#UnseenOnScreen: final testimonials

21 November 2021

As part of Anti-Bullying week, we are sharing anonymous testimonials from workers in the TV and film industry. Collected by our Unscripted branch as part of their #UnseenOnScreen campaign, the testimonials allow us an insight into the harsh realities of working in the film and TV industry, and just how common bullying and harassment in the workplace really is.

Account 13
“Last year, I accepted a contract as head of development. It was an extremely abusive environment. The bullying started right at the top. It was encouraged and was a daily occurrence. I am disabled. I have run my own company for 15 years. I experienced constant negativity directed towards my disability and my sexuality. This took the form of explicit ‘jokes’, constant negativity, and a complete lack of awareness of what was appropriate to say. Of course I was not the only one to be bullied. Never before has anyone laughed/abused/or patronised me In this way. However, there was a general culture of making fun/dismissing/criticising inclusion in TV. For example, statements like we didn’t get this commission because ” …our contributors speak like us, are white and if we were gay and disabled it would be on the air now”. I tried to raise the matter with management. It was dismissed out of hand (“I’m not listening to this’ ‘). I tried to raise it with sympathetic colleagues. They were too frightened to do anything (as they were experiencing the same). I loved working in television. Even though I resigned from this post I still feel extremely depressed and find it hard to regain the enormous motivation and love of my job. I actually found myself sick in bed. This had never happened to me before. My friends and family could not understand what was happening. I thought I must have a disease. However, it turned out that it was the extreme bullying and nastiness and patronizing which broke my spirit, left me feeling suicidal, depressed, sick with a feeling of deep sadness.”

Account 14
“So the following probably falls as a racist incident, racism and bullying too, if I were to define it…

As a person of colour working in the TV/Broadcast industry has always had its major problems, we only have to look on screen, credits and ‘crew photos’ to take a glimpse of the problems. However what happens behind closed doors and individual experiences is not only never heard but the fear of speaking up due to being blacklisted from the industry and losing out of future jobs, deters people from speaking up. The common phrase we always here in the industry is “the TV industry is so incestuous and everyone knows each other” is so present.

Now since the BLM movement it has led to set up organisations, schemes, groups and arguably some may say “some people” are now being listened to. But truthfully, has it really changed? Like really has it? Putting Facebook job posts and TM job posts with a few lines at the bottom now has become a ‘performative’ strategy now. Telling the person of colour to post up on jobs on job pages to show that we are welcoming doesn’t solve the crux of the problem. Let’s just look at the website and turn to the ‘meet the team’ section to see the true picture of the company (the finance, account, team – doesn’t count I’m sorry). Where are the seniors, where are the commissioners, where are the execs. I’m not a blonde hair, blue eyed, middle-class individual. Is that job even attainable for me? If I can’t see people who look like me at these top positions, is it truly possible for me to get a job in that position? I digress but all the above is relevant!

Strong elements of conscious and unconscious bias are so prevalent  within the workplace and the following incident I experienced just over four weeks is evident of this.I’m a freelance producer and I worked in this place for five weeks, now this place was more of a branded/content project I would say. Really enjoyed my time. My immediate manager and team were super cool and I made it clear towards the end of this stint that I’d love to come back.

Classic TV I did another job in the interim and then was asked to come back on a longer contract – now as you’re probably aware, most freelancers love a long job – money, security etc. I started this job and on my fourth day I was what can only be described as being ‘fully profiled’ by one of the CEO’s.

So what happened…I was leaving the office finishing up for the day and was about to go to the loo. I see one of the CEO’s in front of me walking up the corridor to go to the loo, let’s call him Mr. Blue (not real name) for the purpose of this. Now Mr Blue gave me a look – which I would describe as a dirty look that was signaling to me “who are you, what you doing here, what you upto, you’re not welcome” – reason why I interpreted it as this, is I’ve seen this look before, I know this look. I’ve experienced this look. 

Nonetheless, he did his business and ran out, I would say. I was prepared “something may go down, something may happen as I come out” – and guess what I wasn’t wrong. I came out of the bathroom and was circled by him and two other people from his team and was met with huge hostility. Now I should add, both of Mr.Blue’s team members had seen me before in the office and knew me around the office just the usual hello and nod when walking about. I knew /saw they try to quickly tell him that “I was alright and worked here” but the time was too short for me to come out the toilet and be faced with them.

Anyway what happened next…

Mr. Blue say’s to me aggressively “WHO do you work for??!!”, I paused, I was super calm and took a breath. He asked again “WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?!”. I responded I work for “X” (saying his first name), Mr. Blue responded  “X Who?” I said the full name of X (who was my lovely line manager). Then Mr.Blue forcefully put his hand in front of me wanting me to shake it, I looked at his hand, looked at him. Paused. Then he thrusted his hand again (in a very Trumpian manner) might I add. Then I reluctantly shook it. It’s worth noting that Mr.Blue had seen me the day before walking in the car park exiting the office, he had seen me numerous times before in my previous stint, he had even seen me in the other CEO’s office.

Now the incident is not finished…

So I’m walking towards the exit of the offices, Mr.Blue walks alongside me and says… word for word.. I quote…“Yeah we have people start here, then a week later they come back and the place gets robbed”.

So this is where I’m. I reported the incident to my line manager and he was very supportive and is supportive all the way. Since the incident happened I was very upset, shocked, frustrated, confused, and needed some time to process it and make a rational decision.

Now after the above incident, four weeks later, he makes a snide joke about the incident – this was the last straw and cemented any doubts and my decision. I have now given my notice in and am now looking at ways to report it officially to some sort of HR.

I know that most likely nothing will happen, as it’s a ‘he said, she said’ thing. But for me, myself, my integrity and for the industry and society as a whole I wont tolerate it. One of my key objectives for STILL working in the industry is to get more people of colour in front and behind the camera in top positions. So how can I look at myself in the mirror working and making money for a racist. My decision was made lightly. And now I’m back on the hunt for another job in the midst of the quietest time in the TV calendar. I have had to seek therapy as my mental health has taken a huge hit. I should add there are two CEOs in this company and both are bullies in my opinion – they like to trip people up intentionally to catch them out, gaslight and that’s not to mention the vulgar harassing they exercise regularly.

I hope reading the above will help in some way for others to speak up. I hope I can try to see and try and sympathise with what people of colour can deal with on a daily basis. Huge thanks for the platform for letting me speak up.”

Account 15
“I was bullied at work after a structure change at an independent production company.  The bully manipulated situations to make me look bad. The bully played senior people, including me, off against each other behind their backs.

The bully undermined me. It made me feel like I was worthless and going crazy. It made me cry. I lost my ability to recall things at work I would usually have retained. It made me doubt myself even though I had always done a really good job for many years. The bully chipped away at me. The bully excluded me.  The bully said that They didn’t trust me. This is ridiculous as I have been trusted by the same company for many years.  The bully changed my role from week to week.  The bully would draw me in to make me feel that I could work with them and then blank me again. The bully used me to make themselves look better. This behaviour totally destroyed my confidence. I tried to tell other people in the company what was happening but was ignored. I was powerless in the situation. My family life was badly affected as a direct result of this behaviour due to my increasing lack of stability. The company protected the bully.  There was no safe place any longer for me at the company.

The healing has started but it is a slow process. My mental health was shot to pieces  but with support from the Film & TV Charity, Bectu and others,  I am trying to put the pieces of my former self back together to make a stronger future me.  I am personally paying for regular therapy to try to get over the damage caused by approximately six months of hideousness.

No one should have to deal with this behaviour at work. This particular bully is still in the same senior role. It was me that had to leave to escape the toxic working practices.   This person is still bullying people who are too scared of losing their jobs to take a stand. No one even tells the company as it’s clear that the company protects the bully. I will do anything I can to help stamp out bullying in the workplace in any environment but especially in Film and TV, the industry where I have worked for the entirety of my career to date.”