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BFI Inclusion Chief To Spearhead New Film And TV Anti-Bullying Body

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The UK’s new anti-bullying body for film and TV – The Independent Stands Authority (ISA) – has appointed its interim CEO in the BFI’s current director of culture and inclusion, Jen Smith.

The new organization has confirmed financial support from major UK broadcasters in the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as Sky.

The specific remit of the entity will be formalized and announced for a planned 2024 launch with an eye to also widening the reach of its authority by also overseeing other industries such as music, theater, fashion, and advertising.

Smith, who is seconded at ISA until a permanent CEO has been found, said that the organization will “have the power to lead investigations and will do so without fear or favor.”

Smith has been on a trajectory to do more in this area for some time now. As recently as last year she helped head an action list with BAFTA and several other companies across media and entertainment to help prevent racism, bullying, and harassment in the workplace.

“For too long the creative industries have failed to provide an independent place for people to report experiences of poor behavior, bullying and harassment,” Smith said. “The establishment of the ISA will be transformative in helping address this void. We know we are standing on the shoulders of many who have made significant efforts to drive positive change to improve our workplace culture and will continue to build on this courageous leadership.”

Brandy Ferrer, CEO of Pathfinder Strategies, an organization set up for consultancy on HR-related matters for companies as well as ethics and leadership stated that it’s “certainly needed” in the industry in the wake of multiple and consistent scandals being revealed.

“If there’s any industry that needed a body like this it would be the entertainment industry,” she said. “Hearing the horrific stories about Harvey Weinstein and others showed that there has been a lack of fear in being accountable for executives and high-level talent, as well as a clear lack in the understanding of professionalism in a work environment.”

“It’s very easy to work in the entertainment industry and to feel that the rules of an office don’t apply because of work on sets or stage and the creative nature of the sector. The ISA will help make sure that the rules apply to everyone irrespective of standing, stature, or circumstance.”

The other element that Ferrer opined on was leadership. Commenting that Pathfinder teaches that leadership often comes from the top and trickles down, and that leadership must be strong and have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in all forms whilst fostering a healthy environment.

“Accountability is key. When something gets off track, before looking around for someone or something to blame, take a look at yourself. Ask yourself, ‘was I clear on expectations?’, ‘Did I do a good job supporting this person on this project?’ ‘Did I ask questions to check for understanding?’ ‘What could I have done better or differently for a different outcome?’

“We’re all humans. Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us is infallible. Have grace with yourself. Have grace with others.”

“Great leadership equals managing the work positively and empowering people to make the right decisions.”

On the task that the ISA has to accomplish in helping to fix the issues the industry has, Ferrer concluded that it’s not just putting out fires and holding people accountable, but also fire prevention and teaching people the right way to do things.

“These were the circumstances I was dealing with when I quit my corporate job and founded Pathfinder Strategies. I witnessed first-hand the impact of great leadership and healthy cultures. I loved going to work, the people I worked with were hard-working and goal-focused, I had a hand in innovating products and processes, and I got to shine and grow and advance in my career. I also experienced ineffective leaders and toxic cultures. Working in environments full of suspicion, lacking communication and accountability, which ultimately led to subpar outputs.”

She added: “I knew cultivating healthy cultures and great leaders did not have to be a big expensive undertaking, but rather could be addressed incrementally with guidance, support and practice.”

Founded in partnership with the BFI, BAFTA, Time’s Up UK and its chair Heather Rabbatts, the ISA hopes to answer the persistent call for a body to help prevent conduct breaches throughout the world of entertainment.

Rabbatts said of Smith that she had been, “so important in leading the work on the prevention of harassment and bullying with industry partners over recent years.”