WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DEALS WITH SUICIDE
The family of a Wellington man who took his own life in Canada say he was struggling and under enormous pressure in a "toxic" work environment - and they are calling for urgent change to prevent further deaths.
Malcolm Angell, who would have turned 47 today, died in Montreal on May 20.
He had tried to take his life a month earlier and was hospitalised, but returned to work two days later and did not tell his family.
His death came shortly after he found out his mother had a brain tumour and did not have long to live.
She died on the day of his funeral, held in Wellington after his body was repatriated and his brother Ivan returned from London and completed a stint in managed isolation.
Angell had been working in the film industry for about 20 years. He started his career with Weta Digital on the Lord of the Rings production.
Last year he moved to Montreal to work for renowned visual effects studio Mill Film.
Ivan Angell told the Herald his brother was talented and hard-working.
But the pressure of the industry became too much for him, he believed.
After Angell died, his brother learned he had been working up to 80 hours a week - something colleagues said was common in the industry - and felt bullied and "humiliated" by some managers.
He emailed a friend to say his job "kinda sucks" and that he was "doing the work of two people".
But he could not quit because of a penalty clause in his contract, meaning he was required to pay $35,000 if he left his role.
The contract said that for "certain very exceptional and serious" reasons the company could decide to waive the indemnification clause.
But Ivan Angell said his brother would never have left a project unfinished.
"He worried that he wouldn't deliver on time and he would be blamed," he explained.
"Malcolm was known for his integrity and doing the right thing, so he would have wanted to go down with the ship."
Technicolor provided the Herald with a statement addressing Angell's death and the claims made about the workplace.
"The passing of Malcolm Angell in May was a traumatic and tragic event for his family, friends and for our team. We mourn his passing and continue to express our deepest condolences to his family," the statement said.
"Technicolor has longstanding and robust anti-harassment policies in place, whistleblower resources, and follows all labour laws.
"We take all complaints that are escalated through our channels very seriously, and thoroughly investigate the allegations and address violations of our policies.
"We did not receive a formal complaint from Malcolm, or from witnesses on his behalf.
When we learned of Malcolm's situation at home, we offered him additional support and resources, including encouraging him to take time off as well as finding and offering to pay for a flight home, which he declined. We had also communicated to him that we would waive the indemnity clause."
The statment said the company would take any claims of a toxic workplace seriously.
"As a company, we are committed to learning about and doing more for mental health."
Ivan Angell said he knew his brother was having a hard time, but had no idea how bad things were.
The London-based Kiwi learned of Angell's death via a phone call from a detective.
He was then told about the earlier suicide attempt, and that Angell had asked police not to tell his family or employer.
"Malcolm was obviously in a dark place when he took his life," Ivan Angell said today.
"Mental health is a complicated issued and I am not saying it's all on his employer. Malcolm had his issues and you're never quite sure with these things.
"But there is so much evidence that his work environment was toxic … that twisted the
Ivan Angell was trying to get more information from Technicolor, who own Mill Films, and the Montreal police about his brother's death.
Specifically, he wants to know who knew about the first suicide attempt and why his brother was back at work two days later, which he said was "ridiculous".
He has spoken to colleagues who said Angell and others were under huge pressure to complete projects - often with little time and resource - and were too scared to speak up against conditions.
"Visual effects is a really hard industry for workers … but they can't talk about it because they are scared they will be black listed," Ivan Angell said.
"There's no union, there's nothing they can do, they just have to get on with it.
"Malcolm mentioned to me how hard he was finding it but he was a really stoic person, he wouldn't elaborate much but he was starting to talk in a way that he felt his career was over."
Ivan Angell made the decision to speak about the suicide because he wanted things to change in the industry his brother worked so hard to be part of.
"There is so much pressure … there is so much of this happening," he said.
"We need to shine a light on it - this is just the start of a conversation. I'm not expecting major changes, I just want people to know.
"We don't know when we watch films, the work that goes in, we don't know how hard it is
and what these people go through.
"All I want is for Malcolm's death not to be in vain, and to help other people - that's all I hope for."
Angell's friend Claire Murdoch penned an obituary for him which his family said was brilliant and summed him up perfectly.
She said he was the "finest of friends to an astonishing number of people" and he lived his life "having as much fun as possible without hurting anyone".
"Mal's superpower was friendship," she said.
"He was gifted not only at making friends and keeping them, but at being a truly good friend, remembered by those closest to him as someone who showed his love and care, rather than talking too much about his feelings — yet always alive to others' emotions, always there for the deep stuff and the quiet times, too."
She said he had an ability to "always find the funny side of things" and a deep commitment to social justice.
He worked hard and others in the industry "loved him for his collegiality, competence and professionalism and appreciated his no-fuss, no-dramas attitude".
"Mally somehow managed to maintain an exquisite sense of humour even — especially — when the going got tough, keeping others sane and focused, not sweating what didn't need sweating, and maintaining deep calm in seas of chaos," she said.
"Making movies isn't for anyone who can't collaborate, learn fast, work hard physically and mentally, meet impossible deadlines and handle frankly insane levels of pressure — and Malcolm thrived," she said.
"Malcolm was never seen for that long without his famous smile or its inevitable companion - like thunder follows lightning - his silly helium laugh.
"It's fair to say nobody ever thought he'd stop laughing."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202
• NATIONAL ANXIETY 24 HR HELPLINE: 0800 269 438