The Film and TV Charity has confirmed it is adding an additional £500,000 to its existing budget in response to the increase it has seen in applications for support with urgent financial need. Following a briefing call with representatives from its corporate partners, BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Prime Video have also pledged further donations to bolster Charity’s budget, adding to donations from other organizations and individuals that have been made during Charity’s summer campaign. Other partners are expected to add to the overall pot as the challenging period looks set to continue.
The Charity, which supports the mental health and the financial and social well-being of people working in behind-the-scenes roles in film, television, and cinema, made the announcement ahead of its incoming CEO, Marcus Ryder MBE, speaking to delegates at the Edinburgh TV Festival. The move follows an 800% rise in applications for stop-gap grants in July 2023 compared to the same month in 2022 and is also in response to emerging evidence that workers across the industry are exposed to financial insecurity that can negatively impact their mental health, with a wide range of current and more systemic contributing factors causing a perfect storm for many.
The Charity’s recent survey looking at the financial resilience of industry workers shows that 46% of respondents had zero or less than £1,000 in savings, and half aren’t contributing to a pension. People from marginalized groups were more likely to be affected, with carers, Black and Global Majority, and Disabled workers often finding it even harder to navigate current financial pressures with higher levels of debt and lower household incomes. Insights from the survey will be presented and examined during the Charity’s Edinburgh session, entitled Production under pressure: Supporting life on the frontline, featuring Ryder; financial well-being and inclusion consultant and Film and TV Charity Trustee Kirsty Good; and Dean Webster, Head of Development at Ten66.
Speaking before that session and the festival’s opening debate in which he is also taking part, Ryder said: “The rise in grants applications we have seen, and the testimony we are hearing from production staff feeling the effects of a wide range of factors all serve to underline a systemic problem with the financial resilience of the workforce who drive the UK production sector. As far back as 2019, our Looking Glass research highlighted the impact the boom-and-bust nature of the business can have on workers, especially freelancers. In February 2023, the latest Looking Glass data showed 75% of respondents were worried about future income, and that was before the current cost-of-living crisis and other factors affecting production had taken root.”
Ryder added: “Having weathered the pandemic as an industry, the cost-of-living crisis, and other contributing factors like the impact of US strikes on global production, and pressures on scripted and unscripted production budgets, see financial instability emerging as a growing concern and a significant contributor to the mental health and wellbeing of film, TV, and cinema workers, especially freelancers and other already marginalized workers. However, during discussions with our partners and stakeholders, their concern when presented with the reality of the situation for many has been palpable. Just as they worked with us in response to the mental health emergency uncovered by the first Looking Glass survey, we hope they will once again rise to the challenge and come together to address what is clearly the next significant pillar of our collective response to improve the wellbeing of everyone working in our industry.”
Dawn Beresford, Director of Talent, Commissioning, BBC, added: “The BBC continues to support the Film and TV Charity and this year has made an additional contribution to recognize the challenges in the sector. We are committed to helping support our talented freelance community through this difficult period, and the grants provided by the Film and TV Charity can play a vital role in helping retain talent in the industry. We look forward to discussing what more can be done to support freelancers longer term with our colleagues across the industry.”
“The TV production sector is facing unprecedented challenges, and we know that many freelancers are struggling. This issue needs industry-wide solutions, and we are grateful to the Film and TV Charity for leading this project to help freelancers in urgent financial need. Channel 4 is proud to be contributing to the fund as part of our long-term support for the UK freelance community,” Emma Hardy, Director of Commissioning Operations at Channel 4, said.
Dan Grabiner, Head of Originals, UK & Northern Europe, Prime Video, added: “We value the vital work that the Film and TV Charity is doing, and it’s critical that we continue to support the world-class creative workforce we have behind the scenes of UK film and television.”