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Meet the Wellbeing Facilitator

A conversation with Matt Longley, Co-Founder of 6Ft From the Spotlight and Wellbeing Facilitator
March 5, 2024
EP Blog-WIDE-Meet the Wellbeing Facilitator

In the world of film and TV production, the spotlight is often reserved for on-screen stars. But behind the scenes, crucial work to preserve crew mental health and wellbeing is taking place, led by UK non-profit 6Ft From the Spotlight.

6Ft’s mission is to promote, design and implement positive working cultures across the UK creative industries. As well as providing mental health and wellbeing training and consultancy services, they provide productions with trained wellbeing facilitators, an on-set position designed to provide day-to-day support to crew and senior team members.

To find out more about this innovative role, we sat down with Matt Longley, Co-Founder of 6Ft, to learn more about the company’s roots and its impact on the UK film and TV industry.

Matt Longly.jpg
Matt Longley, Co-Founder of 6Ft From the Spotlight and Wellbeing Facilitator

A call to action from tragedy 

Matt’s career in film and TV began as a supplier, working on iconic productions like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2, War Horse and The Dark Knight Rises. However, tragedy struck when a colleague, Michael Harm, took his own life, shedding light on the need for greater mental health support for crew. Following a chance conversation on this topic with a guitar technician backstage at a rock gig, Matt co-founded 6Ft in 2017 to help film, TV, music and theatre productions provide positive mental health support for crew.

After running dedicated training sessions at Pinewood Studios, 6Ft went on to collaborate with The Film & TV Charity. When a study by the latter revealed that only 2% of crew felt comfortable seeking mental health support from their line manager or head of department, Matt and his team started to train dedicated wellbeing facilitators to provide third-party support for crew.

The role of the wellbeing facilitator

6Ft’s wellbeing facilitators are often industry veterans with a broad array of training who are strategically placed on set to provide confidential support for crew. Their role is diverse – ranging from crisis intervention to proactive strategies to mitigate stress, prevent burnout and promote psychological resilience. As well as addressing immediate issues, their presence on set creates a culture where mental health is recognised, discussed and integrated into the day-to-day life of a production.

Following successful trials on British Film Institute (BFI) films Pretty Red Dress and the BAFTA-nominated Scrapper, the BFI made a commitment to place wellbeing facilitators on all of its productions – a great endorsement. Since then –and with the help of funding from The National Film & TV Charity and Creative Wales – 6Ft have supplied 25 trained wellbeing facilitators to more than 70 productions, including Gangs of London (Sky) and The Peripheral (Amazon Prime). 
Support for every budget

And it’s not just studios which can benefit from 6Ft’s support. To ensure that crew mental health and wellbeing is prioritised across all productions – regardless of budget – 6Ft offer flexible solutions tailored to the needs of each project. Whether it’s providing wellbeing facilitators for specific days during crucial production phases or offering remote support options, 6Ft have serviced a full range of clients – from global studios like Amazon and Warner Bros to smaller independents.

For Matt, the investment is worth it, with the cost of ignoring mental health far outweighing the cost of a proactive approach. “Something like 52% of lost time in the UK is down to work-related stress, anxiety and depression,” he says. “Then you’ve also got presenteeism – when people turn up to work and they're not really capable of doing anything. When you’re stressed you don't work as well. You're not as creative, you have more accidents. There are always going to be things that happen on set, but how you deal with it and having someone there to help and look after people – so that the producers can focus on the creative process – makes a real difference.”

The impact

The positive impact of a wellbeing facilitator on crew is clear. Compared with the 2% who reported feeling comfortable enough to seek mental health support from their line manager or head of department, Matt recalls one production where he spoke to 80 out of 120 crew.

And producers are seeing the benefits as well. “I did one studio production where I took the producers through the 40 different things I'd dealt with over the period,” Matt recalls. “The producer said ‘I only knew about two of those’ and I said ‘Exactly – that’s the point!’”

Award winners Leo Anna Thomas and Matt Longley.jpg
Leo Anna Thomas, Co-Developer of the WBF Role and Matt Longley, Co-Founder of 6ft From The Spotlight, with HRH The Earl of Wessex

6Ft’s proactive contribution to the UK film and TV industry was formally recognised in January 2023 when it won the inaugural Earl of Wessex Award at the Production Guild of Great Britain’s Talent Showcase. Reflecting on the event, Matt says: “none of us have done this for the recognition. But it was amazing to get that acknowledgement for our work and also to learn about all the other nominees who are doing similar things in a different way.”

Shaping a sustainable future

Having already achieved so much, we asked Matt what he wanted 6Ft’s legacy to be. “I’ve always said if I could shut 6Ft down because I knew everything was in place, that would be great,” he laughs. “Mental health and wellbeing support should be on par with health and safety,” he continues. “Planning for it should as normal as securing a script or getting your heads of department in place.”

And with each project that embraces 6Ft, the more attainable this legacy feels.

Topic: Spotlight

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