuse, having a neutral sounding board and some emotional support can really help. We can help you make sense of what you’ve been going through, whether it’s in the past for the present. People who have used the service have also responded really positively to fact that the we have first-hand knowledge of the industry and understand what can make it so tough.’
- ‘Call It‘ is an app you install on your phone and activate with a QR code unique to the production you are working on. It asks ‘Have you been treated well?’ every day and should you answer with a simple ‘No’ it takes you through more questions, options and resources for support and advice on what you can do next. What I like about this App is that it actively makes you stop and think for a moment… ‘Have I been treated well?’. This embeds the notion in our minds that ‘Yes, we should be treated well! ’. It is a reminder that we all need, as it is very common for bullying victims to deny and brush this thought under the carpet. It also sends out a strong message to those who may behave inappropriately – you could influence someone today to answer ‘NO’. I hope this will serve as a deterrent. Kate Wilson, Co-founder shares ‘I have experienced sexual harassment several times and I have never chosen to file a grievance. The burden is not on me or others having these experiences to take action. The burden is on employers to provide a safe place of work where everyone is treated with dignity. The app can help the employer do just that by asking every worker every day, “How were you treated at work?’
- The main discovery for me last year was the organization ‘6ft from the Spotlight’. One of their key services is to train and provide Well-being Facilitators, who are trained to observe certain patterns of behavior, seeking out issues or dynamics that need to be highlighted and addressed. This is groundbreaking as the victims are no longer the ones expected to firstly acknowledge and secondly bravely report the situation, which is the main barrier for them to overcome. Another positive aspect is if someone is there in-person, you can take them to one side during a break and talk to them independently about your issues ‘in the moment’. Personally I think this is THE SOLUTION – Why should the victim take all the responsibility of reporting? Matt Longley, Co-founder suggests: “All crew have a duty of care to each other, having a third party to assist with the process of dealing with bullying and harassment can reduce the stress of incidents and shows that support is available and that matters will be taken seriously. Productions need to start looking at how they prevent stress and mental health issues occurring, this requires a suite of actions that include identifying the underlying causes, dealing with them and providing qualified support to crew when issues do arise. There is a latent yearning for change in the industry and addressing the root causes is the first step on a long journey to a sustainable and safe environment.’
We all need as agents and individuals to start asking production, at the early stages when arranging the initial deal; ‘What are you doing to ensure that the crew live out a positive experience on your set? Do you have a Well-being Facilitator on board? If not, why not? They should at least be informed about the intel available and pointed in the right direction. What anti-bullying and equality policies do they have? We must ourselves read these policies and take note on how to act if any uncomfortable situations should arise. They as your employer are legally responsible and must adhere to these policies. Arm yourself with knowledge regarding your rights as you go from one job to the next, as policies do vary (We will look into these policies in further depth in the upcoming articles).
What I would like to see in 2022?
An Well-being Facilitator on every set. I do believe production will listen to our requirements if it sees that these are being demanded by all parties involved; from a camera trainee to a HOD. We can bring about this change. If we all request a Well-being Facilitator, production will take it more seriously and will act upon the demand. If this were the case then we may not need phonelines, apps or nesscary to collect further data. One by one with each Well-being Facilitator, we will totally erase the bullying culture and learn what good mental health and well-being means and feels like.
We will also see some very productive results when striving to meet our relentless content creation demands driven by the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Disney, Hulu, etc., etc., pushing their workforce to produce more and more, faster and faster!
However we need to start demanding these improvements for our crew now so 2022 can be different…..