Time’s Up Entertainment on Friday released a new resource guide to prevent and report workplace misconduct including harassment, discrimination, retaliation, unwanted touching, sexual assault and rape.
“Too many people in the entertainment industry are facing physical, emotional, and financial harm. We know because we unfortunately hear about it all the time,” said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation. “This resource is one of many ways Time’s Up is working to ensure everyone is treated with safety, respect, and dignity in the workplace, no matter what work you take on.”
“The entertainment industry is not a typical workplace, so figuring out your rights and options around workplace harassment, discrimination, and misconduct can be confusing,” said actor and activist Alyssa Milano, who consulted on the project. “As a community, we came together to develop these resources to help people in entertainment understand that no matter your situation, you do have the right to be safe and respected on the job.”
Relying heavily on the groundwork laid by the SAG-AFTRA Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment and on the nudity provisions of the union’s basic contract, the new three-volume Time’s Up Guide to Working in Entertainment (read it here) offers “resources for people in the entertainment industry who find themselves in situations that are at best awkward, or at worst, dangerous. These resources cover specific circumstances where people have historically been preyed upon, such as auditions and nude, intimate, and simulated sex scenes, as well as general guidance about your options and rights.”
Despite all the attention sexual harassment and assault have received in the press and in the courts since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke more than two years ago, misconduct is still present on and off-set. “Actors participating in nude, intimate, and simulated sex scenes are extremely vulnerable,” the guide notes. “Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has done little to protect them from abuse. Actors have reported: being the only woman on-set and not being given a robe to cover up between takes; being asked ‘to have actual sex’ instead of simulated sex; having members of the crew film sensitive scenes on their smartphones and publicly post the material; having their nude images used in marketing campaigns without their approval; and experiencing sexual assault mid-shoot.”
The guide notes that under SAG-AFTRA’s rules, the set must be closed during productions involving nudity or sex scenes to anyone without a business purpose in connection with the production; that no still photography of nudity or sex acts will be authorized by the producer without the prior written consent of the performer; that the appearance of a performer in a nude or sex scene or the doubling of a performer in such a scene requires the performer’s prior written consent; that consent can be given in writing prior to signing a contract; that the consent must include a general description of the extent of the nudity and the type of physical contact required in the scene; and that even if a performer has signed a nudity rider, the performer may withdraw their consent at any time before filming the scene.
The guide suggest that “Before casting, ask yourself if you are willing to perform a nude, intimate, or simulated sex scene. If you are, knowing and communicating your boundaries is an important part of your artistry and safety as a performer.”
Auditions are another continuing source of problems. “Historically, the ‘casting couch’ has been a terrible reality in the entertainment industry,” the guide states. “Sexual predators have used auditions as an opportunity to exercise their power over auditioning actors. Many performers have had their personal and physical boundaries compromised because the wrong person was in charge of casting – or worse, wasn’t casting a legitimate project at all. Whether you’re taking part in an audition, accompanying someone else to an audition, or part of the audition process, our guide will help you understand: your rights when auditioning, including your rights around sexual harassment and discrimination during auditions; how to prepare for requests for physical intimacy between auditioning actors and nudity during auditions, and how to address potentially dangerous situations you might encounter while auditioning.”
“No matter your union status,” the guide states, “you can say ‘no’ to a casting if the location makes you uncomfortable. SAG-AFTRA opposes auditions, interviews, and similar professional meetings from taking place in private hotel rooms or at private residences. These are high-risk locations, and you don’t have to agree to meet in them.”
So-called “chemistry reads,” in which a performer is asked to interact with another performer being considered for the role opposite them, can also be problematic. “Sometimes during chemistry reads, performers are asked to perform intimate acts, such as kissing or nudity,” the guide notes. “If you have been asked to do a chemistry read or be involved in any situation that involves physical touch or nudity, know that you have rights” – and ways to prepare to ensure that your rights are honored.
Before arriving at the audition, the guide suggests: confirming the extent of intimacy the casting director would like to see (including costume) and that it is relevant to the role; evaluating your boundaries, and communicating those boundaries in writing via email with the casting director.
“Your body is your own,” the guide states. “You have the right to determine what nudity and intimate acts, if any, you will engage in during a chemistry read. Be upfront, proactive, and advocate for yourself. Never assume others will take care of your boundaries. Create and communicate them, and, if they are compromised, you can stop immediately.”
The guide also provides numerous helplines and hotlines for those who have been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse or discrimination, noting that “The decision of whether to report workplace misconduct is personal and rests with the person who was harmed. If you were sexually harassed or discriminated against, or are a survivor of workplace abuse and want to report what happened to you, we can guide you through the process. If you’ve witnessed harassment and want to help, you may be feeling out of your depth as to how to proceed. We hope our guide can help you navigate those delicate situations.”