When “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Adèle Haenel revealed that as a child actor she had been a victim of sexual harassment, the French star kicked off an industry-wide reckoning that began in November 2019 and continues to this day. As the industry continues to grapple with these necessary questions, the Paris-based Production Forum will host a one-hour conference on Friday to present the results of recent inquiries while offering durable steps forward.
“Adèle Haenel broke the silence, and made the French industry aware that it was not immune from the phenomena of sexual or moral harassment,” says Commission Supérieure Technique de l’Image et du Son director Baptiste Heynemann, who will moderate the talk. “Our round-table will bring together film safety organizations, professional organizations, and trade unions for both film producers and film crews, all with the intention to get everybody on the same page.”
As Heynemann sees it, the first order of business is to define the problem in a clear and understandable way. “Harassment is a pathology of isolation. Victims of harassment often find themselves isolated, because the traditional approach has been to remove them from the set, while leaving the harasser, who is usually in a position of power, in place.”
“We need to change that logic,” he continues, “because this solution is not satisfactory, it does not respect the victim’s rights, and does not prevent the harasser from trying again. We will therefore emphasize the need for individual and collective responsibility [from all parties present].”
The conference will thus be structured along two axes: How to prevent harassment for occurring, and how to empower victims to speak up.
“In terms of prevention, we’ve looked at a lot of recent American initiatives,” Heynemann explains. “We’ve found clauses that can be added to contracts [for legal remedies], and believe that on-set access to informational tools and training sessions could effectively prevent potential harassers from acting on those impulses.”
And if they do? “We need to give the victims or witnesses the confidence to act up and speak out. And to know that they can do so without risking future employment,” he says.
With that objective in mind, France’s Ministry of Culture and the trade organization FESAC (Fédération des Entreprises du Spectacle Vivant, de la Musique, de l’Audiovisuel et du Cinema) recently announced a publicly funded emergency hotline that will offer callers psychological and legal assistance, which be operational by the end of this month.
While Heynemann hopes for a productive panel, he knows the work will not end there. “We’ve already set another date to meet with film crews February to review the concrete proposals regarding employment contracts and professional charters,” he says. “And then we’ll organize another meeting with the producers union to make sure they put those same tools in place. We will do whatever we can to prevent harassment on film sets.”