By Audrey Rock
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/5/17 – Beverly Hills is famous for, among other things, it’s dazzlingly untouchable Christmas displays and shopping season, all of which is embodied perfectly by the iconic Beverly Wilshire. But all this winter glory hides a seedy underbelly; one that attorneys and industry insiders tackled the evening of Dec. 4th after a casual upscale dinner of pasta and salad, via an unscripted panel discussion attended by elite media including The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Variety, and The Hollywood Times.
The Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS) sponsored the event, which was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and entitled “How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Production”. Sexual harassment is obviously a white-hot topic in the entertainment industry since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October. The HRTS event aimed to not only aid vulnerable parties on production sets, but protect the business side by educating and informing through the panel, which thankfully featured strong female voices, including Talya Friedman of the Jackson Lewis firm and Marjorie Williams, VP of business and legal affairs of Endemol Shine North America.
In such a volatile atmosphere, it’s truly time to purge the industry of sexual harassment, give studios the tools they need to deal with predators on set, and mitigate negative behaviors before they become a problem or anyone is victimized.
Although the panel was positively bursting with targeted experience on the topic, the recent developments seen out of Hollywood have been, admittedly, unprecedented. “I haven’t seen anything like we’ve seen in the last 90 days,” said somewhat bewildered entertainment attorney Joel P. Kelly of the Jackson Lewis Law Firm.
“I am not a sexual harasser,” said Kelly at the outset, confirming what many of us have come to accept: that being a sexual harasser may actually be that bad. And that it may actually be necessary to make that delineation of character at this point.
Through moderator Scott Hervey, the panel went in-depth on how exactly to handle matters of sexual harassment as they come up in production. It was agreed that in addition to an official written policy, there should be a “safe place,” or person, to report all incidences of harassment without retaliation. It was also heavily noted that sexual harassment, and more particularly sexual harassment that can hold a company liable, does not always take place between a superior and a subordinate. It can often take place between two “regular” workers; a company, or in this case a production company, is still liable for sexual harassment that takes place, is reported, and is not properly dealt with—hence the serious need for a safe place to report.
These ideas are becoming widely adopted in the industry—Women in Film very recently launched a sexual harassment Help Line and pro bono legal service. It became operational this month.
The HRTS event concluded with a lengthy Q & A period, during which the attorneys had an opportunity to address questions by audience members. Clearly the topic is of paramount concern. But this deadly serious discussion during the holiday season was a solid, reassuring reminder that daily work is being done; and that Hollywood’s sets will soon be a safer space for everyone.