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Praxis Makes Perfect: Adeel Amini
Senior producer and head honcho of The TV Mindset, Adeel Amini is leading the charge in the fight for TV workers' rights.
It’s another installment in this new interview series: Praxis Makes Perfect!
Are you one of those SJW bores that want to make the world better? But, let me guess — half a century of neoliberalism and your worsening Twitter addiction has drained you of any sense of agency and battered your brain like a Mars bar, and you just don’t know how!
Begin by getting to know the people already doing the work, and following their lead. This will help you find your lane.
Each interview will focus on praxis: an action of some kind that allows you to put into practice whatever the interviewee’s work centers around - today’s is: Peer Support.
This week for Praxis Makes Perfect I talked to Adeel Amini, a senior TV producer and mental health/workers’ rights organiser. I’m particularly interested in his work because his efforts explicitly, directly link destructive working conditions to their impacts on mental health.
I am very here for it.
Adeel’s brainchild, The TV Mindset, has provided a space for TV freelancers to get support and share strategies, and is building on the brilliant support they’ve provided by campaigning for concrete changes in the industry. Last year during the pandemic they announced the Coalition For Change, an agreement signed by the industry’s biggest players to enact better working conditions for freelancers.
His work is 1) bringing people together to 2) support each other, and 3) work toward achieving clear aims, three things which more of us can do to succeed in creating a better media industry.
(Edited for brevity and clarity.)
1. Introduce yourself however you wish!
2. Give a brief overview of your career trajectory up to now.
I started on a factual entertainment scheme at ITV. I became freelance, and obviously worked my way up, and found my groove in studio entertainment which I absolutely love. I’ve been in the industry for about 12 years.
3. You run the TV Mindset, a mental health support collective for TV workers. Can you give an overview of the key issues for TV workers and mental health?
The key issues for TV workers in mental health are many… I think everything that we do is linked to mental health whether it’s the long hours we work, the unfair contracts, the rates of pay, the bullying, harassment, discrimination, the racism, the ableism - all of it is bad management and recruitment. It’s all linked to how we view ourselves and our mental health. Even just one of them would be bad for our mental health but all of these issues combined really do make for quite a bleak picture when it comes to mental health for TV workers.
4. Do you consider yourself to be an activist? If so, what are the 'end goals' for your activism?
I didn’t set out to be an activist and I certainly don’t think I’m a good one! I’m far too gobby and honest but I guess I’ve become one by accident - certainly not what I want to do full time, and it comes with a lot of pain and a lot of trauma that I would like to give up… My end goals are obviously change and just to be able to give it up. I think a true sign of success would be me not having to be an activist anymore, because it means that the industry is making the changes that we all need.
5. Do you do any form(s) of activism other than The TV Mindset?
I’m a big advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I do a lot of anti-racism and anti-transphobia work. I’m quite outspoken in other areas of my life as well, I sort of feel like my existence, being in such an intersectional place, feels like a political act! So I don’t think I could ever have really escaped activism.
6. You had a recent Twitter spat with Piers Morgan - which I imagine is a bit like meeting the lamest boss at the end of a video game. From an outsider's perspective, it appeared to alert people to the endemic bullying in the industry - is this a fair characterisation?
Without going into too much detail and dragging up the past in ways that would affect me again - because it was quite a difficult thing - I think the short answer is yes, it revealed power structures and the level of enabling that goes on in this industry. It really highlighted the importance of the work that we’re all doing.
7. Were there any specific moments that politicised you?
My own experiences politicised me, whether that was growing up or the marginalised sections of society that I come from or indeed my experiences in TV. I think I would have probably gone into this space anyway, but it’s typical - until something happens to us we don’t really seem to care about it but that’s certainly the jumping-off point. And I realised, I don’t identify as disabled but ableism is still a huge issue for me in campaigning for disabled people, and other marginalised voices. But as I said earlier, I feel like my whole life has been quite unintentionally political.
8. What are the next steps for your work in supporting TV freelancers?
The Coalition For Change is forming a charter, so hopefully, that will make some sort of difference on the ground level. It may take three to five years for those changes to be seen but we’re hoping to launch that this year, and obviously still calling for an independent reporting body.
9. How can young people coming into the industry make it better/safer?
I think looking out for each other - stop seeing each other as competition and create a fairer, better, healthier industry by calling out crap when you see it, protecting each other and creating the culture, and paying it forward in the way that you would want. I know that’s hard when you’re just starting out, but I think these changes will happen if we work as a collective.
10. What are the most important changes you feel artists, writers, producers, etc. can make in society at this moment?
This is a really interesting question. I think just keep using our voices, keep fighting for what’s right because it will break through. Change isn’t linear and it doesn’t happen overnight and we are all here to support each other. Also, realising that our causes overlap and highlighting where people have it different. So you know, not conflating racism against Asian people against Black Lives Matter. Really opening the dialogue, having empathy, and just keep on fighting. And also just looking after ourselves in the meantime because it is very exhausting.
11. If you could boil it down to three changes that need to happen in the UK TV industry, what would they be?
I think one of them is more empathy - I think that’s a key thing. Secondly, stronger unionisation would be great, and thirdly an independent reporting body, an independent HR facility is definitely much needed to help check the landscape.
Thanks to Adeel for taking the time to answer my questions - if you’re a freelancer, why not join The TV Mindset? If you work elsewhere, look for a group that caters to you - or start one!
Stay tuned for more Chompsky interviews with people doing important work in media/politics/workers rights.
And please share with others you think might be interested!