This week, I posted a status update on my Facebook, weighing in on the Harvey Weinstein allegations and in that post, I promised a new blog entry. Well…. Here it is.
There has always been a stigma around the entertainment industry. You hear about casting couches and slimy producers and directors having affairs with their leading ladies. There’s always a scandal. Every week seems to be focused on a different headline. This week it was Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein is/was one of the most powerful men in the industry. He’s had a film in the running for Best Picture at the Academy Awards every year since the early 90’s and he’s won five of those golden statues. His is a name everyone, in and out of the industry, knows.
I’ve never met him. But, as I said in my Facebook post, I was warned about him. To re-cap, another big Hollywood producer told me to be careful of Harvey Weinstein. His exact words were “never be alone in a room with him, he’s the worst of all of us”. Yeah, my producer friend put himself in the same category as the man who is now being accused of rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault by dozens of women, including some of Hollywood’s biggest actresses. And yeah, that didn’t stop me from seeing this producer again, on multiple occasions.
I’ll start from the beginning.
I met a man, who, for the sake of this article, I will refer to as M. I met M through a mutual friend. Our first encounter was at Soho House in West Hollywood. My friend at the time said she wanted to introduce me to someone who could help me, because I had just started writing/producing/starring in my first short film. She told me about this man’s career and I did some of my own googling. I was really impressed. This guy is responsible for some of my favorite movies, and probably some of yours. I was excited to meet him.
Before I could finish my first glass of wine that night I realized, I wasn’t being introduced to a producer for guidance, I was being pawned off on a man my friend was trying to appease. I realized this, but I still ordered a second glass of wine. I still gave this man my phone number, I still giggled at his awkward advances, and I still let him kiss me on the cheek when we said our goodbyes.
I spent the next four years dodging mouth kisses and smiling at inappropriate name calling and placating language that I’m too ashamed to type out right now. From all of that, I got one audition, for two lines, in a feature film that was a box office flop.
Now, if from all of that, I would have become some huge movie star or series regular, would that have made it okay? A week ago, I would have said yes because a week ago, I didn’t realize that what this man did was sexual harassment.
When I moved to LA at nineteen, I was told by a lot of people that I could easily sleep my way to the top. Not only that I could, but that I should, because if I didn’t do it, they would just find someone who would. You know how when you get a new job, you have a few people who’ve been working there, giving you advice on how to stay afloat and be successful in your new environment? It’s usually things like: “don’t park in the boss’ spot” or “write your name on your lunch so no one steals it” or “the printer jams, so be careful”. My training from people who were already in my industry was: “let the powerful men grab you if they want to” and “don’t ever reject advances from a producer” and “don’t say anything if he makes you uncomfortable” and “always smile and laugh it off”. I was silenced years before I found myself in one of these situations. That’s how this industry trained me to be an actress.
I was so well-trained, that when these Weinstein stories broke last week, I barely batted an eyelash. I didn’t understand why everyone was acting so shocked and outraged. If me, a no-name actress knew this had been going on for at least the eleven years I’ve been pursuing a career, how are we supposed to believe that Weinstein’s board, and The Academy, and Ben Affleck, and everyone else finally speaking out against him, didn’t know? Trust me, they knew, everyone knew.
So, why didn’t anyone say anything? For the women, it was probably fear and embarrassment. That’s the reason why I never called out the producer who spent four years asking me, “why won’t you just fuck me?”, and “at least let me see your boobs”. I was afraid he’d never hire me and I was embarrassed that I kept agreeing to see him even after multiple inappropriate advances that left me feeling uneasy, to say the least. I thought that if I just said “no” enough, he’d finally get the picture and take me seriously as an actor/writer and offer some guidance and support. That never really happened and now that I’m thirty, he’s told me that I’m too old for him anyway. I spoke with him a few months ago and asked him to read my feature script, he declined.
As for the men who knew about this and said nothing, I think some of them were equally afraid to be blacklisted and I think the others just thought that’s the way it is because that’s true, this is the norm in Hollywood and I’d really like to help make that a thing of the past.
The women need to stand up and speak out. Talk to each other about your own experiences. That’s what me and my actress friends spent last week doing. For the first time, I talked about the producer and didn’t just laugh it off or make it sound okay or not as bad as it really was, and my friends shared their experiences, one with a casting director, one with another producer, one with a director. We all had a story about a guy in a position of power, abusing that power.
All. Of. Us. Had. A. Story.
None of us need any more stories, so if you ever find yourself in a situation, don’t be afraid to let that person know that what they’re doing is wrong. I think the best thing that’s come out of all of these unfortunate circumstances, is that women finally feel like they have a safe space to speak out. We’re finally starting to feel supported and heard and our community is finally speaking out with us to say, this shouldn’t be the nature of the entertainment industry and something needs to change.
As I said in my Facebook post, there are plenty of others who should be sinking with Weinstein, you know who you are, and it’s time to cut it out. Get help. Apologize. Know your place. STOP TRYING TO USE YOUR JOB TO GET LAID! That’s called an abuse of power, which is still ABUSE! That nineteen year old girl who giggles as you tell her how pretty she is and how much you’d like to take her on a date, doesn’t actually want to date you, but she doesn’t know how to say that without risking a potential audition or job. If you’re a man in a position of power, in this particular industry, it is inappropriate and predatory to ask a younger, actress to have dinner with you. You know your place, you know how you affect people struggling to make it or fighting to stay in it, and if you’ve used that knowledge for sexual or personal gain, you should be ashamed of yourself.
And to that nineteen year old girl who has just been told that she’ll need to have drinks or dinner or sex with someone she doesn’t really know or like if she wants to have a career, that’s a lie. Don’t ever let a man’s power intimidate your strength and talent and self worth. You are better than the casting couch and the Weinstein’s and all the other despicable cliches. Work hard, fight harder, and be confident knowing that you have an industry full of badass females backing you up.
Women talk, and we will keep talking, so please listen.