Nova Scotia

Local film industry working on sexual harassment policy

The film and television industry in Atlantic Canada is working on creating a code of conduct to better deal with sexual harassment, according to Jan Miller, the founding chair of the non-profit Women in Film and Television Atlantic.

From funding models to reporting apps, industry hopes to define and tackle sexual harassment

Jan Miller heads the non-profit Women in Film and Television Atlantic (WIFT-AT), and Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley runs workshops on healthier workplaces. The two say while the film and television industry has become the focus of discussions on sexual harassment, the issue spans across all workplaces. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

The film and television industry in Atlantic Canada is working on creating a code of conduct to better deal with sexual harassment and bullying, according to Jan Miller, the founding chair of the non-profit Women in Film and Television Atlantic.

Miller said while different unions representing actors and crew have their own policies, many people who work in the industry in the region aren't covered.

"A lot of people work outside of the unions," she said. "We want to establish a clear code of conduct that people can sign on to."

Sexual harassment in the film industry has been at the forefront of discussion in recent months, with social media movements like #MeToo and Times Up, a growing movement in Hollywood to put an end to sexual harassment and assault in the industry.

Miller said while those in Canada are working locally and nationally on spelling out what sexual harassment is, the challenge is creating a safe way for people to report it.

"One of the challenges I think we're all feeling is, if someone comes to us, what do we do then? Obviously we can potentially change the environment where the person is working, but really what kind of support can we offer them?" she said.

"We're looking for universal guidelines for each of us to adapt to our situation."

Reporting harassment through app

Miller says one idea being discussed is creating an app that people could use to report harassment while on set.

While working in the industry requires some actors to get physically close with one another, Miller said there's a misconception this is where sexual harassment usually occurs.

She says on set, rules are spelled out around kissing and touching.

"There are very clear lines. What we're talking about what happens outside what happens on the set."

Defining sexual harassment

Defining what sexual harassment is and how it will be dealt with is key to making sure it doesn't happen, according to Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley, a clinical psychologist who leads workshops on creating healthier workplaces.

Lee-Baggley was part of a workshop held this weekend in Halifax for women in the film and television industry.

"If you don't have clear policies and you're not enforcing those policies clearly, that gives more opportunity for sexual harassment to happen," she said.

While the stories of sexual harassment in the workplace aren't new, the discussions around it are changing, she said.

A problem outside film industry

"I think its clear from #MeToo that these kinds of problems are happening in every industry," she said. "What really strikes me always is how common the experiences are."

"People across a number of different industries encounter these difficulties. And they all experience it similarly. They wonder if they've done something wrong, they're wondering if they can change the situation," she said.

Miller says by discussing how to improve sexual harassment in this industry, it will also open up discussion in other workplaces.

"There's no difference in the screen industry. The reason we're getting the attention is we have the cameras, and we're comfortable speaking in the public," Miller adds.

"We're taking advantage of the cameras and the radios to say things have to change."

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca