A global survey of film and television workers has laid bare the effects of the screen industry’s long-hours culture on crews’ mental and physical wellbeing.
UNI Global Union’s media, entertainment and arts sector (MEI), which represents workers in the skills and services sector, surveyed 150,000 crew members across 22 countries in feature film production, independent television production and streaming content production.
UNI MEI counts IATSE among its affiliates.
“The survey reveals global trends of recurrent overtime, insufficient rest, extensive use of weekend work and disrespect for basic safety requirements that that make working in the film and TV industry, unfair, unequal, unsafe and unsustainable for many workers,” UNI said in a statement.
62% of those surveyed said their mental wellbeing had been “negatively impacted” by their work schedules and more than 25% in independent television production said “extreme fatigue” had resulted in serious incidents.
The survey, which asked about collective agreements, working hours and terms and conditions, revealed that film and TV workers toil an average of 12-13 hours per day, of which one to two hours include “prep and wrap.” In the U.K., a 50-hour working week is the average in the industry, the survey found, a figure that does not include prep and wrap time.
Other aspects of the survey dealt with pressing issues such as turnaround time, which is the time between finishing work and returning the next day, overtime and weekend work.
35% of members surveyed said they are always required to do overtime during the week, while 41% said weekday overtime is “frequent.” The same percentage said weekend work is common and 18% said it was “always necessary.” The survey also found out that “Fraturdays” – where Friday shoots bleed into the early hours of Saturday – are becoming more common.
While unions in 12 countries out of the 22 surveyed said they had collective bargaining agreements in place, which set out the mandated hours for work and rest, in some countries countries these – along with local laws on workings hours – are flagrantly disregarded.
In particular, members reported that in practice, they often get much less than the mandatory 10-12 hours turnaround time required in collective bargaining agreements, especially since travel time between home and set (which, depending on the location of the studio, can be significant) is included in the turnaround time, eating into the time crews have to eat, unwind and sleep.
In Argentina, the survey found, crews average more than 50 hours per week and often work overtime on weekends, in contravention of their collective agreement while in Australia crew members are working on average 12 hours more per week than allowed by the law.
UNI MEI also collected anonymous testimonies from members across the world, including one from a member of the U.K.’s crew union BECTU who reported working on an entertainment show where crew members were expected to do overtime every night for no extra pay, were scolded for drinking tea in the morning and questioned when they went to use the restrooms.
Meanwhile an Australian crew member said work that would normally take a week was being squeezed into one or two days due to unreasonable scheduling. “Workers are being worked too hard with no let up,” said the anonymous Australian crew member. “We feel expendable.”
The global survey, which in total surveyed 28 unions across the globe, has resulted in a report by UNI MEI that lists a number of recommendations including the right to collective bargaining, respecting collective agreements that are in place and for overtime to be voluntary and compensated at a premium rate.
UNI MEI is now spearheading a global campaign to ensure safe working conditions and hours across the world, including reducing working hours and raising minimum standards.
“The media industries have long-relied on people’s passion to drive long-hours, often at workers’ expense, but we’ve reached a breaking point where workers are saying that creating quality productions cannot rest on exploitation,” said Johannes Studinger, head of UNI MEI. “Workers in the film and TV industry, which is dominated by multinational companies, are too often operating under sweatshop conditions that allow dangerously little time for rest and painfully little time for family life. That’s why we are demanding change across the board.”
IATSE international president and UNI MEI president Matt Loeb added: “Member unions from across the world are committed to bring about change in the global film and TV industry putting an end to the long hours culture everywhere entertainment is produced. This is a long-term engagement and requires a global effort. Change will not happen overnight, and we are committed to work together across countries and support each other in our fight to improve conditions step by step. Our global campaign seeks to raise awareness across the industry about the impact of unsafe working conditions and hours, empower union action and engage employers as well as stakeholders.”
Former HBO Exec Len Amato Joins MasterClass as Chief Content Officer
Len Amato, a 13-year veteran of HBO, joined MasterClass as chief content officer at the company that sells subscriptions to celebrity-led online courses.
In the new role, Amato will head up MasterClass’ content organization and help lead content innovation, strategy and development of class launches. He reports to David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass.
Amato formerly served as president of HBO Films, Miniseries and Cinemax before he departed in late 2020. Most recently, Amato was an executive producer on HBO’s upcoming limited series “The White House Plumbers” through his production company Crash&Salvage, where he will continue to produce independently.
MasterClass provides access to more than 150 online courses led by experts and celebs including James Cameron, Shonda Rhimes, Ken Burns, Jodie Foster, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Nas, Gordon Ramsay, Bob Iger, Metallica, Issa Rae, RuPaul, and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. An annual membership to MasterClass starts at $180/year.
“Len has been a pioneer in creating premium, original content, and I’m thrilled to welcome him to the team,” Rogier said in a statement. “His passion for storytelling, proven leadership and ability to attract talent will help us expand and innovate, providing even more ways to transform our members’ lives through our content.”
“MasterClass is setting a new standard for premium content with its cinematic value and ability to intimately connect world-class instructors with its members,” Amato said. “I’m excited to continue to democratize learning by bringing these stories to life in new ways and scale the impact of our content.”
Amato joined HBO in 2007 as a senior VP and was promoted to president of HBO Films the following year. Under his leadership, HBO Films earned best television movie Emmys for originals including “Grey Gardens,” “Temple Grandin,” “Game Change, “Behind the Candelabra,” “The Normal Heart” and “Bessie.”
Prior to joining HBO, Amato served as president of Spring Creek Productions. His producer and executive producer credits include “Analyze This” and “Analyze That,” “Possession,” “Deliver Us From Eva,” “Rumor Has It,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Astronaut Farmer.” Amato also was story editor for Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions. He started his film career in New York as a story analyst for various independent producers and studios. Prior to his career in the film industry, Amato was a musician and actor.
Music Industry Moves: FKA Twigs Partners With Atlantic Records
Along with her “Caprisongs” mixtape on Friday came the news that FKA Twigs has “partnered with Atlantic Records for this next exciting phase of her art,” according to the announcement. In the U.K., she will continue to release music via the Young label (formerly Young Turks) through Beggars Group.
“FKA twigs is the kind of artist you dream of signing — one with truly original vision, voice, and presence,” said Atlantic chairman-COO Julie Greenwald. “She’s among the most compelling talents, always pushing her creative envelope to deliver emotionally honest music that’s both intensely personal and universal. We’re thrilled that she’s chosen Atlantic to be her home as she continues on her fantastic musical adventure.”
“The progression of FKA twigs’ music over the past decade has been extraordinary,” said chairman-CEO Craig Kallman. “She’s never content to stay in one place – constantly crossing musical boundaries, embracing fresh sounds, telling new stories, and exploring what’s next. An amazing vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, and producer, she’s barely scratched the surface of her potential, and we’re incredibly excited to see what she’ll be bringing her fans in the years to come.”
+ Artist-services company AWAL has promoted Jennifer Kirell to senior vice president of catalog & retail marketing. Based in New York, she will report directly to Ron Cerrito, president of AWAL North America, and oversee and support artist and label partners. Prior to joining AWAL, Kirell spent 11 years with Sony Music Entertainment at Legacy Recordings, where she led global marketing campaigns and audience development strategies for artists including Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash and others. Cerrito said, “Jennifer is a goal minded, follow-through obsessed, results oriented, serial over achiever with a deep understanding of modern music marketing. She is also a thoughtful leader and people manager. We are proud Jen is a member of our executive team and look forward to continuing to redefine catalog and retail marketing into the future.”
The 2021 deal that saw Kobalt selling AWAL to Sony for $430 million remains under review by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
+ RCA Records has named Alex John director of publicity. She joins after two years at Red Bull Records, where she worked with Blxst, the Aces and producer WondaGurl. Over the course of her seven years in the business has also worked for Listen Up (where she worked with Martin Solveig, Kevin Saunderson, Jamie Jones and others), FYI Brand Group (Jhené Aiko, Tyga, DJ Khaled) and M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment (Sprite, Coca-Cola, WAV Media).