3 Months On: Our honest take on the struggle to fix what’s broken

We know it needs fixing, but without the tools, time and resources, is a fix out of our reach?

We all know that change is needed, we’ve known it for years – maybe even decades – but for a wide-range of reasons, the imbalance and unfairness at the root of Production Management has trundled along year after year with little to no meaningful change.

When we started to get our hands dirty and get stuck in with the formation of Production is Broken, one of the things we were determined not to do was let the momentum diminish. In recent years, we’ve all seen the campaigns of colleagues and grass roots action groups like ours, we’ve read the columns in Broadcast, liked the statuses from likeminded freelancers and discussed at length the disparities across the banks of desks up and down the country.

Going into this, we knew that if we were really going to push things forward, we needed to be braver and noisier than other campaigns, whilst always remaining professional and genuine – but if we didn’t put real effort into the campaign, it would have just as much notice paid to it as an unopened call sheet in an email inbox.

The responses to the survey last November were overwhelming. In the days after we closed the survey, we got together with laptops and wine in hand to form a plan of how we would use your valuable comments and the data provided to create what would eventually be The Report.

The responses shared some truly gut-wrenching tales that spoke volumes about the dark underbelly of the industry. Some of these stories were too intense for us to include in our report. They depicted the harsh reality of mental and physical harm caused by the industry, as well as broken relationships due to the gruelling nature of the job. We also heard from veterans of the industry who had spent a lifetime hoping for positive change, only to feel disillusioned by the lack of attention given to Production Management. Their anger was palpable and genuine. We knew we had to take these accounts to heart and work towards creating a safer and more supportive environment for those working in the industry.

After 3 more months of hard work, we finally produced The Report. We felt a sense of immense relief once it was out there, and even more so when we received positive feedback from colleagues and industry professionals alike. However, that was just the beginning of a long road ahead. For weeks, we reached out to hundreds of production companies and broadcasters, determined to get our message out. It was a challenging but necessary step towards achieving our goals.

We put a lot of hope into the response we would get from the outreach element of our campaign. We collectively agreed that all it would take is one of the broadcasters or streamers to be brave enough to come out publicly and say that they would act on the points raised in The Report.

Naively we thought that now it was on people’s radar, and those issues were front and centre of the conversation, that our job would be done.

“It’s over to the big guns now – the broadcasters and production companies can see there is a problem. The Report is the evidence of that, so now let’s see what they do with it.”, one of us recalled saying.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The hard part was ahead, and we soon realised why campaigns like this have faltered in the past, and what it would take to be able to keep the calls for change firmly on the agenda.

We’ve always wanted to be as honest and transparent with everyone who have held so much faith in Production is Broken producing some real change, and we hope that we’ve been able to do that so far through our regular updates.

It is in that spirit that we wanted to write this post too, to be very honest and upfront with you about where PiB is at now and the dilemmas we’re facing.

Although our anonymity has always been a pre-requisite of our involvement in this campaign, behind PiB is a collective of very hard-working freelancers, with families and busy personal lives – and as you’d expect with all TV freelancers, our jobs are uncertain and take us on busy periods through the year, sometimes abroad; other times chained to our desks.

Trying to juggle all of this alongside PiB has been really challenging. As a result, along the way some of our team have had to bow out to focus on other areas of their lives. We aren’t a union, we are totally self-funded and as much as we believe in what we are trying to achieve with Production is Broken, it can sometimes feel like an unpaid second job.

We’ve had some very interesting meetings with influential industry bodies in the months that followed The Report. We’ve had press interest from national and industry media. We’ve had approaches for partnerships with other organisations. We’ve had some of the most accomplished Production Management heads in our sector make contact, to unofficially provide their support and spur us on to continue.

However, despite all this support, there is still just a small group of freelancers tasked with deciding what the best way forward is and although we’ve made attempts to grow the team behind PiB – it hasn’t worked out, and if anything, it ends up increasing our workload rather than reducing it.

It’s crystal clear that the Production is Broken campaign is urgently needed and has inspired promising reforms. Sadly, we’ve hit a point though where we’re simply spread too thin to give it the attention it merits. As a result, we need to carefully consider how to move forward.

There are meetings to have with broadcasters and production companies, requests from journalists, conversations to be had with fellow industry action groups and union branches, opportunities with big names to implement some of the proposals raised from The Report along with half a dozen promising initiatives to explore to effectively improve the department and the work-life of those within it.

As we dive into the challenges facing our Production Management colleagues, it’s important to practice what we preach. After all, our research has shown that overworking can take a toll on all our well-being. We’ve considered reducing our working week to four days to ensure we have the bandwidth to do the legwork and drive the attention required to make meaningful progress for PiB. However, none of us are in the position to sacrifice income. It’s time to find a balance that benefits us all.

At a recent meeting we discussed appealing to the broadcasters and super-indies to donate some funding for PiB to continue to develop and promote future change. This isn’t something we are considering at the moment, it opens up a few concerns about how independent PiB can be if we are funded by any other industry body and raises questions about our ability to be critical of any of the organisations if they provided funding.

We can agree though that there is still a lot of work to be done. We’re encouraged by seeing the launch of Bectu’s recent #WorthIt campaign and continue to appreciate the support from other groups seeking similar change.

PiB will continue to play a part in the bigger conversation and will continue to look for potential opportunities that will enable us to enact the actions we know are so urgently needed in our department to future-proof and encourage it to thrive.

We’re open to your feedback too, drop us an email or send us a DM on Instagram, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share.

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