The allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein were so horrifying that the Producers Guild of America quickly initiated a process of banning him for life from membership in the guild. But as the cascade of accusations grew along with the #MeToo movement, Lucchesi and McCreary realized the moral imperative for a more formal statement of guidelines and best practices for its 8,200 members to better guard against abuses on movie sets.
“We put together a task force with a great diversity of members from the studio world the indie world, television, and streamers,” McCreary told Variety. “We tried to get a cross-section of producers. The thing I found very heartening was that we called on some of the busiest producers in the business and every single person on our list said yes.”
Lucchesi, president of Lakeshore Entertainment, said most PGA members felt the urgency to take a stand after the Weinstein bombsell. “We took action to remove him from the guild but we knew we couldn’t just do that. We actually had to ask ourselves how we can prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.
The task force consisted of 18 members, including McCreary and Lucchesi, and leaned a little more female than male. The members met in person in Los Angeles and New York every week from October through December. They gathered at PGA offices in Beverly Hills and New York and on a few occasions the L.A. contingent met at the West L.A. office of McCreary’s Revelations Entertainment, the banner she runs with actor Morgan Freeman. Zoom video conferencing cameras helped bridge the bicoastal divide to allow the two groups to converse.
“We would not allow anyone to simply call in — everybody had to be on camera at the same time,” McCreary said.
The task force started with a great deal of research into sexual harassment law as it stands now in California. The members shared anecdotal stories of their own experiences in dealing with problems on the set. It became clear that independent film productions have far less in the way of resources or structure around sexual harassment policies than a production affiliated with a major studio or network.
“Hearing from people who had been in a position of getting a [harassment] report was very helpful to us,” McCreary said. In keeping with the PGA’s mission, it was also important to keep the focus the guidelines on situations that might arise during an active shoot.
“This is very much focused on producers who have responsibilities on the set,” Lucchesi said. He noted the most egregious accusations against Weinstein involved incidents that were far removed from filming. Still, the PGA guidelines offer recommendations on how, where and when meetings should take place.
“We recommend that producers conduct all meetings and/or casting sessions in an environment that is professional, safe, and comfortable for all parties, and encourage others on the production to adhere to these same standards,” the guidelines state.
PGA executive director Vance Van Petten reached out to his counterparts at SAG-AFTRA, DGA and WGA West and East. Task force members were in touch with LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy and the industry-wide coalition she assembled to be led by Anita Hill. The PGA also worked with the organization that became Time’s Up in assembling a list of resources and advice on how to craft its guidelines.
Over the December holidays, task force members exchanged countless emails with draft language that was refined again and again. “It was a very healthy consensus-building endeavor,” Lucchesi said.
By early January, the lawyers had signed off on the document that was presented Wednesday night to the PGA board of directors. It received a unanimous vote of approval.
McCreary and Lucchesi acknowledged that sexual harassment was not an issue that was high on the radar for the PGA before the Weinstein scandal erupted in early October. But the guild had been working hard on efforts to open the doors of producing to more women and minorities, and that work proved valuable to task force members.
“We were already heads down on something that will help this issue in the long run — diversity and gender parity,” McCreary said. “Ultimately, more gender parity and racial diversity will help the underlying cultural issues we faced here.”
There will undoubtedly be more industry efforts to take proactive steps to improve working conditions for women, following an extraordinary season of revelations and reckoning. For the PGA, there was no excuse for not taking a stand.
“As producers, usually the buck stops with us,” McCreary said. “We have the power. We have to take responsibility.”