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Raising Films survey spotlights challenges of parenting in film business

A new UK survey proves what many people already know anecdotally, that it’s a challenge being a parent and working in the film and TV industries.

Parents working in the film industry have “no level playing field” including limited job opportunities, missed work, reduced hours or seniority, and periods of time when they have to leave the industry, according to the “Making It Possible” report by Raising Films that is being unveiled this morning at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“The impact is not just about unfairness to individuals and to parents/carers as a constituency, but about wider repercussions for the industry as a whole,” the report reads. “Many respondents pointed to the adverse effects, such as the loss of talent within the industry and with a subsequent lack of diversity, and therefore lack of voices and stories for audiences.”

The survey included 636 film and TV professionals across the UK, with more than half living outside Greater London. The respondents were 78% female and 21% male, and the survey observed that women tended to carry more of the burden as carers. Directors comprised 17% of respondents, 16.9% producers, 12.5% crew, 9.6% writers, 4.4% exhibition and 4.1% development. 63% of respondents are freelancers or self-employed.

79% of respondents say their caring role has had a negative impact on their role within the industry.

The survey data was analysed by Masters students from the University of Stirling’s Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies.

Challenges particularly concerning parents are industry practices such as overseas shooting, long and anti-social hours, childcare not being easy to find for last-minute jobs, financial uncertainty, lack of industry infrastructure, lack of long-term stable employment and a lack of forum to discuss such issues.

Filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach, one of the founders of Raising Films, told Screen that the survey was necessary because “data is proving to be essential in conversations about inclusivity. It’s incredibly useful to get figures that you can’t argue with. It’s useful to have hard data showing how many people are frustrated…this is a conversation that is incredibly important.”

The discussion should also involve non-parents, she added. “Ideally what we’re trying to do is make the film industry more humane. This affects everybody…it’s about how society regards the work-life balance.”

Leach has just completed her debut feature film, The Levelling, and took her two sons with her during location scouting, but added that her husband had to take two months off during production to take care of the children. “The whole family had to bear stress,” she added.

In the report, suggested steps forward include tax relief for carers; greater availability of flexible roles; childcare available on locations; five-day working week maximums; legal requirements for job-share options; improved paternity leave and equal parenting legislation; enhanced working status for part-time workers; stronger union rules on anti-social hours; increasing telephone and video conference meetings; state-backed last-minute childcare options; and greater structural support for returning to work after parental leave.

The four key actions suggested by Raising Films are:

·      Enable financial assistance for child and elder care

·      Encourage industry-wide adoption of flexible working and access to child/elder care

·      Formalise a way to combat discrimination

·      Normalise conversations around caring commitments with employers and financiers

Dickson Leach said that Raising Films hoped to be part of the conversation going forward, but that it was crucial to involve more industry organisations, such as Directors UK, the BFI, PACT, and others.

Olivia Hetreed, president of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, said: “Raising Films’ report offers statistics to back up the anecdotes. It’s the kind of crucial information that makes the issue that much harder to ignore. Yes, this is definitely happening, here and now. And not only the workers/carers lose out – so does the industry, on their skills, intelligence and life experience.”

Kate Kinninmont, CEO of Women in Film & Television (UK), added: “There is no doubt that, in an increasingly casualised industry, having children is a career killer for women much more than for men. This timely report drills down into the practical problems faced by women and provides some excellent recommendations for the way ahead. This is essential reading for everyone interested in maximising the talent pool in our creative industries.”

The full report can be viewed here: http://www.raisingfilms.com/resources/making-it-possible-survey-results/

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