Anti-Bullying Week: #UnseenOnScreen testimonials 1 and 2

15 November 2021

This week, the Unscripted TV Union is  launching #UnseenOnScreen, a bullying awareness campaign about the film and TV industry, to coincide with Anti-Bullying Week. We will be sharing these stories throughout the week.

Last year, this campaign was successful in both raising awareness and starting the conversation on how workers should be treated on set. Even with the success of last years campaign, we still receive calls each week about poor behaviour on set and so we know there is more work to be done.

6-months on after the allegations about Noel Clarke, we are still faced with the need for urgent action from production companies and broadcasters to challenge bullying in TV. Amplifying the voices of workers effected is central to the solution.

As part of anti-bullying week, the Unscripted branch has collected anonymous testimonials from members working in the film and TV industry, to demonstrate the extent to which bullying and harassment plagues the industry. We will be sharing these stories throughout anti-bullying week on our website.

Account One 
“I was working on a big entertainment show last year, the job started off normal but after just a week the ridiculous hours kicked in. Everyone was told that we had to do at least two “lates” a week, ‘lates’ meant staying at the office until 10pm for no extra pay. Two lates quickly turned into three, then four until eventually we worked until 10pm everyday of the week. We were once all scolded for making cups of tea in the morning and were told to drink our tea before we started work. I was also stopped in the corridor abruptly and asked “where do you think you’re going?”- I was going to the toilet. This regime started to affect mine and everyone else’s mental health, it became a daily occurrence to find someone crying in the toilet or kitchen. I myself started having panic attacks on the way to work , and would get home in the evening at 11pm having seen no sunlight all day where I would then crawl straight into bed without speaking or seeing any loved ones.   There was also a strange culture of promotion and demotion.  Researchers who did the most hours with a smile on their face would suddenly become AP’s regardless of their knowledge or experience, and in the same instance I saw AP’s who requested finishing on time because they had plans have responsibilities taken away from them. I eventually went home for Christmas and my parents were shocked when they saw how thin, pale and withdrawn I’d become- I’d barely had a conversation with someone who didn’t work on that show in weeks and it was as though I’d forgotten how to. I left after my contract finished turning down an extension by lying saying I’d been offered something else. I had to go to therapy because the panic attacks didn’t stop after the production did and they still haven’t.” 

Account Two
“My bullying was verbal and psychological at work by a senior, celebrated female exec. It was 6 months worth. I bore the brunt of it, tried to protect the rest of the team but I couldn’t always do so.  I had to take 3 months off afterwards for my mental health and thought seriously about leaving tv. She really got to me and I am incredibly experienced. She lied to me to get me to agree to do the project, about the budget, the schedule and many other things, and was charming until I signed up. Then it quickly escalated. She pushed too hard all the time, we were a tiny team, the project was during COVID and high risk. She didn’t care and often pushed us into risky situations with no thought for H&S. As an exec she never once read or fed into a risk assessment and even asked if we do them (!) She emailed and messaged at all hours. Nothing was good enough, she always used negative language and her feedback was undermining, aggressive, often meaningless – spending ages unpicking what doesn’t work about something without offering any solutions – the exact opposite of what an exec should be doing. She undermined us at any opportunity. Raised her voice often. She would present our work as her ideas to the channel. I once drafted a detailed email to her which she copied and pasted to the comm ed as her own and copied me in. She would barely let us talk in meetings as wanted to dominate as if all we’ve told her is her idea. Often she’d completely misrepresent things so they were wrong as she simply didn’t understand it. We had to work so hard to keep the company and the team safe, when this should have been her first thought. I challenged her when she was aggressive with my colleagues and she would respond sarcastically and also told me I was “too nice”. She forced us to film and edit twice as much material than we needed during COVID so the edit overran by an embarrassing amount. I’ve never had an edit overrun more than 1 week. She led everyone up the garden path in terms of editorial and, while I knew it was all wrong and voiced this, she just shut me down. I raised it with the company when I was leaving and they ignored it. The project was a success, in spite of her, and she gladly took all the credit, not mentioning the team at all. I’ve been bullied a lot in tv, who hasn’t, it’s full of sociopaths, but this was by far the worst. And she’s still out there, chipping away at people, raising her voice, pushing far too hard, making stuff up that fits her (lack of) understanding, putting people at risk,  undermining them constantly, managing up and taking all the credit for her teams’ hard work. It’s galling. Things need to change.”