Movie sets Complaints of harassment are on the rise

Movie sets are also feeling the impact of the #metoo movement. In 2021, denunciations of sexual and psychological harassment in the square increased by 35%, according to the Alliance of Image and Sound Technicians in Quebec (AQTIS), local section 514 AIEST.

Posted at 06:00.

Marc-Andre Lemieux

Marc-Andre Lemieux

Releasing women to speak in the fall of 2017, the social movement (and viral phenomenon) partly explains the increase in the number of harassment complaints, which increased from 20 to 28 last year.

“People are more informed,” believes Christian Lemay, president of the union, which represents 8,000 audiovisual workers. “Today, people are able to recognize the dynamics of sexual and psychological harassment. They are also more united. When they see misconduct, they suggest that victims turn to their employer. It is a cultural change that is happening in our community. »

Same story with Ghislaine Labelle, organizational psychologist, CHRP. The accredited speaker and mediator perceives positively the increase in the number of denunciations. This would not reveal the existence of a more toxic environment than before. In opposite.

“Before #metoo, people did not dare to speak at all,” she said. Today they emerge from their silence. I have experienced it in other sectors. We observe an increase in complaints, then see how the preventive mechanisms we have put in place can clean up the environment. »

According to Ghislaine Labelle, on the issue of bullying, the cultural sector has lagged behind compared to the more “traditional” areas of activity. Its members would have reached only the “stage of naming a shovel with a shovel,” that is, of denunciation.

Being employees with insecure status, they believe he is lost in advance. Most of the time, they are reluctant to report harassment or abuse situations because they fear the consequences. We need to change that belief. You have to show them that they have power.

Ghislaine Labelle, psychologist

A training

To prevent sexual and psychological harassment in the workplace, AQTIS, local section 514 AIEST, recently established free training, conducted with the financial support of the Government of Quebec.

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

This training is even more important because of the employment status of people walking around movie theaters.

“We are still a community of freelance translators,” says Christian Lemay. People do not necessarily want to cause trouble. We understand this because we receive complaints of harassment once production is complete. Until then it is often too late because investigative tools are no longer available to us. And when you open an investigation into something that was done months ago, the employer rarely feels anxious.

This is what we emphasize in training: bullying, you have to face when it happens. It gives the investigation a better chance of success.

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

Ghislaine Labelle, which has supported organizations for 25 years in setting up mechanisms that help create healthy, respectful and inclusive work environments, provides this free training to AQTIS members, local section 514 AIEST.

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

“I was able to speak”

The Véronique story is one of 28 denunciations received last year by the local AQTIS 514 AIEST section. Victim of an inappropriate gesture by a colleague at work while shooting an advertisement, the stage technician has made the denunciation for sexual harassment.

The facts after the case date back to June. After having to move her car after lunch, the young woman bends down to get her keys. Then she feels something in her back. As if someone was pulling something. As soon as she gets up, her Thai pants (which are tied forward and back with a cord) start to fall off. Véronique turns and sees a male colleague, another technician he has never worked with. She asks him if he had just taken off his pants. No reaction. She insists: “Why did you do that? »

“It was there to break up,” the man replies with a laugh.

“I felt bad,” says the technician, who met at a café in Montreal. “I felt like a vice was squeezing everything. Like a shame that gripped me. »

A few minutes later, Véronique opens the bag to the production manager, who invites him to go home without financial penalty. He tells her that if she fires the technician in question, filming risks being interrupted, for lack of finding a replacement. In the heat of the moment, this explanation satisfies the main stakeholder.

I was not able to insist, saying, “No, he’s the one who has to shout his camp; not me! “But when I think about it, he was the one who had to leave. If he had hit someone, I do not think they would have held him. It would have been disgusting.

Véronique, victim of sexual harassment in a set

After returning home, Véronique calls her union to discover her options. After appointing the technician, she realizes that the man in question has been doing this kind of work for years, but that he has never been the subject of a formal complaint.

“I was told that there were many rumors, but nothing in writing. This is one of the reasons why I had to file a complaint. I wanted to have a mark on his file. To prevent him from making other victims. »

The complaint was processed several months later. No investigation was conducted as the man never disputed Véronique’s version.

At the end of the process, Véronique even wrote a letter to the technician in question, so that he would understand her approach. “I wanted him to know that his actions have consequences, that he can not do what he wants and go to sleep peacefully afterwards. I wanted to change the camp of shame. »

This speech helped Véroniquen a lot. “I did it for me. I could talk. He allowed me to continue. »

In addition to statistics

Not all cases of sexual and psychological harassment result in the filing of a formal complaint.

The example of Ariana (fictitious name) illustrates this reality well. In an interview, this electro-machinist in filming, who wants to maintain her anonymity because she fears revenge if she appears in public, recounts the nightmare she experienced in 2021, while participating in the filming of a TV series.

Ariane talks about a relationship which after a very professional and “square” start, took a harmful path. It was a hand on the shoulder, useless head-to-head crawling, a touch exercised during an audio recording, while requiring complete silence – and immobility – of the participants, and so on.

The situation worsened during a day of filming outside Montreal. The day before, Ariane had asked other members of the group to make sure she did not make the trip to the front of the truck, alone with the man in question.

Once there, his complaints reached the individual’s ear, through the stage manager. Isolated, Ariane was forced to manage the technique irritation herself, which forcibly denied her allegations. After spending several hours under high voltage and hearing her screaming for protection, the young woman began to think that she herself was the oppressor. “I have not received support from anyone. The only person who apologized during our conversation was me. I promised to clear his name with the people in the know.

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

According to Ariane, the lack of manpower that affected the television filming sector last year did not help its cause. “The bullies thought they had complete impunity because there were so few technicians who knew they would never be fired. »

Looking back, Ariane describes herself as an “easy prey”. “I am a very introverted person. I worked 16 hours a day, slept a little ha I was in a weak position. I was in a fragile situation in the industry. I never made a complaint because it was too big. I did not want him to lose his job. I wanted him to stop, but I did not want him to be scratched in the middle. »

This disaster profoundly changed Arianen. Shocked, she decided to leave the large groups. Today, it favors smaller products. “It traumatized me. When you play your place on every board, it is difficult to express your dissatisfaction. It’s old school. You get money to show that you are ready to make the next board. When a woman dares to open her mouth, it is because she really hit her ass. »

One way forward

AQTIS 514 AIEST is not the only group educating its members about bullying. The Quebec Media Production Association (AQPM) has also provided training for several years. Since 1er January 2019, AQPM offers producers a model of preventive harassment policy, which, according to a law that entered into force on 1er January 2019, should provide in particular the stages of processing a denunciation.

The Director of Labor Relations at AQPM, Geneviève Leduc states that this procedure has been negotiated with AQTIS 514 AIEST, Union des Artes and the Association of Directors and Directors of Quebec. “When there is a complaint, the tools we have developed come to our aid,” says Geneviève Leduc. A victim of bullying at work last year, Ariane however questions this standardized way of managing this type of situation.

“It’s nice to sign harassment policies, but nobody reads what they sign. Nothing changes. There is no benefit. This, to me, is nonsense. What is really important is that we attend a training course. “All department heads and all technicians must submit,” the young woman insists.

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