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Inside the U.K.’s ‘Unprecedented’ Unscripted Work Drought

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K.J. Yossman 2022 was a gangbuster year for the U.K.’s unscripted TV sector. Rates soared as productions struggled to find crew such as editors and producer-directors because of the sheer amount of work available. “You were fighting over staff,” said one producer with almost 20 years experience, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

This year, he says, is the complete opposite. WhatsApp and Facebook groups are awash with freelancers desperately searching for a gig.

Some have been out of work for months and, in a few cases, since last year. They are terrified about how to pay their rent or mortgages.

Many have applied for government welfare. Others have taken work outside television until things pick up. Those who haven’t left the industry already are considering it. “For a lot of people, this is a dire situation,” says James Taylor, a series producer in factual entertainment and co-chair of the unscripted branch at Bectu, Britain’s broadcasting and crew union. (The unscripted branch, which was launched only three years ago as a result of the pandemic, is comprised of production and editorial freelancers but not camera, sound or other roles, who have their own branches.) The dearth of roles is so critical that two weeks ago Taylor proposed a motion at Bectu’s annual conference directing the union to “publicly declare an emergency in the freelance TV community.” It passed unanimously.

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