The problem with lockdown is that- while there is time to do things and develop projects- events, as Macmillan would have said, seem to get in the way. I have a number of things I want to finish and some to get started but I have been submerged by requests for drawings, lessons and bits and pieces that have all taken more time than I ever anticipated.
from issue 4, WHYTT magazine. Copies available here: https://whyttmagazine.com/print-editions
However, everything is getting under control and here, to prove the point, is a picture from a new magazine that ran an article about me today, and about my plans for the future of animation. So I feel a bit driven to set out what I hope to be doing over the next year or two.
“I’ll tell you what that is ” As Tevye says, “I don’t know.” Though that should not stop us planning.
At the top of the list is a need to bring proper order to the Reality TV industry. I have had personal experience of this now and have spent a good few months learning more and more and meeting some of the far-from ordinary people who have spiced up these diverse programmes. I worry that this is an unregulated area of entertainment and there is the chance that many people will continue to be hurt. To date, there is a list of about 40 suicides spanning just under 20 years which is an horrific testimony to how badly things can go.
The health minister is on record saying that he wanted more psychological health-care for contestants. This does not deal with the many issues that people have spoken about. Also, I note that various committees have sat in the commons but few reality tv “stars” have been asked for or delivered evidence. We are the authorites on this subject so it seems odd to learn of this omission.
Matt Hancock looks at one problem only. This is what he said,
“The sudden exposure to massive fame … can have significant impacts on people.
“I think that it is a duty on any organisation that is putting people in the position of making them famous overnight, that they should also look after them afterwards.
“I think that people need to take responsibility for their duties to people’s well-being very seriously.”
I am hoping to meet the Arts Minister, Oliver Dowden, to discuss a way forward and to this end I have drawn up for him a “mission statement” calling for three significant changes. The first is independent psychological support, the second is professional representation and the third is union support. The current offer of studio-sponsored psychology , I think, is a cut-price and dangerous route both for the contestants and the studios. It also worries me that, if so many people in Government and across media believe there is so much need for psychological support, then we must judge either (1) that this form of entertainment is inherently unsafe or (2) that the producers are incapable of selecting cast members who are likely to remain genuinely stable. It begins to sound like a predatory situation and no one should be forced to endorse that as they turn on the telly for a relaxing evening.
There is lots to be said for routine and in-house counselling, of course, as there is for emotional support and mental health in all areas of the arts. It is a tough call to perform for a living. But the stories I have heard over the last year about deep misery and personal distress to people who have appeared on reality tv across the world should be the exception, not the rule. Many people who go on these shows will actually have the resilience to survive this, but it should not be an assumed part of the package. Instead, the industry should be brought in line with other forms of entertainment and I think there is a way to do this. There is a simple way to make this safe.
It is only recently that we have seen a relaxing of the demands for equity membership, and only recently that professional access to jobs has been possible without the intervention of a recognised agent. However, it remains very difficult to negotiate the performing arts’ world without either of these, and I think both should be on offer before Reality shows begin filming. Talent can always opt out.
In the meantime, I have got to finish my second film about the Music Hall that brings the story up to the 1960s and also to finish my filmed reading of the first book of PARADISE LOST! Along the way, I would like to see if it is still possible to do animated opera and animated documentaries in some form. I would have thought animation is a grand way to negotiate the rules of COVID!