Selling Serco: documentary-maker Molly Dineen on why she shot a corporate promo

How do we make our people feel less like shit?” This was one of the most pressing questions for Rupert Soames when he took control of the crisis-ridden outsourcing firm Serco.

The £1.05bn organisation – which runs prisons, air-traffic control hubs, train lines and government defence contracts globally – was in the midst of a “full-blown corporate crisis, and as a company it was widely reviled”, says Soames, who became chief executive in May 2014. Staff morale was extremely low. “We seek to make the world a better place, and then we see all of these headlines: ‘evil’, ‘grasping’, ‘ripping off the taxpayer’,” he adds, suggesting that it was “a bit like if you were a member of a congregation and discovered that your priest had been doing crack cocaine”.

His crisis PR solution was to bring in Bafta award-winning documentary- maker Molly Dineen (described by the Guardian’s Mark Lawson as “the leading film-maker of her generation”), to make an hour-long film about the company – following frontline staff across the world, including trainee prison wardens, employment coaches, hospital porters, tugboat captains and asylum support officers at work.

Unfortunately, the only way to see her new film is to join Serco’s 100,000-strong workforce, because the exercise was purely designed to boost staff members’ self-esteem and will not be broadcast more widely – but a small screening was held for staff and investors last week. The film clearly does an excellent job of showcasing the handful of Serco employees who appear as humane and thoughtful people; it made the audience laugh and was unexpectedly moving. Less clear is why such a respected, independent film-maker took Serco’s commission...


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