As the U.K. film and TV industry has boomed in recent years, bullying and harassment in the workplace has become endemic to the sector, with 84% of workers experiencing such abuse themselves or witnessing it, according to the Film and TV Charity. Now, a new app is empowering the local workforce to call bad behaviour out.
Recently launched in beta mode, “Call It!” asks the staff of companies and productions that sign up to the initiative three questions every day for the duration of a project, the main one being “How were you treated at work today?” A traffic light system gives users three options to answer, with green indicating they were treated well, orange for “okay” and red for those who felt they were treated badly.
The app is entirely anonymous, and there’s no place for specific feedback that may identify the user. Those who wish to elevate complaints of bullying and harassment can access, through the app, their workplace’s “Dignity at Work” policies and procedures for formal reporting.
If a producer or production clocks a mass of red buttons in one day, the ideal scenario would see them immediately take steps to check in with staff. “When they see the red buttons, someone should be going and asking everybody, ‘What’s the problem? How can I help?'” explains co-founder Jules Hussey (“Guilt,” “My Mad Fat Diary”), a producer who developed the idea with director Delyth Thomas (“Victoria,” “Vera”).
Companies and productions can also opt in to have a third party overseeing their staff welfare checks, for a further level of accountability.
Producer Kate Wilson (“Sounds Like London,” “13”) has worked closely with Hussey to develop the app since April. She previously helped the London-headquartered Film and TV Charity — a leader in highlighting mental health support in the industry — to launch its confidential phone line, which has been one of the sector’s most prominent avenues for independent reporting to date. However, she notes that, despite the best intentions, support lines aren’t “sufficient” for the industry to move forward.
“What we need to achieve is a system that allows for an individual responsibility and accountability, but also collective accountability where, if we’re aiming for behaviour change and cultural change within our industry, we need to all take responsibility for better ways of treating one another,” says Wilson.
What’s key to the app, as well, is a focus on highlighting the good that a specific production or company is doing, along with the bad. “If you were a filmmaker or TV maker, and you were only allowed to read your bad reviews, you would very quickly stop reading the reviews,” says Wilson.
“It’s really important that producers recognize the days where they have a lot of green lights, as we’re calling it — the days where everyone feels like they are being treated well and where communications are good. We have a tendency in our industry to fingerpoint and show where a practice is at its worst, but we don’t have very good examples of best practice.”
“Call It!” is currently being tested with select productions and organizations, with a formal roll-out targeted for later this year. The app can be used anywhere in the world, and the plan is for it to be adopted in Hollywood as well.
The app was built by Hull-based developers Sauce. Specific details on how companies can set up “Call It!” are available here.
The initiative also wants to go a step further, with companies asked to anonymously share their data with the app’s partners at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University, with a view to identifying industry-wide pattens and trends. The data can’t be traced back to the production, company or project.
Matt Weldon, managing director of Sauce, says that although the app has been developed for the film and TV industry, “it has also been created in such a way that it can be adapted and rolled out to other sectors in the future.”
Funders of the app include Directors UK, the Film and TV Charity and Sara Putt Associates. Further investment is being raised to expand the app across the U.K. and international film and TV markets from late 2021.