What can we do to make the cinema industry more safe and inclusive?

Posted on March 21, 2018 by Duncan Carson

The ICO is committed to making positive, direct action towards making sure that film is an inclusive, safe environment for everyone. We wanted to make sure that you knew about what we’re doing to address bullying and harassment, which has had renewed focus in recent months. Below you can find some of the resources we’re sharing and commitments we’re making to change.

Quick read: What is being done about bullying and harassment in film?

There are three key parts to this new announcement:

  • Principles: A series of principles developed by the BFI and BAFTA along with many other leading film organisations (including the ICO). These eight principles are aimed at creating a safe environment for work and aimed at stamping out harassment and bullying. Read them on our site here.
  • Guidance: This is practical guidance that lays out what the responsibilities are for employers and employees and how they can make positive change within their organisations. Read them on the BFI’s site here.
  • Phone Support Line: A film and TV support line which will be launched by the Film and Television Charity and backed by The Production Guild and the BFI. You can call the line on 0800 054 00 00. It operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The Film & TV Support Line is run by professionally trained staff with expertise and experience in supporting multiple personal and professional difficulties and is delivered by Connect Assist, a social business with over 10 years’ experience of providing dedicated helplines to charity, third sector and public sector organisations.

In addition, ICO is launching a new code of conduct for our events that reaffirms our commitment to zero tolerance on bullying and harassment.

We’re encouraging everyone in film exhibition to read the principles and guidance and follow them to make active steps to integrate them into our work.

Why does stamping out bullying and harassment matter?

  • Because it makes your workplace a happier, more conscious place. This means your business will be more successful as the widest range of people will feel comfortable and included in your space
  • Because having clear policies makes it easier for everyone to know what is acceptable
  • Because it means you can have a more inclusive workplace and thereby benefit from everyone’s skills
  • Because anyone who receives public funding from the BFI needs to demonstrate a commitment to these standards to receive support
  • If none of that is convincing (and it really should be!), there is a high risk to your organisation where harassment and bullying go unchecked. Employers are liable for the actions of their workers unless they can show they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent any kind of discrimination, bullying or harassment from taking place. If you don’t act, you are legally liable for these problems.

To be clear, film is not the only industry with challenges around harassment. Half of women and a fifth of men have been harassed at work according to a recent survey. But it’s worth thinking about the specific structural reasons why the problem is more entrenched in film, so that we can think clearly about how to change them.

What is different about film exhibition?

Exhibition organisations can often be small, with no formal HR department or clear staff policies and absent or unclear reporting procedures. Working and socialising often go hand in hand in our industry, and this can create difficult situations when inappropriate behaviour arises. The competition for a limited number of jobs can be intense, and the fear of the consequences for reporting very stifling. Working conditions, including working long hours or solo working (e.g. film festival work), can also add to problems.

It should also be said that since our part of the industry involves the most interaction with the public, this obviously increases the possibility of problems arising at our venues and events.

What is harassment?

Harassment is ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.’

Remember that it’s the effect on the person experiencing the harassment rather than the intention of the bully that counts.

Examples of harassment

  • Innuendo/mockery
  • Patronising manner
  • Use of provocative language
  • Unwanted comments on dress/appearance
  • Unwelcome touching or physical contact
  • Assault/sexual assault
  • Pin-ups and displays of explicit material
  • Denigration of religion or belief

As part of this process, we’re also happy to announce ICO’s new code of conduct for all our events.

ICO’s Code of Conduct

  • We want our events to be fun, inclusive spaces for film professionals. We expect people attending and working at the event to maintain our code of conduct so that it can stay fun and inclusive. Harassment and bullying have no place at ICO events. Be mindful of others’ experience and think before you speak or act, so that everyone has a pleasurable and productive experience.
  • Examples of inappropriate behaviour that contravenes our code of conduct include offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity and religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; aggressive behaviour; inappropriate physical contact and unwelcome sexual attention.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, or someone behaves inappropriately towards you, or you witness something inappropriate, please report it to a member of ICO staff or email info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk. Your complaint will be treated with confidence and discretion. We are happy to help you and can help report inappropriate behaviour to the authorities where necessary or address the problem ourselves where more appropriate. We reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone who does not comply with our code of conduct. This code of conduct applies both in person and online. If you would like to speak to an independent organisation about an issue, the Film and TV Charity have a free and confidential helpline available on 0800 054 00 00. It operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

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