BFI: Principles and guidelines to support everyday inclusion

The BFI is leading and guiding the film industry on the issue of inappropriate behaviour by encouraging consideration of systemic power imbalance, not just sexual harassment.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal triggered a sea change in attitudes to bullying and harassment across society but particularly exposed the weaknesses of the film industry in preventing the abuse of power. The nature of the industry – with little job security, no HR functions, and no external regulator – made unwanted behaviours commonplace and easy to flourish.

Taking action from a unique position

As a funder of 10% of all British film production, the British Film Institute (BFI) was in a unique position to offer leadership and guidance on the issue of inappropriate behaviour within the industry. Focusing on the wider systemic power imbalance rather than sexual harassment alone, the Weinstein scandal provided an opportunity for the BFI to collectively address inappropriate behaviour (and all the individual discriminatory behaviours as part of this), rather than discriminating on the grounds of race, sexuality, or disability alone. While there was much goodwill across the sector to address this, with no existing policies in place and regulator of film sets, there was little consistency and understanding of what best practice would be.

BFI and BAFTA work together

To address this, the BFI partnered with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and held roundtables to ensure an industry effort involving key stakeholders, producers and unions could come together and create a set of standardised principles that could be adopted for film projects. Once the principles were finalised it was a requirement for all BFI-funded films to sign up and agree to adhere to the principles and guidelines. The BFI also gave funds to the Film and TV Charity helpline to offer support to those impacted by inappropriate behaviour whilst working on film sets, ensuring the helpline number was signposted whenever possible. The principles also mandated an ‘intimacy coordinator’ to oversee sex and intimate scenes, so actors felt safer and more supported, as well as shooting these scenes through a closed set with fewer people in the room.

Principles adopted by wider industry

As a result, use of the principles has spread further than BFI-funded film sets to impact the industry more generally, being further adopted by television and theatre sets. Further to this, the Film and TV Charity helpline received an exponential increase in calls, though some of this impact can be attributed more broadly to the change in attitudes following the Weinstein scandal.

Living policies to renew every six months

There are many ideas under consideration to further develop the set of principles with a desire for them to be living policies that renew every six months. The reality is that the onus is still on those affected by inappropriate behaviour to phone a helpline and thus a power imbalance remains. An idea under consideration is a feedback survey with a “red or green” flag system, which could be used every week on sets to identify potential problems without a victim having to come forward. Implementing an independent welfare officer on sets is also being considered to offer advice, demand intimacy coordinators, or be able to call upon union support.

Inspired to take action?

If you have been inspired by the BFI’s journey to greater workplace respect and inclusion, find out how BITC can support you to take action.