Film and TV industry union BECTU has published a new report into the long hours culture of the UK film and TV sector.


The report, ‘Eyes Half Shut’ is based on a survey and interviews conducted with over 500 workers in the industry. Bectu says it reveals a “shocking working culture, and a widespread belief in the industry that these practices are the result of poor management rather than any genuine business need.”


The research reveals that, depending on the department, between 61% and 75% or respondents believe that their heads of department need more training in people and management skills.


The report also says that 90% of respondents said that “working long hours had a negative effect on their family lives” with those over forty years of age affected the most.


It also states that more than four out of five workers on films (and a similar number of TV workers) believe that the long-hours culture has an impact on their ability to do their jobs and more than nine out of ten shooting crew respondents to the survey reported that they had, at some time, “felt unsafe at work, or travelling to and from work, because of tiredness.”


Head of BECTU, Gerry Morrissey said: “Our research has turned up some shocking stories. The long hours culture damages family lives and causes ill health while doing the industry no good at all. I have spoken to workers in location-based prep-and-wrap departments – location managers, assistant directors, workers in hair and makeup or costume and wardrobe, who have told me about regularly working eighteen hour days. One editor told me about working for 27 hours continuously.


"There is also a real culture of ‘presenteeism’ and the research shows that three quarters of the people who responded to us think that they work in a job where no-one wants to be seen to be the first to leave.


"As a union, we are making headway. We have signed our first-ever TV drama sector agreement and we are about to start balloting on a feature film agreement. Both of these agreements codify overtime practices which is the first step in the right direction. However, this is an industry where freelancers believe themselves to have a weak bargaining hand. We think that – if they can stick together, and with the union’s help – the ‘take it or leave it’ culture in this industry can be challenged and these talented workers can feel like they have a stronger voice in their own industry.


"BECTU will be campaigning to challenge this long hours culture. I have today called upon UK industry chiefs to work with us on this problem. The union will be launching a petition to gather support for this position under the #eyeshalfshut hashtag and the union will be distributing badges and posters that workers in the industry can use to show their support.”


The report will get an official launch at an open meeting – the union’s BIG Crew event – at Regent Hall, Oxford Street on Wednesday at 7pm. 


Tickets are free and can be booked at


Jon Creamer

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