There have long been calls to reduce the long days in Film and TV, though it has widely been assumed that shorter working days in Film and TV would delay production by so much, that the cost would make a production unfeasible. But this theory has never been tested – until now.
The flexible working experts Timewise and Bectu Vision have been working in partnership to investigate the long-hours norm in film and TV, and explore if there is any viable alternative, supported by Screen Scotland, the BBC and the Film and TV Charity.
Timewise and Bectu Vision have just completed an in-depth feasibility study, conducted over nine months of 2023, to assess the financial implications of a shorter working day – 8 hours Vs the standard 10 – for scripted drama production. This included first of its kind analysis into the cost and schedule implications, and a framework for how to make this work.
The resulting new report, called: ‘Designing a blueprint for a shorter working day in film and scripted drama’, finds that:
There is a general consensus across all those consulted for this feasibility study - commissioners, producers, directors, writers, actors and crew - that working hours are too long and unsustainable in film and television.
It is in principle commercially viable to extend a production schedule in order to reduce the daily working hours from 10 to 8. This would increase the overall production costs by an estimated 4%.
In order to make this work interviewees agreed that the industry needs to challenge the myths that it isn’t possible to reduce working patterns, based on ingrained assumptions and behaviours and a view that it can’t work for X or Y department.
Being more mindful in the commissioning and prep of productions including earlier scripts is a key component to enabling efficiencies in how productions are made.
Whilst the writers’ strike resulted in a reduction in work for crew, there remains a need to tackle the long hours culture that is causing many to leave due to ill health and resulting talent shortages. The situation is acknowledged by many industry insiders to be unsustainable.
Timewise and Bectu Vision recommend that industry partners support a trial production where the shorter day would run across all departments.
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 staggering increases in wellbeing, cost savings through reduced sickness and increases in staff happiness.
The project backers, BBC and Screen Scotland, are currently considering the findings from the trial.
Amy Shaw, co-manager of Bectu Vision says: “Bectu Vision has long been passionate about supporting freelancers to find fair work opportunities in film and TV and it’s brilliant to be part of this important next step initiative.
“As a former production crew member, I know only too well how challenging long hours on productions can be and how difficult it is for film and TV workers to strike a balance between work and personal life.
“We’re really excited to be able to present evidence based on production and crew insights to help find solutions to the long working hours problem that has plagued the industry for so long. This work will be critical to moving the industry forward in how it approaches the issue and in creating a healthier, happier and more sustainable working environment for all film and TV freelancers.”
Ashley Lawrie from Screen Scotland says: “This study clearly illustrates that the screen workforce is seeking to improve their working patterns and in turn, their work-life balance. We recognise that current working practices in the sector are unsustainable, and this feasibility study is one step in offering a solution to ensure that we retain our highly-skilled workforce, attract new talent and foster creativity and diversity into the industry.”
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 project delivers targeted short courses and a drama training programme of activity to support the skills development of crew in Scotland. Bectu Vision is a member of the Screen Training Alliance Scotland. It is funded by Screen Scotland, BBC and Scottish Union Learning, in partnership with Bectu (the UK’s union for the creative industries).