A comprehensive survey has been launched by Griffith University researchers to assess the state of mental health and wellbeing in workers across the film and television industry.

Filmmaker and academic, Associate Professor Peter Hegedus is known for his passionate exploration of human stories and has long been an active supporter of social justice organisations around Australia, so it was only a matter of time before he reflected on his own community.

This time came at the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, when production largely halted across the country and the world, leaving a strong feeling of isolation in the screen industry and community.

“Filmmaking is about collaboration through connection and I noticed people had stopped connecting with one another,” Associate Professor Hegedus said.

“This separation propelled me to set up the Screen Collective with local filmmaker friends Bobbi-Lea Dionysius, Andrew McInally and Tam Sainsbury, which brought filmmakers in Queensland together (mostly via Zoom) to alleviate some of the isolation many were feeling.

Associate Professor Peter Hegedus

“It gave people a space to share thoughts and reach out to one another, but also led to discussion around some key issues concerning the industry.

“It was around this time that we came to the realisation that many of us were feeling quite challenged in the mental health space and perhaps had been for some time.

“After talking to some service providers, we realised there really wasn’t a mechanism in place from agencies or guilds to look after people’s wellbeing on set, and behind the scenes.”

Struggling to find data on mental health and wellbeing in the screen industry, Associate Professor Hegedus found film crews in the independent screen sector were facing difficulty advocating for improved conditions or support without any real evidence.

Collaborating with fellow Screen Collective founder and Griffith Film School sessional teacher Bobbi-Lea Dionysius to research and look at overseas examples, the pair then teamed up with Professor Paula Brough from Griffith’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing to develop their plan further after uncovering some shocking statistics.

  • 83 per cent of screen directors think the overall pressures and stressors of working in the industry contribute to poor mental health outcomes
  • One in three screen directors know a colleague who has taken their own life
  • 44 per cent of industry workers have moderate to severe anxiety (10 times higher than the general population)
  • 35 per cent of all Australian entertainment industry workers earn an annual industry income below $20,000
  • 44 per cent of entertainment industry workers don’t get enough sleep

“Being such an inherently competitive industry, people are often trying to make films with very small budgets, with this culture of working around the clock, not sleeping or working 12-hour days having become embedded in our industry culture as being ‘OK’ or ‘normal’,” Professor Hegedus said.

“People were suffering silently, so we thought, what if we create a comprehensive survey that could be released into the industry and ask some strong questions about where people are at and how they’re feeling?

“We’re not sure what the solution to the problem will be yet, but having the facts is going to help us work towards one.”

With support from industry guilds and representatives, the survey will be circulated extensively throughout the industry.

Founder of Screen Well Ben Steel is one such supporter, with his organisation aiming to promote and improve mental health outcomes for the Australian screen industry.

“Capturing screen industry specific statistics on mental health and wellbeing is an incredibly valuable tool to understand the complexities that students and industry professionals face in pursuing their careers,” Mr Steel said.

“Having a deeper and better understanding of the challenges will enable Screen Well to enhance the effectiveness of the programs and initiatives we provide to the industry.

“We are tremendously excited by the potential the research will have to contribute to positive change for our beloved industry.”

The Australian Screen Industry Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey targets all sectors of Australia’s screen industry as well as performers (actors) and is open for completion until 15 February 2024.