Hollywood producers and directors said Sunday that education and hiring more women are the keys to preventing sexual harassment on film and television sets.
“The best way to fight this is to have inclusion, have a 50-50 crew,” Bridesmaids director and executive producer Paul Feig said during the PGA’s Produced By conference.
Moderated by Gail Berman, newly-elected PGA co-president and chairman and CEO of The Jackal Group, whose projects include Buffy and Angel, the panel was titled Producing an Inclusive Industry: Where Do We Go From Here?
While the panelists recognized that the goal of a studio is to make hits, Nicole Brown, SVP of TriStar Pictures, said companies also have an obligation to make projects that reflect their audiences.
Brown, who is an industry veteran, said thanks to pressure in recent years from activists and the media, “The studios are now feeling like they need to do something, like they need to make a change. The system is leaning in to inclusion, which is really exciting,” Brown explained. “When I bring in more diverse ideas, I’m being heard more.”
Attorney Nancy Solomon of Solomon Law said she hears over and over that many people are “afraid of retaliation,” and therefore don’t report harassment.
Feig noted one way his company, Feigco Entertainment, tries to prevent problems is by having a discussion on the first day of each production, to let the crew know harassment won’t be tolerated. “I try to run a very fun set,” Feig explained, adding that he tells his crew, “We have zero tolerance. So if you have any questions about whether this is offensive, don’t say it.”
Many of the panelists said the key to inclusion is hiring different types of cast and crew members, such as people of color, and those who are older or disabled. They also said inclusion riders on individual projects can make a difference.
Still, Berman pointed out that nepotism is a big obstacle when it comes to diversity. “I think it’s important to assume personal responsibilities in storytelling,” Berman said about industry insiders who hire their family members and friends. “It has to start with someone.”
Stacy Rukeyser, producer of UnReal and The Lying Game, explained that low pay for writers assistants and show assistants make the industry unappealing to people from lower income backgrounds. “Paying just a couple more hundred dollars a week opens doors,” Rukeyser said.
Rachel Shane, chief creative officer of MVM studios, whose projects include Hell or High Water and Genius, said her company tries to make a difference through storytelling. “We are constantly looking toward diverse and female driven stories,” said Shane.
While her company produces smaller projects, Shane said the success of blockbusters with diverse casts and directors are changing minds. “With Black Panther and Wonder Woman, we’re seeing changes,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Mike Farah, CEO of Funny or Die, said his company’s goal is to “have our demographics reflect the country’s demographics.”
“Specifically, people of color in management positions is something we’re working very hard on,” Farah said.