Tea or Coffee, Anyone?

by Anonymous

I have been a runner in the TV and film industry for three years, which basically means that I tend to be making tea and coffee, looking after actors and generally running around on set, putting out fires. Some days are easier than others, but on the whole, twelve to fourteen hour days are gruelling. I don’t know what it’s like in other industries, but the experience I have had as a young female working in entertainment has led me to discern that the way people can sometimes behave in this particular industry is nothing short of baffling.

As a runner, I am quite often not taken seriously. It’s all too easy to be blamed for something that isn’t my fault. As runners, we’re meant to keep things running smoothly, and we’re expected to simply bite our lip and accept the blame as part of the job. It’s easy to ask; “why don’t you just leave the job if you’re being treated unfairly?”, but in my industry, reputation is just as important as being good at your role. If you become known as the ‘one who complains’ (and that can happen - quickly), there’s a long list of people waiting to take your place. 

Even though I understood this industry to be built on understanding and respect, the obvious lack of these things in my day to day life has been severely affecting. I used to assume that the reason for this was because I am a young girl in an industry where some of the older men were typically stuck with a prehistoric mindset. I was talking to a colleague the other day who said he could never do my job because of the difficulties we must face when dealing with difficult people. I explained that “being a girl doesn’t help”, to which he answered, “it’s not because you’re a girl, but because you’re a runner”. I had never considered that my job title could be such a huge part of my identity, and subsequently, the way I’m treated.

In a lot of the jobs I have worked on, there tends to be certain type of person that does not take me seriously; most of whom are older men, which unfortunately creates a stereotype in my mind that gets constantly reinforced when jumping from job to job.

Part of my role is ensuring people stay quiet whilst filming - easy, right? No. I, too, can appreciate that this may be a pain, but it is necessary to make sure that the crew can get the shots, and for a couple of minutes, you’d think it’s not the end of the world. But this seems to be too difficult for a lot of people, (the aforementioned stereotype is again reinforced here). The last job I worked on, it took twenty polite prompts to a group of electricians to please be quiet, throughout which they weren’t listening, and pretended that I wasn’t there. As I mentioned before, runners need to be able to deal with tricky characters.

There are some days where I can handle rudeness; I’d just shrug my shoulders, shake my head, and get on with what needs to be done. On other days, it would wear me down, their problems would become my own, and their treatment of me would leave me feeling hurt, distressed. 

I have learnt a lot throughout my short career, and one of the greatest lessons was self-taught: the belief in standing up for myself, even if it may, one day, damage my professional reputation. I now believe my own wellbeing to be more important than that – so is yours, and if somebody makes you feel uncomfortable or down about yourself, then we collectively have every right to say something. Through time, and the development of a thick skin, I have managed to become less and less worried about what somebody else thinks of me, and more concerned that I’m being treated the way that I deserve.

So, I write this because there are so many decent people in similar positions to my own, and as much as we can talk about it with each other, it is unheard of to express ourselves any further due to the drummed-in knowledge that we are easily replaceable. I believe that in order to force improvement upon industries and workplaces, we must express our truth and stand up for ourselves. I want to be taken seriously. This is my first stand.