Movie Sets | Harassment complaints are on the rise

Film sets are also feeling the influence of the #metoo movement. In 2021, on-set sexual and psychological harassment allegations increased by 35%, according to the Quebec Alliance of Image and Sound Technicians (AQTIS), local section 514 AIEST.

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Marc Andre Lemieux

Marc Andre Lemieux
The press

Giving women the floor in the fall of 2017 partly explains the social movement (and viral phenomenon) the rise in the number of harassment complaints, which have risen from 20 to 28 over the past year.

“People are better informed,” believes Christian Lemay, chairman of the union that represents 8,000 audiovisual workers. “Today, people are able to see the dynamics of sexual and psychological harassment. They are also more united. When they see wrongdoing, they suggest victims contact their employer. It’s a culture shift happening in our community. »

The same goes for Ghislaine Labelle, Organizational Psychologist, CHRP. The speaker and accredited mediator sees the increase in denunciations as positive. This would not reveal the existence of a more toxic environment than before. On the other hand.

“Before #metoo, people didn’t dare to talk at all,” she says. Today they are coming out of their silence. I’ve seen it in other industries. We see an increase in complaints, then we see how the prevention mechanisms we put in place can clean up the environment. »

According to Ghislaine Labelle, the cultural sector lags behind when it comes to the issue of harassment compared to more “traditional” sectors of activity. Its members had only “reached the stage of being called by name”, i.e. denunciation.

Being workers with precarious status, they believe that it is lost in advance. Most of the time, they are reluctant to report situations of harassment or abuse because they fear the consequences. We must change this belief. You have to show them that they have power.

Ghislaine Labelle, psychologist

A workout

To prevent sexual and psychological harassment in the workplace, AQTIS, local section 514 AIEST, recently established a free training session funded by the Quebec government.

“We want to sensitize our members to the problem of harassment,” says Christian Lemay. We want to make sure they know their rights. »

This training is all the more important given the employment status of the people who enter film sets.

“We’re still a community of freelancers,” emphasizes Christian Lemay. People don’t necessarily want to cause trouble. We are aware of this because we receive complaints of harassment after production is complete. Then it is often too late because we no longer have the investigative tools at our disposal. And when you open an investigation into something that was done months ago, the employer rarely feels concerned.

We emphasize that in training: harassment, you have to deal with it when it happens. It gives the investigation a better chance of success.

Christian Lemay, President of the Quebec Alliance of Image and Sound Technicians (AQTIS), Local Section 514 AIEST

Ghislaine Labelle, who for 25 years has been helping organizations put in place mechanisms that help create healthy, respectful and inclusive work environments, delivers this free training for members of AQTIS, Local Section 514 AIEST.

“We show them how it starts, a harassment situation, what to do, how to assert themselves, what resources they have, how to start an investigation, etc. »

“I could speak”

Véronique’s story is one of 28 denunciations received by AQTIS local section 514 AIEST last year. The stage technician was the victim of an inappropriate gesture from a co-worker while filming a commercial and has filed a sexual harassment complaint.

The facts behind the case date back to June. After lunchtime, the young woman has to move her car and bends down to pick up her keys. Then she feels something on her back. Like someone pulling on something. As soon as she stands up, her Thai pants (which tie with a drawstring front and back) begin to fall off. Véronique turns and sees a male colleague, another technician she has never worked with. She asks him if he just opened his pants. No reaction. She insists, “Why did you do that? »

“He was there to relieve us,” the man replies with a smile.

“I felt sick,” says the technician, met in a café in Montreal. “I felt like a vise was tightening everything. Like a shame that came over me. »

A few minutes later, Véronique unpacks her bag to the production manager, who invites her to go home with no financial penalty. He tells him that if he fires the technician in question, the shooting threatens to be found for lack of a replacement. In the heat of the moment, this explanation satisfies the main interest.

I wasn’t able to insist, ‘No, he’s the one who has to squeak his camp; not me!” But coming to think of it, he was the one who had to go. If he had hit someone, I don’t think they would have kept him. It would have been frowned upon.

Véronique, victim of sexual harassment on the set

Back home, Véronique calls her union to find out her options. After naming the technician, she learns that the man in question has been doing this for years but has never been the subject of an official complaint.

“I was told there were many rumours, but nothing in writing. This was one of the reasons that led me to file a complaint. I wanted there to be a mark on his record. To prevent him from making more sacrifices. »

The complaint was dealt with a few months later. No investigation was conducted as the man had never challenged Véronique’s version.

At the end of the process, Véronique even wrote a letter to the technician in question so he understood what she was doing. “I wanted him to know that there are consequences for his actions, that he can’t do what he wants, and then go to sleep peacefully. I wanted to change the pubic camp. »

This speech helped Véronique a lot. “I did it for me. I could speak. It allowed me to move on. »

Apart from statistics

Not all cases of sexual and psychological harassment lead to a formal complaint.

The example of Ariane (fictional name) illustrates this reality well. In an interview, the stage electro-mechanic, who wishes to remain anonymous because she fears reprisals if she appears in public, tells of the nightmare she experienced in 2021 when she took part in the filming of a television series.

Ariane talks about a relationship that took a disastrous turn after a very professional and “edgy” start. It was a hand on the shoulder, useless one-on-one conversations dragging on, a touch applied during a sound recording while silence – and immobility – was required of the participants, etc.

The situation worsened during a day of shooting outside of Montreal. The day before, Ariane had asked the other members of the group to ensure that she did not start the journey alone with the man in front of the truck.

Once there, his complaints about the stage manager reached the ears of the individual. Isolated, Ariane was forced to deal with the anger of the technician himself, who firmly denied her allegations. After spending several hours under high tension and hearing his cries of defense, the young woman began to believe that she herself was the oppressor. “I didn’t get any support from anyone. The only person who apologized during our conversation was me. I promised to clear his name with those in the know.

“The only person who suffered from this denunciation was me,” she adds.

According to Ariane, the huge labor shortage that hit the television shooting sector last year hasn’t helped her cause. “The harassers felt complete impunity because there were so few technicians that they knew they would never be fired. »

In retrospect, Ariane describes herself as “easy prey”. “I’m quite an introvert. I worked 16 hours a day, I slept little… I was in a weak position. I was in a fragile situation in the industry. I never complained because it was too big. I didn’t want him to lose his job. I wanted him to stop, but I didn’t want him to get scratched off the middle. »

This mishap fundamentally changed Ariane. Shaken, she decided to leave the big sets. Today she prefers smaller productions. “It traumatized me. When you play your seat on every board, it’s hard to express your displeasure. It’s old school. You cash in to show you’re ready to create the next board. If a woman dares to open her mouth, it’s because her ass has really been kicked. »

A way forward

AQTIS 514 AIEST is not the only group educating its members about harassment. The Quebec Media Production Association (AQPM) has also been offering training for a number of years. Since 1ah As of January 1, 2019, the AQPM provides manufacturers with a model anti-harassment policy to be enforced under a law that went into effect on January 1, 2019ah January 2019, must in particular provide for the processing steps for a termination.

Geneviève Leduc, Director of Industrial Relations at AQPM, points out that this procedure was negotiated with AQTIS 514 AIEST, the Union des artistes and the Association of Directors and Directors of Quebec. “The tools we have developed are helpful in the event of complaints,” says Geneviève Leduc. Although Ariane was a victim of workplace harassment last year, she still questions this standardized way of handling this type of situation.

“It’s nice to sign harassment policies, but no one reads what they sign. It does not change anything. It’s no use. That’s bullshit to me. What is really important is that we do a training course. All department heads and all technicians must submit to her,” demands the young woman.

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