Gdynia Industry – day 3. Report
The third day of industry events at the 46th Polish Film Festival on 22nd September 2021 focused on the topic of ethics and good practice. During the first part of the lecture there was a discussion about the current situation in film and theatre schools, followed up by the summary of previous actions aimed at eliminating any violent behaviour. The second part of the lecture was dedicated to the situation on the film market, where a code of good practice is in the process of being written, and where another code made by an organisation called Women in Film is already in force.
Both parts of the debate were hosted by Błażej Hrapkowicz and the first lecturers were:
dr hab. Milenia Fiedler, PhD, DSc (rector of Lodz Film School), Elżbieta Czaplińska-Mrozek, PhD, DSc, Prof Tit (pro-rector for Branch Affairs in Wroclaw of the National Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow) and Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, PhD, DSc (Student Rights Advocate at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw).
The first speaker was rector Milenia Fiedler, who emphasized that in the artistic school there is no place for discriminatory behaviour, mobbing, nor abuse of power. She added that each complaint, sign or statement should be treated seriously, and the person filing a complaint must be heard out and not treated with disregard. Milenia Fiedler explained that in the last months, the anti-mobbing and anti-violence school committee has received many statements and each of them was the subject of investigation.
In several instances, specific disciplinary proceedings have been initiated. The rector added that the function of the committee is primarily to identify the phenomenon, explain it, and then to mediate and understand the expectations of the victim of abuse. The majority of victims were reporting their cases with the intention to change the entire system and to improve communication and methods of education. Currently, Film School is awaiting the results of sociological studies, which will help obtain a full and objective description of the situation prevailing in every department of the school and the level of safety felt by students. Milenia Fiedler assured that constructive and corrective measures have been launched, and that these had been consulted with the lawyers and specialists in behavioural group dynamics. There are training sessions and workshops for lecturers, and students are being informed even more intensely about their rights, which are described in the school’s code of ethics, and are familiarised with the procedure for filing complaints. The School has a disciplinary advocate and a committee; the former exercises a function analogous to that of a prosecutor, while the latter is the equivalent of a court. Rector emphasized that the committee does not deal with cases in which there has been a violation of legal norms – these should be reported to the prosecutor’s office.
A FIGHT FOR STANDARDS, NOT AN INDUSTRY WAR
A significant challenge that stands before film schools is finding a way for artistic education – which is in itself burdensome, requires working on one’s psyche, emotions, and entering intimate relationships for the purposes of work – that does not result in causing additional burden. The doubts about whether art is worth such a sacrifice is voiced increasingly often by the young generation which has a fresh perspective on the old order.
Milenia Fiedler pointed out that new students are questioning the idea of approaching theatre and film schools like training grounds where they have to prepare for a battle for an artistic career in the industry. She claimed that if we change the school, the reality beyond school will become more professional.
A COMPLAINT IS NOT A DENUNCIATION
Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, PhD, DSc, Student Rights Advocate at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw spoke in a similar tone. The process of reviewing ethical standards there started from the bottom-up – as the advocate put it – as a result of a scandal which happened in 2018. A year later, the first conference regarding the silent issues in theatre schools was held, thanks to which the authorities of the Academy verified their knowledge about the students’ sense of safety. Agata Adamiecka-Sitek added that thanks to international co-operation and the exchange of knowledge with similar institutions in Amsterdam, Paris or Glasgow, the Academy is learning to create a space for their students under its roof which will be safer than before. The advocate pointed out that slow and difficult procedures are not a functional instrument of change. It is necessary to create soft tools that support more formalised procedures, the purpose of which will be to create an institution learning from its mistakes and experiences. Above all, the most important thing is conversation because – as it was noticed in recent months and mentioned in Anna Paliga’s letter – in the theatre and film school community there was no room for talking about violence or uncomfortable situations, and persons reporting abuse or wrongdoing were often accused of “denunciation”. Therefore, the long term goals of the Academy focus on the change in mentality, prevention, and intense education of its personnel.
Agata Adamiecka-Sitek emphasized that extensive sociological research under the supervision of Julia Kubisa and Mikołaj Lewicki is being conducted, thanks to which the School will learn the mechanisms of processes that are often invisible.
An observation was also made during the lecture, that artistic training in Poland is strongly based on the relationship between a master and their student/students and is hierarchical, which in some cases creates room for abuse. At the end of her speech, the advocate reminded that, because of their complexity, changes at the universities will take time, and she stressed how important the atmosphere around the subject of mobbing, violence, harassment, and abuse is in this process – not only in schools, but above all in the society.
A MASTER IS NOT FREE TO DO ANYTHING
The last speaker was Elżbieta Czaplińska-Mrozek, PhD, DSc, ProfTit, pro-rector for Branch Affairs in Wroclaw, representing departments in Krakow, Bytom, and Wroclaw. Referring to previous speeches, she added that at her university a problem had also been identified whereby some educators considered their questionable methods to be the authorial nature of their classes. As stressed by professor Czaplińska-Mrozek, lecturers who are negatively evaluated by the students will be discharged from the Academy. The pro-rector turned the attention to the challenges faced by the victims of abuse – they are afraid to report them, in order not to risk facing difficulties from lecturers standing higher in the hierarchy, who could later make working on the film set or in the theatre harder for them.
The representatives of each school announced that they will consult with each other and share their experiences.
Jerzy Rados from Gdynia Film School added, referring to pro-rector Czaplińska-Mrozek’s speech, that often outstanding filmmakers hired by the universities are unfit to be lecturers, and if the teaching methods they employ with their students are unacceptable, they should not be tolerated.
WHAT IS ALLOWED ON THE SET
In the second part of the lecture titled “The safety and good practice on the Polish market” participated Radosław Śmigulski (PFI), Sławomira Niewiadomska (PFI), Katarzyna Szustow (intimacy coordinator), Renata Czanrkowska-Listoń (RE Studio), Marta Habior (No Sugar Films), Piotr Dzięcioł (Opus Film), and Alicja Grawon-Jaksik (KIPA).
The debate began with a question directed at the director of the PFI regarding the employment status and good practice. Radosław Śmigulski stressed that laws and anti-discriminations code are different from broader regulations of good practice in the audiovisual industry, the goal of which is to support its further professionalisation. He added that the code will be created after conducting broad environmental consultations. An important question in this context – whether the code will be a mandatory or voluntary element of the PFI’s Operational Programmes – came up several times during the debate. Director Śmigulski answered that he will not reward normality.
The legal position was explained by attorney Sławomira Niewiadomska, who stressed that the code of good practice must be widely accepted by the community, in order to avoid a situation where applicants have to accept the provisions without knowing their contents.
She added that the code of good practice which is a part of the funding system is enforced by many other institutes in Europe.
A CATALOGUE OF ISSUES
What stage are the consultations at? Alicja Grawon-Jaksik, president of KIPA, added that the Chamber is participating in an informal working group initiated by Dariusz Jabłoński, president of the Polish Film Academy, to which the guild of directors, documentary directors, screenwriters, and producers were also invited. She added that two types of provisions are to appear in the upcoming code – “soft” ones, that is, those concerning the development of professional relations between different professional groups, and those referring to specific procedures that can be applied in the case of identifying abusive behaviour. She stressed that since the Polish market is subject to self-regulation, there are no standards in many areas, such as the number of work hours on the film set (the exceptions are the rules for child actors). The president of KIPA also addressed the topic of a coordinator dealing with abuse issues on set. She pointed out that there have been cases where the professional was also a member of the board of directors in the producer’s company, which calls into question the effectiveness and transparency of coordination efforts.
According to Mara Habior from No Sugar Films, the catalogue of issues affecting the industry is broad and does not only concern discrimination. She emphasised that the film set and film production in general is a workplace where the atmosphere is primarily created by the director and the producer, and that no code of good practice will relieve them of this responsibility.
Renata Czarnkowska-Listoś , RE Studio’s producer and a representative of the Women in Film association, referred to the example of other countries – in Sweden, for example, a producer must carry out an anti-bullying training before starting production, which usually increases the budget of a film by 10%. She added that Women in Film, not wanting to wait for systemic solutions, have created their own code of good practice, available for all of those who are interested HERE.
Czarnkowska-Listoś also presented a clip produced by Women in Film, which presented the mechanics of abusive behaviour and symbolic power and verbal violence on film sets in a nutshell. As the producer argued, all offensive phrases uttered on screen were documented. You can watch the clip HERE, and the link to additional materials here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfDFihdELHs, https://fb.watch/6RhLMqiCpR/, https://fb.watch/6RhK3pAnuC/, https://fb.watch/6RhQz3FPfM/
RE Studio’s producer added that while developing the code, the existing practices around the world were reviewed, particularly in Scandinavia and the UK – the British code in particular is full of practical solutions. She added that she encourages people to examine their conscience and to start making changes with themselves.
The next speaker was Katarzyna Szustow, a representative of the new profession of intimacy coordinator in Poland, who briefly explained what her job entails – from understanding the director’s vision, analysing the intimate scenes which will be included in the film, through cooperation with the costume department, to talking to the actors and ensuring their psychological safety on set. She stressed that the pace of shooting is not a favourable condition in her work and that she does not undertake intimacy coordination if she is not provided enough time – which is about 3 weeks – before the shooting is scheduled.
Katarzyna Szustow also mentioned a survey that she is currently conducting on a large scale in the film industry which she encouraged all those present to take part in. The collected data will be used to develop a catalogue of guidelines for working on intimate scenes. Here is the link to the anonymous survey: https://www.bezpieczenstwo-film.pl/.
Producer Piotr Dzięcioł referred to the words of the predecessors, assuring that ethical standards on the Opus Film sets are very closely observed, and the lack of employment of intimacy coordinators results only from the lack of relevant scenes in the recently shot material, but the producer or line producer is always present. He added that a good atmosphere on the set is the basis for making a good film, and if he notices a violent or inappropriate behaviour, he reacts to it himself.
The topic of intimacy coordination was also addressed by Marta Habior, who argued that an intimacy coordinator is a professional who is as necessary as a lifeguard during swimming pool shooting, and although actors often do not share how difficult they find shooting intimate scenes, it is the duty of production managers to hire a coordinator who will support them in this aspect of their work.
Renata Czarnkowska-Listoś, who hired an intimacy coordinator Marta Łachacz for RE Studio’s latest film Autumn Girl, added that in her company’s previous productions special regulations were written for the days the scenes containing nudity or erotic scenes were shot. Now we do not have to make it up, we have professionals to take care of this matter.
At the end of the second lecture, it was stressed that it is also important that the professionals are actively reporting abuse, discriminatory behaviour, or any other irregularities such as salary arrears.
Alicja Grawon-Jaksik commented that only one complaint had been submitted to the KIPA and director Śmigulski added that it was the same with the FPI.
Marta Habior argued that she is full of optimism because she sees that the market participants are more and more aware of their rights and that they can ask for help in a difficult situation and decide whether they want to work with someone who has a record of violent behaviour or debts to colleagues. However, bottom-up actions should not replace systemic measures, that is, the code of good practice in the PFI, mentioned at the beginning of the lecture, currently being consulted among the film community.
At the end of the lecture, the representatives of the community sitting in the audience also took their turn to speak. A question from the audience about who to file a complaint to when the perpetrator of violence is the producer was raised. Renata Czarnowska-Listoś referred to solutions from the code created by Women in Film – one should contact the television broadcaster (in the case of a series), the PFI (in the case of a production supported by the Institute), or the arbitration court operating at the KIPA (SARA).
Marta Habior suggested that if there was a witness of inappropriate behaviour, they could file a complaint. The subject of royalties unpaid by producers, who despite not having paid their dues operate under a new banner, was also raised – in this case, the PFI has changed its rules and verifies the status of arrears of the board members of companies applying for grants.
It was pointed out that producers have difficulties with paying on time due to delayed subsidy payments, to which the director of the PFI retorted that a producer is an entrepreneur and cannot make excuses to subcontractors of not having enough money in their account.
During the lecture, the most important challenges faced by the industry were also named, including more frequent reporting of irregularities through formal complaints to institutions such as PFI or KIPA, who are speeding up community consultations regarding the code of good practice and seeking to include the costs of coordinators taking care of ethical standards and safety of intimate scenes on set.
The fourth day of Gdynia Industry, 23rd September, will focus on “Polish Classics Á La Mode”. We would like to invite you to the Omega Room in the Mercure Gdynia Centre between 11 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Photo by Krzysztof Mystkowski / KFP