Shorter working days in film & TV: UK’s first ‘blueprint’ to be developed by Timewise & BECTU Vision

The social enterprise Timewise and BECTU Vision are leading a 3-phase practical drive to tackle the long-hours norm in film and TV, supported by Screen Scotland and The Film and TV Charity, in collaboration with BBC Drama.   

Phase One has just come to a close: a series of in-depth interviews held over the course of six months with a range of industry experts including commissioners, heads of production and directors alongside production teams and crew on four scripted drama in Scotland, about their working hours and the impact on their lives.  

The resulting new report, called How to make flexible working work within the television and film industry, finds that: 

  • There is an assumption that the standard 11-hour day is the only viable way to work, based on commercial considerations in how dramas are commissioned, though there is no known evidence to support this.  

  • Film and TV employees work some of the longest hours in the UK. With 86% of people in the industry experiencing mental health issues1. 

  • The long hours culture is causing talent shortages which, coupled with increasing production growth post pandemic is  threatening the industry. The situation is acknowledged by many industry insiders to be unsustainable. 

  • Interviewees highlighted that flexible working is a key part of the solution to fixing the talent crisis and already exists in pockets in the industry, post-pandemic – but little has been documented or shared.   

  • Contributors said that the key area for focus should be working out how to reduce the length of the working day. Yet to date, no models have been developed to test this.   

Timewise and BECTU Vision believe that preventing the loss of experienced crew due to the long hours is key, and that these losses could be: ‘stopped in their tracks’ through improved working patterns. 

Greater use of flexible working and shorter working days could also potentially ease the pressure on crew, help production companies support wellbeing and foster greater creativity. Yet to date there has been resistance to trialling this approach due to the perceived additional costs it could bring.  

Phase Two begins now. Flexible working experts Timewise and BECTU Vision now begin: 

  1. Surveying Scripted crew across the UK to assess what kind of adjusted working patterns would suit their lives best.  

  1. Identifying any informal existing instances of individuals and production companies reducing the length of the working day in drama productions. 

  1. Reviewing the wider commercial considerations with commissioners,production companies and key industry stakeholders 

Timewise and BECTU Vision will then, with the support of production teams from Vigil 2 (World Productions) and Shetland 8 (Silverprint Pictures), create 2 parallel shorter working day production schedules and budgets, to develop a blueprint for how to create and deliver a shorter working hours production. 

Timewise has had success in other workplaces thought to be ‘impossible to flex’ in; including nursing, retail, media newsrooms, teaching and construction sites.  

All face similar recruitment, retention and wellbeing challenges. All pilots have seen large increases in wellbeing, cost savings through reduced sickness and increases in staff happiness.  

Following the findings and evidence created from Phase 2, the intention is to stimulate the commissioning of a scripted drama to test the approach in real time, and to consult widely with key industry players on the feasibility of introducing such a model, which will be Phase 3. 

BECTU Vision, Timewise and Screen Scotland are holding a webinar on Thursday 30 March, 10am – 11:30am to share the findings of the report and information on the upcoming Shorter Working Hours project.

Register to take part in the webinar:

Download the How to make flexible working work within the film and television industry report: 

Emma Stewart MBE, co-founder of Timewise, who has a background in film and TV says: “What if we could take the sector’s creativity and apply that to the way production schedules are created. When nearly 9 in 10 people in an industry are struggling with their mental health: action becomes necessary. Timewise was founded upon the principle that you can always find a better way to design how work gets done, and that this benefits employers and workers alike. We have worked with nurses on paediatric wards and builders on construction sites. If we can help them find better working patterns, I am hopeful we can do so for the film and TV community too, in a way that’s commercially viable.” 

Amy Shaw, co-manager of BECTU Vision says: “At BECTU Vision we have been passionate about developing and delivering initiatives and supporting flexible working in film & TV for several years.   We are proud to have partnered with Timewise in the last year to create the Making Flexible Working Work Report and Guide published today to support and inspire productions and crew to create more flexible working opportunities.” 

“As a former production crew member, I personally know the challenges the long hours on productions bring and the many stories of friends, colleagues and crew who have had to leave the industry because they could not fit their life and work alongside each other.” 

“To now begin the next step and find some answers to the questions about shorter working hours that have been discussed by industry for so long is thrilling. This work is so important to move the conversations forward towards action and we are excited to explore new possibilities and test new potential models of work that could change the industry.” 

Steven Little, Head of Production at Screen Scotland says: “The film and TV production sector has gone through a substantial growth period. Screen Scotland has invested record levels of National Lottery and Scottish Government funding to address the resulting skills shortage. The Timewise and BECTU Vision research will provide a blueprint for film and TV productions to improve working patterns and promote flexible working. This is essential if we are to retain our highly skilled workforce, attract new talent and foster creativity and diversity into the industry.” 

More information

1 Looking Glass Report, The Film & TV Charity, 2020:  
2 ONS, Families and the Labour Market, 2021:  

Flexible Working and Shorter Working Hours for Scripted Drama Webinar

When? Thursday 30 March 10am - 11:30am

Following the publication of Making Flexible Working Work in Film & TV, joiin BECTU Vision for a webinar to discuss flexible working and shorter working hours for the film & tv industry.  

We will discuss the findings and share information about the support available to productions and crew members in Scotland to help make flexible working work. 

You can also hear about the next chapter of the project: a Shorter Working Hours pilot funded by Screen Scotland and the Film & TV Charity.  This will involve working with two BBC productions filming in Scotland this year to create parallel shorter working hours budgets and schedules to give tangible evidence of the potential cost and schedule implications and creating guidance we can share with commissioners and production companies. 

The speakers: 

  • Amy Shaw, Co-Manager, BECTU Vision 
  • Emma Stewart. Co-Founder, Timewise 
  • Steven Little, Head of Production. Screen Scotland 

Register here: 

About Timewise 

Timewise are the UK’s flexible working experts. A 17-year-old award-winning social enterprise with commercial expertise, Timewise works with employers, candidates, policymakers and influencers to create stronger, more inclusive workplaces, powered by flexible working. 

It comprises of three elements: an experienced team of consultants who advise employers on job design, a specialist jobsite for good quality part-time and flexible roles with 80,000+ candidates and an innovation unit that produces world-class research on the UK labour market.  

Timewise has a particular specialism in large, complex workforces with a high portion of shift-based workers. It runs real-life onsite pilots so employers can test their ideas and measure success, before rolling them out. 

Timewise was founded in 2006, when two working mothers realised there was a gap in the UK jobs market, between the kind of flexibility people were searching for and what was available. This gap leads to social and financial inequality.  

Timewise’s mission is to create a healthier, more equal society where everyone has access to good flexible and part-time work. 

For many parents, carers, older workers or people with mental or physical health issues, full-time work just isn’t an option. The lack of flexible jobs in the UK, particularly for decently paid roles that offer some kind of progression, leaves them facing a stark choice: stay trapped in a low-paid flexible role, or don’t work at all.  

About BECTU Vision 

BECTU Vision is a skills hub for freelance film and TV crew in Scotland providing short courses and initiatives to upskill and support the workforce.  Our industry development initiatives lead the way in driving change for fairer, more flexible and sustainable workplaces. 

BECTU Vision launched their Job-sharing initiative TakeTwo at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2019 to support and promote job-sharing in film and TV and have been working since then to support both individuals and productions in Scotland create flexible work opportunities.  

BECTU Vision is supported by Screen Scotland, BBC and Scottish Union Learning in partnership with Bectu.