Parents and carers face ‘barriers’ in Irish screen industry, report finds

Raising Films calls for change as women report losing work after becoming mothers

Parents and carers in the Irish screen industry face cultural bias and "very clear barriers" that disproportionately affect women and can force them to leave the industry, a report by advocacy and support organisation Raising Films Ireland has found.

A sold-out event held as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on Wednesday heard parents and carers often contend with limited career opportunities, inflexible working arrangements and, on occasion, outright discrimination.

Some 75 per cent of respondents to a survey of 455 people in the industry said caring had a negative impact on their career, while 79 per cent said it had a negative impact on their earnings.

Anonymised testimony published in the report reveals a bleak picture for cast and crew in the film, television and animation industries.

“Some of the companies I worked with before having children no longer call me for roles,” said one female respondent, while another reported that her agent “took a back seat” from pushing her for acting roles after she became a mother.

Respondents reported feeling they had to hide their pregnancies or not disclosing they were parents. Some were “unable to take jobs because of the lack of childcare”, while others had work offers withdrawn on the assumption that they would have childcare difficulties.

The strain of managing both work and family life emerged repeatedly as a major concern, with childcare especially expensive and difficult to obtain in light of the short-notice, long and atypical hours that are a feature of the screen industry.

Contributions also highlighted “rampant” sexism and ageism, with one female producer observing that there is a perception in the industry that people have “lost their edge” after becoming carers.

Raising Films said the absence of long-term stable employment also created problems, with 18 per cent of respondents earning less than €10,000 a year from their work in the film, television and animation industries, and a further 10 per cent earning less than €20,000.

Some 76 per cent of respondents to its survey are female and 61 per cent are freelancers or self-employed, while 73 per cent have caring responsibilities, most usually looking after children.

‘Pressing need’

The research, which has been supported by State agency Screen Ireland, was led by Dr Susan Liddy, a lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at MIC, University of Limerick, who discussed the findings at a panel event in Dublin featuring director Lenny Abrahamson, writer and actor Jody O'Neill, producer Macdara Kelleher and documentary director Anna Rodgers.

“It is clear that there is a pressing need for cultural change and work practices must be looked at with some urgency,” said Dr Liddy, who is also a board member of Raising Films Ireland.

The organisation's chairwoman, Ailish Bracken, called on industry funders, producers, broadcasters and the Government to support its call for reform.

“We must sustain the talent and skill that we have all worked so hard to cultivate. If we really believe in building a diverse, equitable and inclusive industry, these challenges need to be addressed,” Ms Bracken said.

Among the reforms proposed were reductions to the length of the working day, the introduction of flexible working patterns such as job sharing, the provision of on-set childcare and improvements to paternity leave.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics