Magazine article Screen International

Safety at Film Festivals in the Spotlight at This Way Up Conference

Magazine article Screen International

Safety at Film Festivals in the Spotlight at This Way Up Conference

Article excerpt

Does the exhibition industry need a code of practice?

The safeguarding of attendees and workers at film festivals and cultural events was in the spotlight at the 2017 UK exhibition conference This Way Up.

Topics at the event (Nov 7-8) included diversity in the film industry, innovation in exhibition and technological developments such as VR. But the most prominent was the sexual misconduct allegations that have been made against high profile film industry figures, including producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.

Several of the incidents are said to have taken place at film festivals, and that has forced the exhibition industry to question its ability to safeguard its workers and customers. A panel held on This Way Up’s second day attempted to address the topic head-on.

Code of conduct

Hosting the discussion, Melanie Iredale, the deputy director of UK documentary festival Sheffield Doc/Fest, opened proceedings by citing recent reports run in industry press exposing a culture of misconduct at film festivals.

Iredale noted that the nature of these events, with attendees being away from home and enclosed in a festival bubble, led to some people “feeling they can get away with certain behaviours”.

“At Doc/Fest, we have been encouraged to think about what more we can be doing,” Iredale added, “We need to encourage a culture of reporting, and not just the victims - if you see it, say it.”

The session was hosted as a ‘safe space’, with audience members encouraged to participate under anonymity, and one attendee asked if there should be an industry-wide code of practice available to all organisations in the exhibition field.

This could be useful for cinema owners and festivals heads to train their staff, they suggested, and would be more efficient than individual organisations developing their own guidelines.

The panel said that no such code of practice existed at the moment, but Helen Thackeray, events officer of Hull City of Culture 2017, noted that support does exist at local government level for organisations looking for guidance.

“There are people like me in local government across the country who are willing to lend help to film festivals. The doors are always open with our advisory groups,” she said, noting that councils run specific programmes to combat sexual discrimination and harassment.

Another audience member suggested that industry trade body the UK Cinema Association (UKCA) should be inputting on this topic and producing a set of guidelines that its members could follow. …

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