Notes from an F-Rated Event - Post Weinstein: Beyond The F-Rating

As part of the Bath Festival, on Sunday 20th May a whole day of F-Rated themed talks, panels and performances took place in the city.

After attending the ‘Post Weinstein’ event, here are some notes on the discussion that developed. The panel for this event included  Phillippa Lowthorpe (director of Three Girls, Swallows & Amazons), Jennifer Smith (Head of Diversity at the BFI), Ken Loach (director, writer, producer), Anna Higgs (producer/creative executive) and Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor (award winning producer), and it was chaired by writer, director and actor Kate Hardie.

The discussion started by questioning the very name of the event as many of the panellists (if not all of them) expressed disagreement with the phrase ‘Post Weinstein’. Several important questions were raised: If we are now post-Weinstein, what was pre-Weinstein? And more crucially, why does it take a man raping people in the workplace to make a change?

Though these questions are somewhat rhetorical, the latter in particular was described as an extreme event which has been a catalyst for change. However, the structure of this change needs to be considered carefully. There was talk of the need for systemic and endemic change with issues such as maternity leave in the industry as well as the informality of working practices (with 89% of people in the industry working freelance). Inclusion riders (specific to the US) were mentioned and all agreed that long term cultural change is needed to shape something better for all.

On the subject of the actual abuse that occurred, it was noted that abuse only carries on when it is secret (in any industry). However, it is hard for people lower down the pecking order to challenge those in positions of authority and, additionally, it’s harder to find your voice when underrepresented. The brave women coming forward allowed these secrets to be leaked and have consequently ‘opened a door’.

Continuing with more hope for the future, Jennifer Smith explained that the BFI have been looking at several media industries (including film and gaming) to see what they can do to bring systemic change. They have developed a continual process for making things better through the BFI Diversity Standards. These consider representation and diversity in several key areas, which are (in brief): on screen representation; leadership; industry access and distribution/exhibition. Projects won’t get funding without meeting these guidelines, but with BBC, Film 4 and BAFTA all on board, this is a hugely positive step for inclusion and diversity in film!

The discussion of diversity was broadened when Ken Loach introduced issues beyond gender. He encouraged people to consider behaviour, diversity of class and background, as well as the actual diversity of work taken on. He seemed passionate about making changes not just in studios and on sets, but in cinemas across the country – again, structural change is needed in cinemas so that diverse films made by diverse people about diverse subjects can succeed. Additionally, he explained the Picturehouse protests over the living wage, which unions have supported and encouraged the audience to join and be a part of the union.

Next, the conversation moved to representation and roles in film. Phillipa Lowthorpe expressed her frustrations with the idea that people want women directors now, saying, “We’ve been here all the time!” There was some debate about who should be making films about what – men always get to make films about women, so it would be fantastic for women to make films about men. Instead of the male gaze, Phillipa was passionate about seeing more of the female gaze. It was suggested that perhaps in narratives about specific social groups, it would be useful to have advisors on set to ensure that there was a genuine understanding of the experiences and nuances of the stories being told. Detroit (Dir: Kathryn Bigelow; 2017) was briefly questioned as a film that needed this – was that the film that the people in the film would want to see?

As a final question to the panel, Kate asked the group what they would change. Joy stated she would want the space to tell stories and to give young voices a change. Jen distinguished between commonly used terms, explaining that film can be diverse, but not necessarily inclusive. She would ditch the labels and wants people to be valued for their talent, not just to meet a quota. For Anna, her response surrounded accessibility, citing Film London and the need for a focus on nurturing and talent. Loach referred again to the structure and ownership of cinema, but clarified that television needs the same systemic changes. He proposed the idea of regional workers across the country so that there would be high class production across the country instead of people having to flock to London.

Among the various admirable women discussed during the panel discussion, Lowthorpe made a point at the end of the session to mention Charlotte Morre (Director of Content at the BBC) who she celebrated and praised for changing ‘the face of the BBC’.

To summarise, we all need to look at equality with a clear honesty, the people making decisions - commissioners - should keep refreshing, and we need to realise that though women have great purchasing power, the fact that only 14% of feature films were made by women in the last decade (with 7% of adverts directed by women), there is still a way to go until the film industry is truly (and honestly) inclusive.

Please note: all the information in this post is from the event, 20th May 2018. Statistics may (or will hopefully) change.