Bectu Vision: Flexible Working Case Study

Lyndsay Tannahill is an Assistant Location Manager working in Scotland.  She has been working flexibly in the locations department since 2019.

Picture of LyndsayI became a locations trainee in 2016, transferring my skills for from Mental Health Nursing, I initially helped friends on student productions and then secured a place on a training scheme as a Locations trainee. Following that experience, I was offered my first Location Assistant position and worked consistently on a variety of productions as an assistant until March 2019 when I was afforded the opportunity to step up to Unit Manager on a HETV production with a highly experienced crew.

Following the birth of my daughter in November 2019 I began to explore flexible working options. I was determined to remain in the industry despite the challenges I knew I would face. Prior to having my daughter, I regularly worked an average of 55 hours per week but I knew I didn’t want to do that moving forward as I feel it more important to spend quality time with her, but at the same time my career is important to me.

I began several informal discussions with former colleagues, working out my options and investigating if there would be opportunities in a different role that didn’t require such a commitment in terms of hours and time away from home.

As a result of these conversations, I was able to secure a part-time position that involved being present in the very early prep stages of filming at a location for a ITV Scripted production.  This role involved being a liaison to the location owners as well as the surrounding neighbours and community area, and as filming hadn’t yet started, I was able to work family friendly hours and my daughter remained my priority.

I then became an Assistant Covid Supervisor on Outlander in early November 2020, the role was not specifically related to Locations but required an element of experience in that department.  I was responsible for the supervision of the Covid shooting crew on Location.  I had to recruit the team, work with the Locations Team and attended Tech Recces and Logistics meetings to establish appropriate testing stations on each of the Locations, arrange and book the nurses required to do the testing across the locations as well as at the in house testing facility.  In addition to this I also scheduled and booked Covid cleaning teams across all of the sites whether in prep or active.

This was a challenging time for all productions as everyone was learning how to work within COVID protocols and as my role was a new one I found myself having to consistently remind some colleagues of my hours of work and what was expected of me which was challenging.

I had initially agreed to work a 45 hour week, 0930 – 1730 but quickly found myself dealing with far more than expected within and out with these times.   I approached the Producer and was completely honest in explaining that I believed what was expected of me was too much, that the team needed to expand and the roles be more clearly defined in order to deal with all the challenges we faced and to distribute the responsibilities more fairly.

I also identified that attempting to juggle work and being a single parent was becoming overwhelming for me and we agreed to reduce my hours and where possible I would work from home.  I was fully supported in this change to my working practice and found it a huge benefit to my health & wellbeing and will be forever thankful to that individual for supporting me at that time and throughout that part of my career. I was much more efficient in the better-defined role and more focused on what was needed in order to be a better parent and colleague.

After my experience on Outlander, I remained determined to work within the Industry but was more realistic in what hours I could work and where I wanted to be – the department I felt at home – Locations.

I again initiated discussions with department colleagues about what skills and knowledge I could bring to a role that worked within the hours I could offer and began seeking out further training and assistance through BECTU Vision and Screenskills.

A former colleague who was aware of my personal situation got in touch as he was reviewing his team structure and felt that there was an increased need for more admin support.  After several discussions with him and the Line Producer about the expectations of the role and what I could bring to the team I was offered the role of Locations Coordinator but with some added responsibility for Scouting and Location Management.  This role was an opportunity to work flexibly and also provide personal development, building a greater understanding of the responsibilities of a Location Manager & Scout and increase my existing knowledge of the Locations Department.

I was able to work from home most of the time but also had the opportunity to be connected with the crew and spend time Scouting, talking with Location Owners, the local communities, being a liaison to the local councils etc in order to facilitate and plan the filming on a larger level than ever before.

Since this role I have been working as an Assistant Location Manager on productions including Borderland, Loss & Return and Shetland 8.  I have contracted hours that I am allowed to work in a flexible way meaning that I don’t have to be on set first thing in the morning and at the end of every night which enables me to keep a good balance between work and my daughter.  The Production Managers and my teams on these production have all been very supportive in enabling me to work me in this way.

Having navigated returning to work in a flexible way I have learned that it is vital to keep talking to colleagues and productions, maintaining contact and highlighting your experience and knowledge.

Don’t be afraid to be realistic in what you can offer in terms of time but also focus on what you can offer for that time and what benefit that can bring.

It’s also important to support others who are seeking similar working conditions, talk about job share opportunities, newly emerging roles such as locations co-ordinator and encourage people to speak with their departments and show how they can support and assist already established team structures in a new way.

I am determined to show the film and tv industry that it does not need to have people working exceptionally long hours in order to be valuable.  It has a long way to go to allow everyone the opportunity to work shorter hours and have a better work/life balance, but I am committed to being part of that change in demonstrating that reduced hours roles are an asset to any production.

Thanks to working flexibly and within the days/hours I’ve set for myself I remain in an industry that I love, have the career I think I was always meant for and more importantly I remain able to be a present and loving parent to my daughter.