The Show Must Go On is the first film to tell the story of the mental health of the 42,000 people working in the Australian entertainment industry. While ‘show business’ is often seen as glamorous, fun, exciting, and well paid, recent and alarming world first research from Entertainment Assist and Victoria University paints a darker picture for entertainment workers.
Anxiety symptoms are 10 times higher, sleep disorders are 7 times higher and symptoms of depression are 5 times higher than the national average. Suicide attempts in the industry are double the national average.
This film follows former Home & Away actor and debut documentary filmmaker Ben Steel on a soul-searching investigation into why are there so many entertainment workers developing and struggling with mental wellbeing issues. His love affair with the screen started from an early age, taking acting classes throughout his teens, and appearing on television commercials. His path was chosen and nothing was going to get in his way.
Ben’s first big acting break came at age 25, landing the role of Jude Lawson on Home and Away. What followed was a fulfilling two and a half years, pursing his dream on Australia’s favourite soap. Ben was nominated for a Best New Talent Logie, featured in countless magazine spreads and was working in a job he loved. He was on top of the world.
Until, abruptly, it all came to an end. Ben’s character’s storyline had run its course, and he was dropped from the show. Devastated, Ben didn’t deal with the pain he was feeling and put everything into keeping his career going. It was a constant struggle.
After nine years overseas, Ben reached the lowest of points in his battle with anxiety and depression and in 2016, gathered every bit of strength and motivation to start making this film. He wanted to find out if what he was going through, was shared by others. He was totally unprepared for just how big the problem was.
Over the course of two years, Ben travelled to Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Noosa and Melbourne, carrying out a total of 63 interviews with people from all corners of the entertainment industry. Screen creatives from in front of and behind the camera – actors, writers, producers, directors, cinematographers, editors; musicians, engineers, roadies, dancers, stage performers, artistic directors, educators, arts administrators, comedians, radio announcers and more.
The resounding support and willingness from everyone he spoke to, only reinforced the importance of this project and strengthened Ben’s resolve to finish the film and share it with audiences. It is hoped it will have enough impact to at least save one, and that it will spark much needed conversations about mental health.
Image: Ben Steel features in The Show Must Go On