Gdynia Industry: summary of the 3rd day | 15th September
LABOUR MARKET REGULATIONS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
The third day of discussions on industry topics at Gdynia Industry was largely concerned with working conditions and the changes expected by the community in this area. During the first part of the day, representatives of various film professions discussed the need for systemic solutions to regulate working time on film sets and support for filmmakers who decide to become parents. Repeatedly during the interviews, it was recognized that although working in film is passionate and fun, it takes place in chaotic, unprofessional conditions, at the expense of the professionals’ rest and private lives. It was pointed out that the work of some divisions – including the costume and make-up departments – can take several hours for several days in a row, and that support for a filmmaker with a young child or children is most often the result of the producer’s goodwill. Or the lack thereof.
Jan P. Matuszyński called the film labour market something between a “parochial and a group of enthusiasts. We have a lot of work to do, but meetings and conversations like this make it move,” he added. It was pointed out that poor working conditions also result from a preparation period that is too short or not thorough enough.
Radosław Śmigulski, director of the Polish Film Institute, who was present at the first of the panels, encouraged the industry to propose solutions – not just signal problems – so that the Institute could include them in operational programmes. In turn, the discussion on labour market regulations was concluded with the presentation of a model preliminary agreement on working time on a film set and mandatory minimum daily and weekly breaks. The importance of these topics for the industry was evidenced by the large turnout during Thursday’s discussions.
PARENTING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
The first panel, moderated by Patrycja Wanat, featured director Barbara Białowąs, a member of the Polish Female Filmmakers Association, scientist, researcher and animation director Hanna Margolis, producer and member of the Producers Guild of Poland KubaKosma, cinematographer Witold Płóciennik, representing the Filmmakers Union, and PFI director Radosław Śmigulski. The topic was ‘Parenting in the film industry’.
Director Śmigulski began by emphasising that both the Polish Film Institute and himself are “in favour of the Polish market moving towards professionalisation and standardisation also in terms of employee rights”. He went on to add that a solution must be proposed and he is counting on proposals from the community. “My experience is that if you go to politicians with a problem without a solution, they will not deal with it […] You have to come with a solution, paragraphs and articles,” added the director of the Institute.
Barbara Białowąs noted that the film industry lacks regulation and support for women and men who have children. “Compared to anyone who has a full-time job, we are outside the system. We hear that you have to hide [that you have] children because you might lose your job, or that you don’t have time availability, which often hurts women,” the filmmaker noted, and added that the Polish Female Filmmakers Association is often contacted by filmmakers who are pregnant or have young children and are told that, unfortunately, systemically they are not entitled to any support. Barbara Białowąs also made the first demand – that the cost of childcare for the film crew during production should be recognised as an eligible cost.
Hanna Margolis presented the results of a survey of the artistic community conducted by the SWPS University. It shows that as many as 78% of artists do not have children; 13% have one child, 8% have two children and 1% have three children. It should be added here that not only filmmakers, but all Polish artists were surveyed, including, for example, folk artists – a total of around 60,000 people. Hanna Margolis added that there are 4,000 filmmakers and the group is dominated by people between 20 and 39 years of age. The predominant form of employment is a contract for specific work, which means that health insurance has to be paid independently; and if filmmakers have a sole proprietorship, they are treated by ZUS as other entrepreneurs.Research by SWPS University also shows that the average salary for a male filmmaker is PLN 5,000 and is PLN 2,000 higher than the average salary for a woman in the same industry. “Artists are surrounded by a nimbus of fame and wealth, and only 8 per cent of them earn more than PLN 85,000 a year,” the researcher added.
Cinematographer Witold Płóciennik shed light on another aspect of working in the film profession. He stressed that while a director or a production designer make one or two films a year, a cameraman, a wardrobe assistant or a second make-up artist move from set to set, where work is often postponed or prolonged, making non-work life difficult, negatively affecting family life and making it difficult or impossible to make plans such as a joint holiday. “We live in temporariness, we decide on a lot at the last minute,” said Witold Plóciennik. KubaKosma addressed the topic – he stressed that the Producers Guild of Poland, together with the Filmmakers Union, are trying to develop standards to balance work and private life, of which parenthood is an important part. “Just on the issue of parenthood, this is the beginning of a conversation, we declare [as PGP] that we will get involved, look for solutions that will take into account the specifics of work and being a parent.” Kuba Kosma, a working young father, added that systemic childcare support on set would help everyone. “In the same way, pets are welcome on set – it’s nice when you can work in a family atmosphere. The self-esteem of the people involved translates onto [the effect on] the screen. This could be one of those activities that will improve films,” the producer concluded.
Barbara Białowąs added that the solutions for supporting filmmakers’ parents can vary – some prefer their children to be off set, even if there is overtime at work. It is important, the filmmaker stressed, that there is financial support and that “most of the money I make does not go to the nanny”.
Sitting on the audience’s side, director Kinga Debska encouraged women in need of support to take the initiative, to ask, if only for longer breaks. She added that by talking about needs, the market will be normalised. Producer Natalia Grzegorzek, president of PGP, added that from her point of view, the filmmaker-parent is a valuable employee – they are quick, efficient and have their time well organised. “This [producer] approach is ideal. You can’t imagine a better one, but it’s not the standard,” responded Barbara Białowąs. She added that parenting is perceived differently because of gender – female mothers are not offered jobs so that they can have peace of mind because “they have a small child”, while male fathers, on the contrary, “need to be helped so that he has a job because he has a small child”. This part of the conversation concluded that regulations are needed to support working parents, because at the moment the solutions are only ad hoc and discretionary. Kuba Kosma added that at the moment it is easier to organise support for a key filmmaker in a film, and it should be given systemically to everyone, “so that it doesn’t work hierarchically”.
Producer and lecturer Kamil Przełęcki, who was part of the audience, provided information on where this cost – such as childcare – could be entered in the cost estimate – under item 10-11-9-4. He suggested looking for a solution similar to incentives; an ex-post fund to refinance these specific expenses. The suggestion was made in view of the realities of working in film production, where items in the cost estimate often have to be dropped or reduced. “It’s always going to be something for something – an RV or a shooting day,” was the example he gave. Producer Katarzyna Sarnecka spoke out against the dedicated fund – she saw it as throwing filmmaker parents out of the picture, while a situation where parenting is supported should be normal.
REGULATION OF WORKING TIME IN THE FILM INDUSTRY
The second major topic discussed by practitioners was working time – above all its poor organisation. The conversation, again moderated by Patrycja Wanat, included: Witold Płóciennik, Kuba Kosma, costume designer Dorota Roqueplo, producer Stanisław Zaborowski representing KIPA on the panel, president of the Producers Guild of Poland Natalia Grzegorzek, director and member of the Directors Guild of Poland Jan P. Matuszyński, make-up artist Aneta Brzozowska and Kamil Przełęcki.
In his introduction, Witold Płóciennik explained that the Filmmakers Union was established to take care of the quality of work – “we want to build, not create barriers, but together with directors and crew members work out standards of work, so that we can work better together”. He added that there is no regulation of working hours on film sets. There is only an unwritten environmental agreement that the working day lasts twelve hours with a break after six hours, and there are “theoretically” six working days in a week. “In many situations this is exceeded” emphasised Witold Plóciennik. “This is mostly not the case for productions that are here at the festival or [their producers] are not PGP or KIPA members, but independent producers, and it comes to a situation where crews have 100 overtime hours during a feature film. And that’s what we want to regulate, to stigmatise, to say out loud that we don’t want to work like that.” He added that the basic condition for change to start with is that the preparation period should be done properly – so that the plan is really well prepared.
The results of a survey conducted among 437 filmmakers were then presented. When asked what changes they most wanted, they listed the protection of working conditions first, followed by health and safety, the setting of minimum wages, group insurance, training to improve skills, and the timeliness of wage payments. The postulated changes in working conditions themselves concern the reduction of overtime and the introduction of free Sundays. The proposals for change appeared in the filmed work regulations, which were presented a few months ago at an industry conference in Serock. Witold Płóciennik stressed several times that overtime is the biggest problem, sometimes reaching 4-5 hours every day. The ZZF calls for their daily limit to be 2 hours and the weekly limit to be 5 hours per day.
During the discussion, it was reported that on foreign film sets, especially in Western Europe and the UK, overtime is kept to a minimum because the rate for it is so high that it means massive extra costs for production. Dorota Roqueplo cited the French plan as an example, where the overtime rate can be equal to a week’s pay. In other countries, the ‘allowance’ for each successive overtime increases – for the first it is an additional 25% of the rate, and for subsequent overtime it can reach 50% of the day’s pay. It was added that extreme and abusive situations are to be stigmatised, as occasional overtime due to random cases and sometimes due to an overestimation of the production capacity of a scene is simply part of the job. The subject of accounting for overtime was also raised with crew members who are employed on the basis of a performance contract – this form does not provide for additional remuneration for extra working time. “We are then looking for the triggers,” remarked a person from the audience who raised this topic. Witold Plóciennik added that the majority of creatives work on a B2B basis, a few enter into a work contract with the production and their overtime is billed as ‘extra work’.
Kamil Przełęcki took this opportunity to emphasise the importance of creating realistic work plans – if a film requires 33 days of shooting and the production can only afford 27, then the number of scenes or expectations regarding their realisation need to be reduced. Jan P. Matuszyński also diagnosed that the excessive number of hours is the result of a “forcibly pushed calendar”. A smaller budget means that scenes have to be reduced, and it is better to do this in the final draftee than in the final cut,” argued Kamil Przełęcki, adding that at the Gdynia Film School he teaches directors to work with calendars. This is to make them more aware of what the planning of the work looks like and what the realisation constraints are. He also gave a model work plan of shooting three pages of script per day, and a working rhythm: 5-6-5-6 (shooting days) in a period of 33 days, or four weeks.”It’s important for the filmmakers to understand that we are moving within a certain [financial] framework and to work out solutions together,” added Kuba Kosma. “And sometimes they would responsibly answer questions during the preparation period about whether we can afford to realise the scene in a broad way, rather than recognising that somehow it will fit. Because it usually turns out that the paper accepted it and the reality is different. And we all pay [the price] for that,” added the producer.
The panellists repeatedly stressed that overtime does not only generate financial costs, above all it imprints on the form and disposition of the team. “We care about the quality of the work, and it comes from the well rested mind. It is difficult to keep it if you sleep for two hours a day,” stressed Kuba Kosma. “The key is to improve standards together.”An important part of the talk was to showcase the perspectives of male and female employees of different film professions. Dorota Roqueplo and Aneta Brzozowska pointed out that it is their divisions that tend to have the most overtime. This is because it is often the costumes and make-up that come first on set, when a group of one hundred or two hundred extras have to be prepared for shooting, and at the end of the day they have to undress them and sort out the costumes. “We are left with eight, seven hours to recover. The quality of work drops the next day,” Dorota Roqueplo stressed. “We all love cinema, but we can’t have the fun taken away all the time,” she added. Aneta Brzozowska pointed out that the challenge in the beauty divisions is not only the overtime, but also the fact that the days needed for preparation – such as fitting, preparing things, or rearranging them – are not built into the shooting period. “Sometimes we work 10 days in a row for 15-16 hours at a time,” added the make-up artist. She suggested that the division should employ more people who can work on a rotational basis, although, she cautioned, she is aware that this generates additional costs. “It has to be assessed what is cheaper: overtime or rotation,” Kamil Przełęcki added.
Dorota Roqueplo added that there have been times when she had to do a costume rehearsal on the day of shooting, and although she did it “with a smile on her face, it is tedious and dangerous”. She added that often a day off for the rest of the crew means another day of rehearsal or preparation work for them. Aneta Brzozowska called for a longer preparation period and an analysis of the calendar, which would allow her to predict on which days there is a greater workload and therefore to prepare more effectively for the set. “Calendaring has to be a consensus” noted Natalia Grzegorzek.
The necessity of a well-conducted prep was pointed out by Jan P. Matuszyński, naming the dangers that delays or overtime later generate on the set: costume rehearsals done for 200 specific extras, of which 50 work on the set later, and 150 are new; failure to inform the sound engineer that the shooting is taking place by the highway, or lack of locations. The director also pointed out that there was a lack of reading scripts together during the preparation period, as well as the crew’s analysis of the calendar. During these meetings, he noted, the challenges of the work plan can be diagnosed, but also ways to make savings can be found. He stressed that overtime and work overload also affect the production division, not just the crew members working on set. Natalia Grzegorzek pointed out that the postulated changes generate costs and “there are solutions that can offset them, or entities that can finance them”. She defined, in passing, working in production as taking care of the entire film ecosystem, including the costs and funding structure.
These voices were important in that they highlighted that producers belonging to PGP or KIPA are advocates of raising the quality of work, not opponents of it.
The panel also presented a solution used in the UK to shorten the shooting day with a one-hour lunch break. The crew dines during individual breaks. “The organisation of the [lunch] break is an important topic,” Jan P. Matuszyński complemented. “A lot of time is wasted, it should not be the case that everyone has a break at the same time.”
The discussion ended with the presentation of a draft draft agreement of working conditions, which calls for an 11-hour daily break (between consecutive working days) and a 35-hour weekly break (between working weeks). Over the coming weeks and months, the draft agreement is to be read and analysed by the industry, with the final document expected to be signed during next year’s festival in Gdynia.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF INTIMATE SCENES
The discussion on labour market regulations was complemented by two speeches. The first concerned the ‘Recommendations for the production of intimate scenes for Polish film sets’ developed by the Coalition of Film Organisations. Taking part in the presentation of this document were certified intimate scenes coordinator Katarzyna Szustow, casting director Paulina Krajnik, actor Konrad Michalak representing the Polish Actors Union and Natalia Grzegorzek.
Katarzyna Szustow presented the results of research on the production of intimate scenes. As it turned out, 4 out of 5 actors do not feel safe during their performance, 58% do not have the chance to participate in rehearsals, and 74% of the industry representatives surveyed believe that it is necessary to develop standards for working with nudity. A source of further statistics and in-depth information on on-set safety is a free online report prepared by the Szustow agency. Communication and Culture, and subsidised by the PFI: https://bezpieczenstwo-film.pl/pobierz-raport/.Natalia Grzegorzek emphasised that the coordination of intimate scenes is a novelty, while knowledge on the subject is easily and quickly available, making it easier to implement new standards. “Instead of playing Chinese whispers, production managers and directors can download the report,” she added. Paulina Krajnik, on the other hand, noted that intimate scenes are not only those that contain sequences of simulated sex, but also scenes of violence or drinking alcohol. She also warned against castings whose organisers ask for material containing nudity – no one has the right to demand such content from actors. She also urged actors not to make a decision to take part in a film containing nudity scenes on the spur of the moment, without thinking it through. “Actors often come to work with the vision that they have to bare, and this is not true,” the casting director added.Another important point was stressed by Konrad Michalak – recommendations for the execution of intimate scenes help to ensure actors’ psychological comfort and safety, rather than simply reacting to pathological behaviour in the industry.
The full content of the document ‘Recommendations for the Production of Intimate Scenes for Polish Film Sets’ is available at Bezpieczeństwo na planie filmowym (bezpieczenstwo-film.pl).
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES – THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN POLISH CINEMA
The final element of the discussion on regulation and change in the industry has brought some optimism in terms of talk of greater female participation in the industry. Although the disparity in the number of films produced is still considerable, it is slowly narrowing. Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik, who presented the report, said that the change is also a result of activities such as the fight for quotas in selection or expert committees and the ’50/50 in 2020′ campaign conducted a few years ago – also at the Gdynia Film Festival.
A report compiled by Box Office Lab entitled ‘Equal Opportunities’ included data from productions between 2017 and 2022. It shows that, on average, 20% of films are made by women, although the situation varied from year to year. The highest number, 28% of films directed by women, was in 2018. In 2021 – 27%.
For comparison: in Europe, this proportion is 23%, and in Sweden, which is pioneering in this respect, it is 39%. Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik also presented the share of women in the film professions – the highest number is among costume designers (92%) and make-up artists (82%), and the lowest among cinematographers and composers (6%).
A huge disparity appears in the attendance of films directed by women, with 54 films from 2017-2022 attracting only 12% of the audience.
Among the data, there was also more optimistic information – female film producers are the professional group in which the gap between men and women is shrinking fastest. There are now 36% female producers, and what is more, they more often work with women; as many as 64% of films produced by women were also directed by them.
Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik recalled that Eurimage has a mechanism in place to support films directed by women – those applying for a grant for such projects can receive a higher level of funding (although the quota threshold remains the same).
The study also examined the proportion of films in the Main Competition at the Gdynia Film Festival, with a total of 99 films shown in 2017-22, of which only 28 were directed by women.
Towards the end of the panel, Tomasz Kolankiewicz, the festival’s artistic director, joined the conversation to emphasise that this year there is a clear predominance of women on the jury: in the Main Competition Jury 5 out of 9 members are female, and in the other juries they make up 100%. It is worth noting that during the third day of the Gdynia Industry events, women were in the majority among the panellists.
The full version of the Equal Opportunities in Cinema in Poland report will be available in October 2022.
Summary prepared by: Ola Salwa