An air conditioner hums.




Daytime. A woman (NICOLA) stands alone in an office building. A table and chairs sit in front of her. A city can be seen in the background through floor-to-ceiling windows.



A corporate synth melody cues the film’s title.


The film’s title, BAD NEWS, appears over the frame.



GILLIAN (O.S.): Morning.


NICOLA: Can you come in, grab a seat, and write yourself out a name badge.



GILLIAN, a blonde woman carrying a briefcase, crosses the frame and starts to write out her name badge.


GILLIAN: Just my first name?





GILLIAN writes out her name badge.


GILLIAN’s square squeaks across the floor.




GILLIAN sits down at the table as ANTONIO enters and writes out his name badge.





NICOLA: Come on in.



ROBERT enters and crosses, briefcase and coat in hand.


ANTONIO: Is that legible?


GILLIAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.





ROBERT writes out his name badge as ANTONIO sits next to GILLIAN. They inspect one another’s name badges.



NICOLA: So good morning and welcome to everybody. My name's NICOLA Gardner. To tell you a little bit about myself, I'm an actor/facilitator. I've got extensive experience in devising, delivering training programs. I've also acted in quite a few mainstream TV programmes like Coronation Street, Emmerdale, and The Royal.


All three participants now sit around the table: GILLIAN and ANTONIO on one side, ROBERT on the other. NICOLA stands in front of them. An easel with paper stands behind her, against the cityscape. GILLIAN latterly appears impressed by NICOLA’s screen credits.



NICOLA: This afternoon, we're going to have a session that deals with delivering bad news. EACH in turn will have a go at sacking me.




NICOLA: Yeah, please make notes. So you’re going to be asked to come up with your absolute most feared reaction to sacking somebody. The absolute worst case scenario you could come up with. And then I will enact that.



The participants sit around the table listening to NICOLA, who stands in front of them.


They react with visible surprise and apprehension to the brief.



NICOLA: So I just ask you just to get to your feet and give yourselves a good shake out. That’s all we’re going to do for an energiser. So shake yourselves, your hands, your legs, everything. That’s it – come on, ROBERT.



The participants stand and shake their limbs and hands per NICOLA’s instructions. She prods a shy and reluctant ROBERT to engage.


NICOLA: That's it, brilliant. Okay, you're all looking a lot more relaxed. So what I want you to do is to think about a situation. You can come up with any situation. Who are you? You need to think about that. You’re gonna be sacking me so who am I within the organisation?





The participants sit down. Some—notably ROBERT—appear less relaxed than others.



NICOLA: Why are you sacking a person? I made a few notes for you. What’s your worst case scenario to someone being sacked? Is it someone crying? Is it aggression? Is it someone trying to barter? Is it someone begging you for their job? We want you to think about the worst case scenario for you. And how you would react to that. So you need to think about your own behaviour. Any questions about anything we are going to do this afternoon.



NICOLA continues, gesturing to her easel with notes on it.



GILLIAN: If we’re struggling, how are we going to –


ANTONIO: Flag it up?


GILLIANL: How do we, can we have a time – do we have a time out or do we a safety –


ANTONIO: A safety?


GILLIAN: A safety word? Will we know at the end of it, who dictates, when –


NICOLA: This is real time. So we will play it out to its conclusion.





GILLIAN: That’s fine then yeah, that’s fine.


GILLIAN hesitantly expresses her reservations to NICOLA.













GILLIAN feigns a wail of panic.




NICOLA: And what we need to find out next, who’s gonna go first? Who would like to go first and get it out of the way?


ROBERT: I’ll go.



The participants rise from their chairs, apprehensive.


NICOLA: Are you going to call me NICOLA?


ROBERT: Umm … yes.




ROBERT: If that’s all right:


NICOLA: Yes, absolutely. So I’ll just go straight into it.



ROBERT and NICOLA sit across the table from one another. GILLIAN and ANTONIO watch from the background, sitting either side of NICOLA’s easel, the city at their backs.





ROBERT: Yes, if you wouldn’t mind taking a seat please.


NICOLA: Right.


ROBERT: Well, I’m just gonna be honest with you NICOLA. We’re going to have to let you go.



Moments later, NICOLA approaches ROBERT and the table, and sits down. GILLIAN and NICOLA watch from their prior positions.





Ominous ambient music rises.


NICOLA: Let me go? Why?


ROBERT: If all of your staff are working remotely on computers, there is – it kind of renders your job … well it’s become a bit outmoded, really.


NICOLA: I can’t be sacked! I’m not okay. No, no, I’m not. It’s been a tremendous shock. I’m not okay at all. I’m very upset. I’m very hurt. This has been a real shock. I just don’t understand!  I’ve done nothing wrong! Are you keeping your job?! I remember when you joined! You came after me! Why are they keeping you and not me?


ROBERT: Well, as I say, it’s nothing to do with merit. It’s to do with changing circumstances. The world has completely changed—


NICOLA: But why are they sacking you and not me?! I can’t understand any of it!



NICOLA appears visibly shocked. Their volume toward one another rises.




NICOLA grow teary and angry. ROBERT increasingly mortified.





NICOLA: Humour again?


GILLIAN: Oh my god. It’s so –


NICOLA (to ROBERT): Okay well done. Very well done.



Moments later. A chair drags across the floor as NICOLA sits back down with the participants. All four of them laugh nervously.



ANTONIO (to NICOLA): You’ve been in charge of IT systems within the company.


NICOLA: And are you mine line manager? This is why you—


ANTONIO: That’s my job, yeah that’s my job.


NICOLA: Okay. Well like before, I’ll walk into it.




Moments later. NICOLA and ANTONIO sit down and square off on either side of the table. GILLIAN and ROBERT watch in the background, easel between them, city at their backs.



NICOLA rises from her chair and walks off.


NICOLA: Antonio, hi.


ANTONIO: Yes, please take a seat.


NICOLA: Thanks.


ANTONIO: Okay, so I’m gonna be absolutely direct. I think you deserve absolute honesty at this point. We received your report. I’ve spoken extensively with the board, the trustees, CEO and so on, and I’m afraid there’s no choice and your employment is being terminated immediately. Obviously because of the sensitivity of your role, you’re not now able to return to your computer terminal or to take anything from the building. I hope you understand.


NICOLA: I don’t understand –


ANTONIO: Please let me finish. You must understand that this is –


NICOLA: Why should I let you finish? You’ve just given me really devastating news.


ANTONIO: I appreciate that, however: are you or are you not the head of IT systems.


NICOLA: If I go, you go. Are you not my immediate line manager?!


ANTONIO: Absolutely, so it’s my responsibility now to terminate your employment on behalf of the company –


NICOLA: I had to get a co-signer. And that co-signer was you!


ANTONIO: You’re note allowing me to speak –


NICOLA: Who wants to hear what you have to say?!


ANTONIO: Well, clearly not you so I will inform security within the next, within the next five minutes, you will leave the building.


NICOLA: What you gonna do, get security?


ANTONIO: If necessary, yes.


NICOLA: Well I’ll call security on you.


ANTONIO: That’s fine.


NICOLA: I tell you what if I go, you’re going. Good luck Antonio, and thanks for nothing. Ta-ta. See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.




Moments later NICOLA approaches ANTONIO at the table sits down as GILLIAN and ROBERT watch from the side.



ANTONIO rushes through his official pablum as NICOLA grows increasingly shocked and angry



















NICOLA points a finger at ANTONIO.













In the background, GILLIAN and ROBERT are finding it hard to suppress giggles.






GILLIAN laughs.




Nicola rises from the table and exits as all participants burst out in laughter.


NICOLA: Was I a bit hard?


ANTONIO: No, no, no no.


GILLIAN: That’s great.



GILLIAN laughs as NICOLA re-approaches the group and wipes her mouth with a tissue.


MICHAEL: Do people get remotely sacked these days?


GILLIAN: Oh, I would imagine so.


ANTONIO: Yeah they sack loads of people by text.




MICHAEL: Really?


ANTONIO: Oh yeah.


GILLIAN: Shocking.



The three participants stand around a side table, making and drinking teas and coffees.



NICOLA: Who am I, Nicola again?


GILLIAN: Nicola will do, yeah.


NICOLA: Let me go out and come in.

Moments later. NICOLA and GILLIAN sit either side of the table.




Nicola starts to rise from the table.



GILLIAN: Oh, dear me, dear me.


Gillian frets alone at the table, rubbing her hands. She hums a nervous note.



NICOLA: Gillian, you wanted to see me.


GILLIAN: Hiya, Nicola.




GILLIAN: Thanks for coming, take a seat.


NICOLA approaches GILLIAN at the table. The third roleplay begins.





NICOLA sits down at the table opposite GILLIAN.


NICOLA: I like that dress. Suits you.


GILLIAN: Thank you. Thank you very much Nicola. And, well, like I say: thank you for coming in today.


NICOLA: It’s all right.


GILLIAN: Nice to see ya, and, as you know, we’ve been checking on finances and your role within the department will not be available anymore.


NICOLA: Oh, am I going to do something else?


GILLIAN: Well, there’s nothing to stop you from moving on from this department, but within this department, that role won’t be available. So unfortunately, that’ means your job will be nore more and unfortunately at this – we’ll have to let you go at this point.  And I’m sure like I mean just because this department is shutting these roles down, it doesn’t mean to say that, you know, dix months’ time, when things start moving forward again, I’m sure new roles will be starting up. I’m positive of it really.


NICOLA: Yeah but will you take me back on? Why would you take me back on if you’re letting –


GILLIAN: Because you’re good at your job. That’s not why you’re going.


NICOLA: Okay. It’s not your fault, is it really. It’s not your fault, I know that.


GILLIAN: I hate to see you like this.


NICOLA: You’ve always been very nice to me.


GILLIAN: Don’t you worry, I’ll be all right.


GILLIAN: Well, I insist on making some sort of little plan going forward, Nicola. Because I don’t want to see you stepping back, because I think you’ve got a good future. You’ve just got to maintain and –


NICOLA: I don’t hold it against you, you know.




NICOLA: Thanks, you’ve been very nice to me.




NICOLA: In the past. I’ll see you again. You take care, all right?


GILLIAN: Okay, bye. Bye bye, Nicola.















Nicola’s shock grows. She sits back.





















Nicola is on the verge of tears.





















NICOLA rises from her table and walks off.



GILLIAN: I’m absolutely ringing her later. I’m absolutely not letting that one go.


ANTONIO: Of course, you are.



GILLIAN tenses, laughs. Absorbs the aftermath of the encounter.


NICOLA: That’s a hard one.


GILLIAN: It is hard because there’s nothing you can do in that situation.


NICOLA: I think you did better than you thought you were going to.


GILLIAN: Yeah. I felt … strange. It felt really strange –


NICOLA: Yeah, but it was quite masterly. You did well. You held it together. Because you could have –


GILLIAN: No, Nicola. Nicola, Nicola. I was like, please stop, don’t, stop. Please let me say this, just let me say this –


NICOLA: You didn’t laugh.


GILLIAN: I didn’t laugh, no.


NICOLA: Which was good.


GILLIAN. And neither did they. Which was even better.


NICOLA: These were, they really didn’t laugh. It was deadly silence from everybody. Where everyone is thinking, oh no. Is this girl gonna go away and commit suicide.


GILLIAN: I know.


NICOLA: Et cetera.




NICOLA: Any other observations?


ROBERT (to GILLIAN): Very calm, and you knew what you had to say. Your warmth was evident, but you didn’t let that guide – let it guide you.


NICOLA: It seemed quite structured, as if you’d made kind a little plan as to how you were gonna do it. So well done.



NICOLA sits back down at the table across from GILLIAN. ROBERT and ANTONIO remain at the side of the table.










GILLIAN laughs and holds her hand out, re-enacting nervousness about NICOLA’S prior state.








NICOLA gestures to ROBERT and ANTONIO.


NICOLA: So what I’d like you to do is have a little think. You don’t have to come out with it straightaway. I want you to spend a few minutes in reflection. And your responses from 1 to 10. 10 being absolutely excellent in terms leadership, accountability, empathy. 1 being pants. That you were rubbish at it. So have a really good think. Does everybody understand what we’re doing?


ANTONIO: I think so, yeah.





Moments later. Participants drag chairs across the floor and return to their original positions around the table. Nicola stands at the front and previews the next step of the process, intermittently gesturing to the easel.


The participants at Nicola’s ‘pants’ line.



The air conditioner hums in the background.




Participants work at the table. Nicola sits at the table. Watches them.




GILLIAN: Right, so I’ve said I can carry myself and hand difficult situations better than I thought. I recognise accountability in a different way. It can be about taking responsibility and ownership rather than taking the blame. And I am an empathetic person and that can be channeled in a strong way. And it’s quality, not a weakness.


NICOLA: Lovely. Fantastic.



Moments later. GILLIAN stands at the table and reads her self-assessment as NICOLA and the others listen from their chairs.


A graduation-themed organ tune rises in the background.



NICOLA: In conclusion, what I’d like to do … I’d like to give you each a certificate of participation.


GILLIAN: Oh, lovely. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.


NICOLA: Because you’ve done so well.


ANTONIO: Thank you very much.


NICOLA: And I’d like you to go away with something that will get you to remember the day.




ANTONIO: Great, thank you very much indeed.


ROBERT: Now let’s go out and sack everybody.


ANTONIO: You’re sacked! At the bus stop: you’re sacked!


ROBERT: You’re pre-sacked!


GILLIAN: I’ve got a certificate to say I can do it now. Just put that on the wall and point it out. When anyone comes to the office now. ‘I’d just like to reference you to my certificate’.



Moments later. The three participants sit at the table as NICOLA hands out certificates of participation.















Everyone laughs at Robert’s joke as the participants start packing up.






Everyone laughs at Gillian’s joke.


ROBERT (V.O.): I’ll use my empathy to avoid a fight.


NICOLA (V.O.) So I hope you all enjoyed it. And I hope our paths cross in the future.


ANTONIO (V.O.): Yes.


ROBERT (V.O.): Cheers.


Cut to black, with a corporate synth tune over credits.


Everyone laughs at Robert’s joke.