Screenskills: unconscious bias, harassment, bullying

Did you know that you can do free training courses on the Screenskills website?



You can set up an account and undertake free e-learning courses or attend training events (see more here).


I recently completed their free online training on Addressing unconscious bias: basic awareness in the workplace and Tackling harassment and bullying at work. Both courses are short and easy to consume. The benefit of these trainings are to educate the screen industries on issues that affect us all, to improve the situation for so many. You can include these sort of courses as part of your CPD (Career and Professional Development). These trainings help me to see how we can be more inclusive and supportive with the Action On The Side filmmaking projects.


Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are shortcuts from our subconscious to make decisions quickly. Biases are influenced by our culture, experience, and background, and they are fallible.



There are three types of unconscious bias:

  1. Affinity bias: where we connect with people we consider to be like us;

  2. Confirmation bias: where we look for information that supports our existing beliefs / theories, and we ignore contradictory information

  3. Halo/Horns Effect: allowing one piece of information to influence the way we interpret all subsequent information.

Unconscious bias impacts how we relate to others, and can negatively impact hiring practices and workplace environments. It is important for media practitioners to be aware of unconscious bias because we implement our biases in the stories we tell, the characters we show on screen, and the talent that we promote.


Ways to combat unconscious bias

  • Recognising your biases: this takes training and reflection;

  • Challenging unconscious biases in others by showcasing a range of role models:

  • Widen our pool of talent and ideas;

  • Increasing opportunities for everyone;

  • Tell stories that reflect the diverse experiences of our audience;

  • Challenge the unconscious bias of our audiences;

  • Setting up a bias-free environment:

  • Establishing ground rules, use rotas where possible, avoid stereotyping certain individuals as being competent in specific roles or the 'only' person who can do something;

  • Mentoring people from diverse backgrounds;

  • Create cross-departmental working groups;

  • Make sure everyone has the chance to speak uninterrupted in team meetings, irrespective of status;

  • Using micro-affirmations to promote where someone voiced their opinion;

  • Bringing on different types of people into un-diverse teams;


What that means for Action On The Side

We have always promoted diverse voices in our projects. Participation is open to everyone. Every participant has the opportunity to pitch their story ideas. Selection for the film we make is done through equitable voting where everyone votes. Selection for the Director is run through a pitching process. Crew roles are allocated based on the skills participants want to build. Part of script development is looking at representation; we want to ensure the stories we tell are diverse and casting not whitewashed.


Bullying and Harrassment

It is the liability of the production company to ensure a safe working space for cast and crew, regardless of whether they are employed or volunteers on set. Harassment and bullying can be one-off incidents or a series of incidents. Harassment relates to the 9 protected characteristics covered under the Equality Act 2010; bullying involves an abuse of power.



In 2018, the BFI outlined 8 principles to address bullying and harassment. Anyone who applies for funding from the BFI must agree to these principles. They are outlined here

  1. Everyone is responsible for creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace that is positive and supportive.

  2. We recognise that harassment may be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

  3. We will explicitly address and seek to prevent racism and all other forms of discrimination and bias, their manifestations and effects.

  4. Those of us who are employers accept our responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

  5. We do not tolerate bullying and harassment on any grounds, including sexual harassment and racism, and will ensure that processes are in place for the reporting and investigation of these serious issues.

  6. We recognise that bullying, harassment and racism can have significant adverse impacts on the productivity, long-term physical and mental health and well-being of affected people and we will work to eradicate it. This will mean providing adequate protection for complainants and victims, and, where bullying, harassment or racism is found to have occurred, taking appropriate action against bullies or harassers.

  7. We value inclusivity, appreciate difference, welcome learning from others, and consider people equal without prejudice or favour. We build relationships based on mutual respect. We will all work to give and receive feedback in a constructive way, which we know will improve creativity and productivity.

  8. We understand that reporting bullying, harassment and racism can be intimidating. We will respect confidentiality where possible and aim to make the process of reporting clear and straightforward. If anyone comes forward to report behaviour which might amount to bullying, harassment and/or racism, we will endeavour to investigate objectively. Individuals who have made complaints of bullying, harassment and/or racism or participate in good faith in any investigation should not suffer any form of reprisal or victimisation as a result.

  9. We will respect each other’s dignity, regardless of the seniority of our role in an organisation.

What that means for Action On The Side

We work to create an inclusive and diverse workplace in our events and on our sets. Inclusivity is vital to what we do, because our goal is to provide training and opportunities for filmmakers -- all filmmakers. We have a zero tolerance policy to harassment, bullying, and racism. We respect each other's dignity and work to give and receive feedback in a constructive way. At the end of every project, we have an anonymous feedback system for participants to provide feedback on what worked and what to improve for subsequent projects.


What else can we do?


Have you got suggestions for what Action On The Side can do to minimise unconscious bias and address harassment and bullying in our industry? Comment here or email hello@actionontheside.tv with your suggestions.

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