In the six months between September 2022 and March 2023, specially trained Wellbeing facilitators were welcomed to 10 production companies across Wales to care for the mental health of crew and cast.
This was the first phase of a pilot programme funded by us at Creative Wales and delivered through a partnership between CULT Cymru, a partnership between creative unions Bectu, Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers Guild, and mental health and wellbeing specialists 6ft from the Spotlight CIC.
In May 2023 we announced that, because of its success, the pilot programme was being renewed. This secured additional funding to recruit six new wellbeing facilitators from under-represented groups – including people from global majority backgrounds, disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community.
To date, the pilot has seen production companies big and small, English-language and Welsh-language, take advantage of the support.
“The real benefit of this programme is that it reduces the stigma around mental health and wellbeing,” says Siân Gale, Skills and Development Manager at CULT Cymru.
“The first phase showed us that having a Wellbeing Facilitator involved and actively highlighting sensitive issues in scripts helped alert cast, crew and management to potential trigger points for individuals.
“We also learnt that with a Wellbeing Facilitator around, people on productions were more confident in raising issues, often relatively easy-to-resolve welfare issues – because of the anonymity of the WBF ( Wellbeing Facilitator). Things like access to toilets, supply of wet weather clothing, etc.
“The pilot showed us that being able to simply voice concerns around poor behaviour could help de-escalate issues.”
Supporting the sector’s workforce
Why do we need Wellbeing Facilitators in the first instance? A survey by The Film and TV Charity (Mental Health in the TV & Film Industry 2022 – Three Years On) showed that 83% of those surveyed said the industry had a negative impact on their wellbeing.
While 80% of those surveyed also noted they had sensed “positive change” in culture and behaviours surrounding mental health and wellbeing compared to three years ago, it is clear that a proactive approach is needed to better support the sector’s workforce.
“Our aim is not just to run one-off courses,” explains Siân, “but support and educate the industry and work hard to collaborate with others to bring about cultural change in the sector.”
The reality on set
When appointed to a production, a Wellbeing Facilitator will engage with the entire workforce – from crew to cast to those working in post-production roles – plus the companies themselves.
“It’s a two-part role,” explains Siân, “the first thing that Wellbeing Facilitators do is build rapport with the production company and carry out a risk assessment with them to highlight any issues in relation to the production – things that may prove challenging to the teams.”
Then it’s very much a quiet, under-the-radar role where on location the Wellbeing Facilitator will build rapport and trust amongst the workforce, she explains. All discussions are treated in the strictest confidence.
“The wellbeing facilitator may also then work the equivalent of one day remote,” says Siân, “and people are encouraged to contact them with any issues they may have.
“It's a role that supports both the employer and the worker impartially and in confidence.”
Setting the right standard
Rhian Jones is an artist, project manager, creative producer and workshop facilitator with 25 years’ experience of working in the creative industries, and was selected as part of the first cohort of wellbeing facilitators in 2022. Having undergone full training to become a wellbeing facilitator, she has worked on four productions to date. Training, which includes modules such as Mental Health Risk Assessments and Safeguarding, is delivered via CULT Cymru and 6ft from the Spotlight.
“It’s important that people are trained properly,” she explains. “CULT Cymru run the training with 6ft from the Spotlight – who are always on the end of the phone in case I come across a really difficult situation. I've got really good training but I’m not a qualified counsellor or therapist – my job is to listen, and to signpost people to where I think they can get more help.”
A wellbeing facilitator’s role is to support the team, she says, but in doing so she often ends up becoming a visual representation of a company’s commitment to their employees.
“Just having a wellbeing facilitator on set is a clear marker that the production company is taking mental health seriously. My hope, and my colleagues’ hopes, is that like intimacy coordinators, wellbeing facilitators become regular members of the crew. It sets the bar high – and also communicates what level of behaviour we expect here in Wales.
The size and nature of the industry in Wales lends itself to action on this front, she says.
“The great thing about Wales is that it’s small enough, and agile enough, for us to make these decisions and put them into action. The big players in the industry have really come on board, and now we have a queue. It’s great to see.”
For more information about the wellbeing facilitator pilot programme, or to complete an application, go to the CULT Cymru website.
"Just having a wellbeing facilitator on set is a clear marker that the production company is taking mental health seriously."
Rhian Jones, Wellbeing facilitator