At the Motion Picture & Television Fund‘s “Deal With It” women’s conference on Sunday, the wave of sexual harassment and abuse allegations that has consumed Hollywood over the last year took center stage.
While there was plenty of time for reflection, the sixth annual conference also took a larger look into the future of the MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and how real change can happen in the entertainment industry. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, ICM Partners’ Janet Carol Norton, Community Social Services director Naomi Rodda and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano partner Tara Senior joined a panel, moderated by Kymn Goldstein, COO of Allied Integrated Marketing, to discuss how to move Hollywood forward.
Carteris called the current climate “an archway time,” as it has yet to be defined as a “watershed moment” of real change.
“I felt when this all exploded and everyone was speaking out, as exciting as that was, also my concern was we would get exhausted by the discussion and the conversation would be much more explosive, and we would be left with white noise,” she said, urging the need for “opportunities of action through legislation, through codes of conduct, through conversations with our industry partners” for real systemic impact.
For her part, as head of SAG-AFTRA, that has meant creating guidelines to protect actors and actresses, the first of which outlawed having an audition in a private hotel or residence.
“Everybody knows about the casting couch, everybody knows about it, everybody agrees that’s terrible, but it never stopped,” Carteris said, adding that the guidelines also encourage bringing a support person to auditions or meetings.
The panel also emphasized the importance of men joining the cause and serving as allies, though Carteris said, “In the end, it won’t be men that make the change. Men support the change, women create the change.”
The four women did agree, though, on the need to educate men on what is appropriate in the workplace, admitting that in their companies they had heard from many men who were nervous to hug or engage with female co-workers.
Senior called on men: “Rather than being the guy or the bro who stands there and acknowledges or laughs or whatever, to stand there and say ‘That’s actually inappropriate.'”
She added that these seemingly harmless “little things build up and they build up and they become the Harvey Weinsteins, that’s how that happens. The unacceptable behavior is the small little comments here and there or a pat or a shoulder rub.”
The MPTF panel spoke elsewhere in the conversation about the importance of companies empowering their female employees to speak up, improving sexual harassment training, striving for gender equality in the workplace, and dealing with fatigue over frequent allegations and conversations about improving the industry.
Norton, who talked about intervening in scheduled meetings if she or her client felt uncomfortable with where meetings were being held, said that she has encountered several men who “are still scared to talk about it, don’t want to talk about it” after months of Time’s Up discussions.
“It’s hard stuff, this is really hard stuff,” she said. “I feel like the people who do feel comfortable talking about it need to keep talking about it and create community around it and create opportunity for people to feel comfortable.”
The MPTF conference, held at the Beverly Wilshire, also featured a keynote conversation between Molly Bloom, the real-life subject of “Molly’s Game,” and former E! reporter Catt Sadler.