On World Mental Health Day (10 October) Film Art Media, the filmmakers behind Ben Steel's ABC documentary The Show Must Go On announced four customised mental wellbeing webinars crafted specifically for screen practitioners.
Taking place in November 2020, the Screen Well initiative claims to be the first of its kind and hopes to address the wellbeing of the screen sector, which it says is falling behind other parts of the entertainment industry.
Screen Well creator Ben Steel said: 'The music and live performance industries are very proactive in the wellbeing space, providing many customised resources, events, and support through entries such as Support Act and the Arts Wellbeing Collective – the screen industry is sadly lagging very far behind, but I’m hopeful that these webinars will be the catalyst to help change that.'
Read: Eight short documentaries showcase performing artists during COVID
Since June, Steel, an actor, filmmaker and mental health advocate, has been collaborating with screen guilds, unions, and interests groups to identify core wellbeing issues facing the sector.
He has worked alongside mental health professionals to design the four webinars, titled: Crew Well, Create Well, Perform Well and Lead Well.
This builds on the Wellness Roadshow, designed in collaboration with Film Art Media and Impact Producer, Diana Fisk rolled out nationally since the October 2019 release of The Show Must Go On documentary.
Funded through Screen Australia’s Industry Partnerships program, the four free webinars will commence on 9 November; each customised session will have a different focus to address the needs of the four main cohorts of screen workers; Teams (Crew members), Creators (Writers, Directors, Designers, Editors, Producers), Performers (Actors, Agents/Managers, Casting Directors), and Leaders (Heads of Departments).
Speakers will include creative business advisor Monica Davidson, Tracy Margieson (program manager of the Arts Wellbeing Collective) and psychologist and author Dr Julie Crabtree, among others.
'The music and live performance industries are very proactive in the wellbeing space, providing many customised resources, events, and support ... the screen industry is sadly lagging very far behind.'
- Ben Steel
Dr Crabtree said: 'Coronavirus has brought profound awareness to underlying challenges many in the screen industry have faced for a very long time, such as; isolation, uncertainty, financial and mental health stress. This moment in time has created an appetite for understanding, self-growth, and meaningful change which I’m excited to help facilitate in these wellbeing webinars.'
The media release quotes the 2016 Victoria University & Entertainment Assist study on Working in the Entertainment Industry, which found that in comparison to the general public, those in the entertainment industry had double the rates of suicidal ideation, 10 times higher anxiety symptoms, and five times higher depression symptoms. This was all before COVID-19 hit our shores, so doubtless those issues and problems are even more pronounced now.
As Mary Cotter, Equity Foundation director, said: 'COVID adds another layer of stress to a performers already anxiety-ridden world and we welcome the individually addressed series of programs that Ben will offer.'
Jason Burrows, CEO of Jungle Entertainment and one of the webinar supporters, said: 'The mental health of our screen workforce has never received as much attention as is needed, and it’s time to change this.
'The emotional and psychological impact of the coronavirus shut down on our screen sector workers has served to highlight this, and it is vital that this is addressed as productions start up again. Great work has been done creating guidelines and protocols that look at the physical health concerns of our cast and crew reentering workplaces, and we now need equal consideration and support to help strengthen their mental wellbeing,' said Burrows.
Kelly Wood, MEAA crew branch director said: 'Heads of department often feel ill-equipped to provide this kind of support. There is not only an urgent need for customised training, but a strong desire.'
Further details and links to Eventbrite reservations are below. Event organisers stress that attendees will not be required to publicly share their personal experiences during the sessions:
Partners: MEAA Crew branch, Australian Production Design Guild, Australian Screen Sound Guild
Panellists: Dr Julie Crabtree, psychologist and author; Monica Davidson, creative business advisor. Session moderated by Ben Steel.
Partners: Screen Producers Australia, Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers Guild, Australian Guild of Screen Composers, Australian Screen Editors, Australian Production Design Guild.
Panellists: Dr Julie Crabtree, psychologist and author; Susan Eldridge, creative business advisor. Moderated by Ben Steel.
Partners: Equity Foundation, Casting Guild of Australia, Australian Drama Agents Association, Association of Drama Agents.
Panellists: Dr Julie Crabtree, psychologist and author; Dr Mark Seton, resilience coach and researcher; Monica Davidson; creative business advisor. Moderated by Ben Steel.
Partners: Screen Producers Australia, Australian Directors Guild, Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Casting Guild, Australian Production Design Guild, Australian Screen Sound Guild, Australian Screen Editors, MEAA Crew division.
Panellists: Dr Julie Crabtree, psychologist and author; Tracy Margieson, program manager Arts Wellbeing Collective. Moderated by Ben Steel.