A basketball court at the Park City, Utah, Municipal Athletic and Recreation Center has been converted into a screening room, as have a nearby synagogue and the auditorium at the local high school. The roads of this old mining town are gagged with standstill traffic.
And the Utah Attorney General’s Office is staffing a 24-hour hotline in case anyone is sexually harassed or threatened while at the Sundance Film Festival.
No matter how Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial in Manhattan turns out, the revelations about the way he used his power over women have altered Hollywood in ways big and small. There are new rules on where and how to hold meetings, legal changes that make it easier to sue for sexual harassment and different ways to report when something goes wrong — all efforts to make Hollywood a bit safer. And while the industry is still very much dominated by men, women have begun to land more directing and executive roles, the positions of power that shape its culture.
Hollywood is a business of freelancers going from one project to the next, a setup that makes predators difficult to contain and blowing the whistle especially risky. Still, activists and industry professionals say that the steps being taken represent sustained attention to the issue, some improvement in day-to-day working conditions and perhaps signs of bona fide change.
“I think most people would like to see a situation where people go to work and feel good about the environment,” said Gail Berman, a producer and co-president of the Producers Guild, which now offers sexual harassment training to independent projects. “Does that mean there is no longer any predatory behavior in this business? I’d say that would be a ridiculous assumption. But I can tell you I think there is a great deal of sincerity on the part of a lot of people to change the culture.”
The Manhattan sexual assault case against Weinstein focuses on two women. One was a film production assistant who said Weinstein forced her to have oral sex in his apartment. Another was an aspiring actress who said that he raped her in a Manhattan hotel room. Weinstein’s lawyers say that “loving e-mails” between him and his accusers show it was all consensual.
But for many of the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, the story was the same: Actresses say he cornered them in hotel rooms and offered them roles as a form of coercion. Sleep with me and you’ll be a star. Or don’t, and I’ll ruin you.
At least two women have accused Weinstein of raping or sexually abusing them while at Sundance, the country’s premier annual exhibition for independent films. In 2018, just a few months after the accusations against Weinstein exploded, the festival announced its hotline, which is now advertised on signs around Park City and on the Sundance credentials.
One of the blind spots exposed by the #MeToo movement was how the Hollywood system, in which the studios often do not have direct control over the employees of powerful independent producers like Weinstein, left workers with nowhere to turn with complaints. Among other changes in the industry, Warner Bros., for example, has created a human resources team specifically assigned to its productions. And the Hollywood Commission, led by Anita Hill, is building a system where anyone in the industry who does not already have a place to file complaints can report harassment or discrimination.
Actors are now encouraged to avoid one-on-one meetings in private settings. SAG-AFTRA, the screen actors union, has issued guidelines saying its members should not go to meetings in hotels and residences, and if they feel they must, they should bring someone along.
Sharon Bialy, a casting director in Los Angeles, always has at least one other person in the room with her during auditions. Long a practice she’s adhered to herself, she now makes it a point that everyone on her staff does the same.
While private meetings certainly still happen, even in hotel rooms, some industry professionals mentioned that a hotel meeting might now take place in the lobby instead, or what might have been a meeting in a home office now takes place at a coffee shop.
“Everyone is aware of the optics now,” Bialy said. “And I do feel like people are more careful and cognizant about it.”