Let’s look at bullying by industry

This week I’ll start with the industry I know best – film and TV – I worked for 18 years for BBC Drama doing everything from running to directing and 14 years doing casework on behalf of the union members. About 20% of my workload was about bullying including helping to rewrite BBC policy post Savile.

Young people start work in the film and TV industry all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, imagining that EVERYONE in the industry will be nice by definition. WRONG. Bullies look for three things from potential employers: Status, Power, and Opportunity. It is no coincidence that Harvey Weinstein dominated the film industry, and Jimmy Savile worked for the BBC using his celebrity status to infiltrate charities, the NHS, and even children’s homes. 

Abusive behaviour is on a spectrum from your common-all-garden yellow-spotted bully right up to Harvey Weinstein, who bullied and harassed on an industrial scale. I see my job as training workers to recognize and politely rebuff lesser forms of bullying and harassment, lessening the chances that perpetrators will progress. To upskill workers so that they can help keep the productions they work on healthy. Ensuring production companies’ reputations and giving workers the essential lifeskills

So let’s look at the forms of bullying that new entrants face. The first is irritation with those new to the industry. No production company should trust a line manager/head of a department that can not manage their own behaviour; the toxicity they create is not worth it. The damage they inflict is not worth the risk. I set the bar on behaviours at work so that everyone knows what bullying and harassment is and what to do when faced with the first signs. For example, I advise young people entering the industry to practice, preferable in front of a mirror their polite responses to being snapped at, for example, “I’m new to this, snapping at me is not going to help either of us.”

Bullies often bully to cover their own potential mistakes or as an immature means of relieving their stress. Runners being bullied by first assistant directors is an obvious example. There is no acceptable reason to shout bar distance or avoid an imminent accident on a healthy production.

Shouting causes mistakes, especially if the crew are tired and or inexperienced themselves. I’ve had cases of inexperienced ADs shouting at runners to make it appear to be the runners at fault to cover their inexperience and to pressure the crew – no one wants to cause delay and shouting. Shouting is an unhealthy, dangerous false economy. Stress cause is bad for everyone’s mental health.

A first AD grooming a runner as their dumping ground for their mistakes will banter the runner’s inexperience to see if that runner will accept the blame for the first ADs mistakes or be a dumping ground for their stress or in the mistaken belief that those witnessing this bullying will work faster to prevent it,

If the runner lets this bunter go, the first AD may shout at them all day, every day. It is legitimate to accept this behaviour if the runner thinks it’s a short shoot, and I won’t let it happen again. But I want this to be a conscious choice rather than a missed opportunity to set boundaries. 

What does it say about a producer who allows this behaviour on their production – it means they are weak, ignorant, and or lazy. To someone starting in film and TV, I’d advise if someone dismisses your skills before they’ve even worked with you, you need to set that boundary down, “This is my first job, so I’m sure I will make dozens of mistakes, but I hope that you will constructively help me to learn from them.”

Usually, actors are good team players; however, there are exceptions. On one production, an actor was late; the unit driver couldn’t find him in the unit hotel. The actor said that the runner had not given him his call time. The runner asked the first ad to witness her giving that actor their call time that evening in the hotel’s bar. The following day the actor gave the same excuse for being late only to have the first AD say, “I heard you given your call time last night.” The actor wasn’t late again. It is especially contemptible when someone uses the most junior people to dump on and stupid – this week’s runner being next week’s producer.

I had a production where one of the actors bullied their makeup artist – the whole crew knew about it. Nothing was done about it until clear up. A senior producer popped into the production office about that actor. The entire production team turned to the producer and shook their heads! Ultimately bullying never pays. I want to upskill productions so that it never even starts. The happiest productions are those where EVERYONE is treated with respect, and EVERYONE knows what to do if someone isn’t. #workplacebullying #bullying #harassment #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention

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