#UnseenOnScreen: testimonials 9 and 10

19 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 Nine
“On my first movie as a contracted runner I was constantly verbally abused by the floor second assistant director. When something didn’t go smoothly on set, she would sometimes gather our PA team either privately or sometimes in the middle of set and shout at us, sometimes calling us worthless human beings and an absolute waste of space, incapable of doing any aspect of our jobs. She would say this to our entire team and sometimes to us as individuals, seeming to direct even more wrath on the females of our team. This went on for weeks until we ended up speaking to production. Words were had, but ultimately as she as was friends with the high-profile director and a well-known name in the industry, I don’t think more than a few words were said and the abuse continued for the remainder of the shoot, and we did not feel comfortable bringing the issue back up with those in control. Back then (about 5 years ago), I don’t think there was a hotline to call, or perhaps we would have done so. Obviously, these words hurt us and I often left work at the end of each day crying.

This isn’t the only time I’ve been bullied in film, and honestly It still happens every now and then, but I’ve become so accustomed to screaming bosses in this industry now that it’s like water off a ducks back.  I pushed through and have worked in the industry ever since, but this film and these words still haunt me till this day.”

Account Ten
“Sadly I don’t just have one example. Whilst 80-90% of people in the industry are beautiful, open minded and kind… the other 10-20% are cold and cruel with delusions of grandeur making them think that their seniority in the workplace gives them the right to make all employees anxious and feel like they are walking on eggshells constantly.

I’m a producer now and whilst this feeling does get easier – it’s still rife. I’m fortunate enough to generally purposefully choose to work for nice teams that I have worked with before but every time we take a new contract with a team we don’t know so well it shouldn’t have to be ‘pot luck’ as to whether or not you end up working with a bully &/or psychopath.  I’ve witnessed exec producers call members of the team “c****” on a daily basis, in pitch meetings I’ve witnessed prime time channel commissioners use homophobic and racist language, in my more junior days I was made to cry at work by a nasty production manager who then told me ‘don’t worry – I cry at work all the time’.

Most recently I was on an abroad shoot with one of the most evil nasty women I’ve ever come across and I will actively make sure I never work with her again. She was one of the series producers and made a point of making every single person within the gallery feel like they were walking on eggshells and that they were constantly doing things wrong even though they weren’t. She would purposefully embarrass different members of the team dependent on who she felt like picking on that day. The worst part about this was no one felt like they could do or say anything as she was the SP – despite the fact they had already been fired for multiple reports of bullying. Despite her history of bullying she was still hired to be in a position of power to abuse more people. This is beyond wrong. I witnessed at least 3 colleagues cry due to her behaviour – she made them feel anxious 24/7 and as if they could do nothing right when I can vouch for the fact that they are all perfectly capable of flourishing in the workplace. Eventually the industry will be a more fair place but unfortunately it is currently a toxic playground where rules don’t apply as freelancers are treated as disposable and no HR department cares about any of our complaints. 

At one TV company I know for a fact the HR department fired someone that made a complaint about sexual assault and let the accused exec producer continue to work there and harass multiple women. Another example is a show where every single year people have to quit due to being overworked and their mental health suffering as a result. Despite this it is still popular so they don’t care about running people into the ground to make it. One day I truly hope we will all be working in an industry where these instances are rare.”