Sensitivity and anti-harassment training have become regular features/conditions of employment, often as a way of satisfying state regulations or protecting the employer from potential liability.
But Sunday’s bystander intervention seminar, conducted by the anti-harassment organization Hollaback! and tailored for Local 600 members, had a different goal: providing members of the camera and publicity teams with resources they could use when they witness an uncomfortable situation on set.
More than 175 people attended the 90-minute virtual training led by Hollaback! Senior Trainer Dax Valdes. In addition to the Local 600 members, individuals from several other IATSE locals joined the training – a further demonstration that #IASolidarity is alive and well, that crew members have each other’s backs regardless of the discipline.
“I was happy to see so many people from so many locals there – people I knew and people I didn’t know,” said Selene Preston, an Eastern Region Camera Operator and one of the panelists during the training. “That was really encouraging to me that people found it valuable and something they wanted to show up for. We are all capable people, and we’re all used to navigating different personalities in the jobs we do. Not everything is an issue that needs to be escalated to HR. We just all want to get along better.”
Local 600 National President John Lindley, ASC, introduced the training by recounting that a couple of years ago, he had witnessed an incident on a film set that made him feel he should take action.
“I wasn’t sure how to act, and I hesitated. I did not do something about it,” Lindley said. “I regretted that, and I went searching for intervention training of my own. I was looking for a tool so I could be better at intervening.”
Lindley’s research took him to Hollaback!. Impressed by the training, he brought it to the Local 600 National Executive Board, which approved making the seminar available to all of the union’s members.
Some of Hollaback!’s trainings offered
Valdes opened the training by asking participants to share the types of experiences they had encountered and the ways that uncomfortable situations made them feel. After explaining Hollaback’s “5 D” principles – distract, delegate, document, delay and direct – Valdes offered several hypothetical scenarios and asked participants to discuss how one might handle these situations. Throughout the session, members could choose to send their responses confidentially or openly using the chat function.
The scenarios ranged from someone making a potentially demeaning remark or joke, to a crew member being singled out for his age or body type, to inappropriate physical contact. Preston, Eastern Region Recording Secretary and an NEB alternate, helped Hollaback! trainers develop the industry-specific scenarios along with Camera Operator Eric Dyson and Local 600 National Executive Director Rebecca Rhine.
The different ways of handling an uncomfortable situation were equally wide-ranging. A gesture as simple as a smile or asking, “Are you OK” to someone who has been yelled at gives that person the assurance that they are not alone, according to Valdes.
“It gives you a language with which to talk about something with another person that you might not have had before,” said Preston. “I left thinking, if I do nothing else, even if I’m in a situation where I stand by and watch it happen, I can check in with the person after the fact and that is actually doing something.”
As she listened to some of the scenarios, Eastern Region Director of Photography Jendra Jarnagin said the experiences sounded so familiar that she messaged friends in the industry who she thought might have inspired the examples.
“I heard a similar story from a friend of mine. I texted that friend and said, ‘Are you on this training?’ and she wasn’t,” said Jarnagin. “That shows how common a lot of these scenarios are.”
Jarnigan said that she considered President Lindley relaying a personal example “impressive and really leading by example.” She added that she hoped that Hollaback! training would be offered again, and that more Local 600 members would sign up for it.
“I was really encouraged that this was offered through the union and impressed with how tailored it was to our specific situation of on-set culture,” said Jarnigan. “And I was impressed with the turnout. When people show up who are more allies who want to move things forward and are not necessarily part of the underrepresented group, that’s when I think we get a real tipping point in terms of changing the culture. People care enough to actually show up and go to a training like this.”