Screen Skills Ireland – Reflection on Responsible Production Event

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Screen Skills Ireland were delighted to host a one day event on ‘Responsible Production for the Screen Sector in Ireland’ on 9th October 2019. The event was attended by over 150 participants from the screen sector in Ireland and focused on the importance of continuing to improve the culture of the sector, in order to foster responsible production activity and create more positive and inclusive work environments.

One of the key aims of the event was to look at ways in which the sector can positively collaborate to enhance skills development, to foster diversity and inclusion, to encourage green/sustainable film making and ultimately to use improvements in these areas as a competitive advantage for the screen sector going forward.

The BAFTA Albert Carbon Calculator, already used by industry in the UK, was also formally launched at the event by Screen Greening, and will allow Irish producers to understand a productions’ environmental impact.

A podcast recorded at the event and a gallery of photos from the day can be found below.

Reflecting on the day, some of the key themes and topics to emerge through the panel discussions were the following:

Overall:

  • The importance of considering skills development, inclusivity and diversity, gender equality, green/sustainable film-making and positive work environments in a holistic way under the umbrella of ‘Responsible Production’.
  • The importance of growing a positive sector that enhances our competitive advantage, in addition to the tax credit.
  • Everyone in the sector has a responsible role to play in order to achieve cultural change within the sector.

Panel 1 – Identifying Skills Needs on Production and Capturing Outcomes and Impact of Skills Activity:
Panel Guests – Catherine Roycroft (Cartoon Saloon), Jane Leonard (Really Useful Training & Development), Edmund Sampson (Line Producer), Miriam Cahill (Skills Development Officer), Elizabeth Brennan (Screen Guilds Ireland) and Panel Chair: Emer MacAvin (Screen Skills Ireland)

  • The new Section 481 tax credit requirements linked to skills development provide an opportunity for the sector to develop skills and talent at all levels of production; capture data (including outcomes and impact) related to skills development; and use this data to promote the sector and improve its reputation.
  • The S481 Skills Development Plans also include proposed initiatives related to Gender, Diversity, Inclusion and Sustainability and this provides the sector with an opportunity to develop in a positive way.
  • The new process allows the sector to tangibly grasp what people are learning on the ground.
  • In terms of capturing skills, personal logs and reflective journals are a useful tool. Writing down what you have learned is important, as this process can help to empower each of the individuals involved, and the skills learned and captured can become a ‘benchmark’ for future learning.
  • The importance of a structure being put in place for the learning and capturing – this is key to maintaining best practice.
  • Creating a safe space for trainees in the industry is important and gives them confidence.

Panel 2 – Diversity and Gender on Screen and on Production – Visibility & Access
Panel Guests – Jimmy Smallhorne (Actor), Jordanne Jones (Actor), Garry McHugh (Young Irish Film Makers), Dr. Zélie Asava (Author), Edward Crean (National Disability Authority), Grainne Humphreys (VMDIFF), Adaku Ezeudo (Diversity & Inclusion Consultant) and Panel Chair: Marian Quinn (Janey Pictures)

  • Distribution and media/press needs to change to promote gendered/foreign language films.
  • There are lots of communities in Ireland and this needs to be reflected in the content we see. Better representation is key, but it’s important to recognise that misrepresentation can be just as damaging as under-representation.
  • We need to galvanise audiences – and we need to mould new audiences.
  • Making contact with minority groups and hiring beyond the usual pool is vital. The issues of Homophily (recruiting people like the recruiter) and unconscious bias remain major problems.
  • Diversity can also be a source of major growth for the industry – it can positively affect the bottom line because diverse stories are not limited in appeal, but can connect with all of us.
  • Developing young people’s personal competencies is important.
  • Young people from disadvantaged areas are interested in engaging with politics and cultures, but the opportunities to do so are not always visible to them.
  • There is a vibrant emotional energy among working class people. The sector needs vibrant stories. Working class stories are missing from the screen.
  • 13% of full population have a disability, but how much of these are in the media and represented beyond ‘super achievers’ or characters to be pitied as they try to find extra-services? It tends to be one extreme or the other with few stories in between.
  • Many who have a disability do not declare it.
  • Trying to create a glossary is important – terms and language can affect people. Dignity and respect is critical – refer to people and how they might want to be referenced.
  • Disabled people should be able to participate in all aspects of Irish life.
  • Film sets are not the most accessible and particular locations are not always accessible for people with disabilities. How can we change this?
  • Set clear goals on diversity and articulate and communicate these goals. They need to be embraced by the whole team. And then track whatever goals you have set.
  • Hiring and promotion – are they fair? How are you using advertising? Need to actively promote to minority groups.
  • John C. Maxwell – everything rises and falls on leadership. Who has the courage to call out a lack of diversity? Who promotes real change?

Panel 3 – Inclusivity for the Screen Sector – Data, Standards, Policy & Action
Panel Guests: Dr. Annie Doona (IADT & Screen Ireland), Melanie Hoyes (BFI), Nahrein Kemp (Film London), Zbyszek Zalinski (RTE), Dr. Susan Liddy (Writers Guild Ireland) and Panel Chair: Marian Quinn (Janey Pictures)

  • Policies of organisations like Screen Ireland related to gender are having a positive effect.
  • Things are beginning to change. But we still have a long way to go and there is a need for further policies to encourage other types of inclusive production.
  • Money talks. Enhanced production funds with female writers and developers are having a positive effect.
  • The BFI use diversity standards linked to funding. What levers can funders pull to promote diversity?
  • Equal access is important – help people to get in, stay in, and/or return. Soft skills are important for returners – confidence training and explain gaps in CVs.
  • Industry crying out for parents and carers with experience to come back to work.
  • Need permission to fail. And learn from mistakes. If an initiative or scheme doesn’t work don’t give up.
  • Diversity is a two way street. All sides must engage.
  • Writers are not celebrated enough. Writers can shape the stories and our vision of the world.
  • Some panellists argued for managed quotas as the best approach. Others suggested incentivising positive approaches was the best approach.
  • There is a need to go out to communities – and modernise our world views.
  • We all make assumptions regarding how we communicate with ‘minorities’.
  • Young people are much more accepting of diversity, which is promising for the future of the sector.

Panel 4 – Sustainability and Green Film Making
Panel Guests – Emellie O’Brien (Earth Angel), Birgit Heidsiek (Green Film Shooting Founder), Geraldine Moloney (Film Distributors’ Association), Eleonora McNamara (Freelance Visual Artist), John Gormley (Screen Producers Ireland), Roser Canela-Mas (BAFTA Albert) and Panel Chair: Steven Davenport (Screen Ireland)

  • Being green is not more expensive. Adding elements of sustainability, such as creative re-use strategies, can in fact help keep budgets down.
  • The key is setting green targets early and managing from pre-production stage.
  • Stop using private jets to ferry actors/celebrities to press launches etc.
  • Work on decision making processes. Especially with Film Festivals – danger of over-travelling.
  • Need to measure carbon usage on a film and keep it down. The Albert Carbon Calculator now available in Ireland will help.
  • All panellists talked of the need to excite people. To come up with innovative ways to bring the crew along with you.
  • Communications is central – explain – don’t just take away the plastic water bottles.
  • The problem is serious now – we need to move to a mandatory system that has to be set up from pre-production stage. Link green filmmaking requirements to funding. Or encourage Eco-bonuses.
  • Need to also encourage digital platforms/streamers to move to a low carbon model.
  • Useful websites: https://wearealbert.org/ and https://www.greenproductionguide.com/ and http://greenfilmshooting.net/blog/en/ and http://www.screengreening.com/
  • Always need various funding levers – to promote green production.
  • Best to get ‘buy in’ from the industry – rather than having top down policy model – bottom up as well as top down is important.

Panel 5 – Responsible Production and Positive Workplaces
Panel Guests – Anneliese O’Callaghan (Head of Production World 2000), Susan Kennedy (HR Consultant Media/Entertainment), Anna Donegan (IBEC Keep Well Mark), Elaine Geraghty (Screen Producers Ireland), Martin Mannion (SIPTU), Mark O’Connor (Director) and Panel Chair: Fran Keaveney (Screen Skills Ireland)​​

  • Important to have employees who want to go to a job. And who are happy in their work place.
  • Need for a good work life balance. Not easy on film sets. Why can’t this change?
  • Other sectors have introduced very well regarded ‘Wellness’ programmes. We are different but not special – what applies in other industries can also apply to us.
  • Learning how to help everyone to get along is important. TV work can be more pressurised with bigger teams compared to Film.
  • Important to listen to everyone. And find creative solutions to problems.
  • Often difficulties on production comes down to poor communication. Need for proper communication structures.
  • Also progression in the sector is a big issue for people.
  • Many issues can be overcome if fun and enjoyment can be built into the workplace.
  • Important to give people a sense of purpose in the company/production.
  • Many spoke of how it was always important to treat people with respect.
  • Importance of leadership and empowering others.

Listen to a Podcast from the event here:

For some photos of the day see the gallery below.