Göteborg 2022 – Göteborg Industry
Industry Report: Market Trends
“It’s the time of quality and karma,” argue panellists at Göteborg
by Marta Bałaga
Sustainability and mental health took centre stage during Johanna Koljonen’s Nostradamus keynote speech at the Swedish festival, as well as her conversation with Banijay’s Lars Blomgren
Forced to self-isolate, media analyst Johanna Koljonen delivered a Nostradamus keynote speech online this year, focusing on “Healthy Work in a Sustainable Industry”. “This is an area where maybe we have more questions than answers, and as often happens in these Nostradamus talks, I will need to warn you: I will be talking about a very difficult topic. But I promise that I will end on a note of hope,” she said during the event, hosted by the Göteborg Film Festival.
Mentioning a study commissioned by the UK’s Film and TV Charity and the The Work Foundation at Lancaster University, The Looking Glass, Koljonen presented some concerning data. According to the study, 64% of industry respondents have experienced depression, 24% have harmed themselves and 55% have attempted to take their own life. “These are pre-pandemic figures, so now the results could be even worse,” she noted, adding that while the survey focused solely on UK citizens, there is no obvious structural reason why the results would differ significantly from the rest of Europe. “The answer is very similar to what was happening after #MeToo: I am shocked, but I am not surprised.”
In an industry that doesn’t focus on mental health, forcing its employees to work over 60 hours a week, and where bullying and harassment have been running rampant, people are often left to fend for themselves. “Everyone has their mental health, just like every one of us has their physical health. We know that intellectually, but we haven’t quite internalised that understanding,” she said, mentioning the people who tend to suffer the most in the industry: freelancers, those working with distressing content, employees supporting vulnerable contributors (for example, by working on documentaries), women, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities, disabled people, and those with caring responsibilities. “That’s almost everyone!” Koljonen pointed out.
She also mentioned the case of Halyna Hutchins, the young DoP who was shot and killed on the set of Rust. “We need to understand that mental health is the symptom. It tells you something about this environment filled with very tired people who are working very hard. This industry has excellent gun protocols; the problem is that in addition to these, we have a cultural hierarchy and pressure, and an industry that has a lot of economic fears. The combination of these things allows for really unthinkable things to happen in our workplace.”
Arguing that current working conditions have an impact not only on one’s creativity, but also on people’s empathy towards each other, thus contributing to creating an environment that further perpetuates the problem, Koljonen encouraged her colleagues to think about how they would like to work in the future.
“We glorify suffering in the arts. But I don’t think the arts become better just because we are doing worse,” she said. “In my freelancing film-critic days, we talked about the ‘dog hunger’. A dog doesn’t know it’s going to get another meal, so it eats desperately whenever it can. This is a problem in the gig economy: turning work down, setting sustainable schedules and taking breaks are really difficult. But we are not in a desperate situation, and this industry is actually not in crisis.”
Later on, Koljonen discussed the methods of “Championing Sustainable Creativity” with Lars Blomgren, head of Scripted at Banijay. While Blomgren argued that the value of talent has gone up significantly, as has the range of opportunities for those who have been underrepresented, real change needs to come from the top.
“We need to talk about it: diversity, disability, inclusion. We need to make it front and centre because this is not a trend. It’s a new reality, and we need to adapt to it. If you look at a story through the lens of diversity and disability, it creates a new dynamic,” he said, also mentioning new takes on established stories, from Scenes from a Marriage to the Bollywood edition of the French smash Call My Agent!.
“We will see high-budget, non-English projects from all over the world,” he said, noting that the Nordic market has reinvented itself and mentioning the upcoming show Dance Brothers, a co-production between YLE and Netflix, as an example (see the news). “Finland is a really interesting country: they have a long tradition of interesting storytelling but with very limited resources, so I am just really impressed by it.”
Observing that “everything has been on steroids for a while”, Blomgren noted that, luckily, the situation in the industry seems to be flattening out. “It’s more a matter of keeping subscribers than getting new ones. We laughed about it the other day, saying it’s the time of quality and karma. We used to say that a happy shoot ends with a bad movie and a horrible shoot ends with a good one. A lot of the biggest directors were behaving badly, and it was just taken for granted. Now, the only way to get to the best talent is to treat them right – it’s not just the production company [that has to treat them right], but also the broadcasters. There is competition, so they need to behave as well. Which is nice.”
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