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Women behind the camera share their stories of sexual harassment on set

Contributed by
Mar 15, 2018

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, which was created by social activist Tarana Burke and re-emerged late last fall, dozens upon dozens of women and men working in the entertainment industry - and several other industries besides - have gone on the record to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Many of them are familiar names, recognizable talent - actors like Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Lupita Nyong'o, Terry Crews, Brendan Fraser and recently, even television's Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter, have all granted interviews, written pieces or given talks about the ranging inappropriate behavior they have been on the receiving end of throughout their careers. They've been among the public faces of #MeToo - which, in tandem with the Time's Up legal defense fund formed in response to these public disclosures, has helped to raise awareness on the prevalence of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

But what about the women behind the camera, the ones who exist and work in the same film set environment? Over the course of a months-long investigation, Emma Gray and Claire Fallon of the Huffington Post spoke to women who hold entry to mid-level positions on film sets - and they're saying that despite all of the discussion, the long-spanning reach and the increased public consciousness of these issues, they still don't feel they're being represented as fully as their on-camera contemporaries.

From production assistants to makeup artists to assistant directors and camera operators, women working as crew members shared firsthand stories about experiencing sexual harassment and assault on the set. Several of them, fearing that going on-the-record would impact their ability to get hired for future jobs, declined to use any identifying details - but there are many common denominators in their stories: one of them being that putting up with the "boys' club mentality" that so often permeates film sets is treated as behavior to just "shut up and put up [with]."

Mary (not her real name), who was among those interviewed for the Huffington Post article, said that the inappropriate behavior she experienced was seemingly unique to the film industry: "Before I worked in film, I’ve never, ever, in my life encountered anybody at work coming up to me making inappropriate sexual innuendo or jokes or slaps on the ass or anything like that. I’m not sure why it’s so different."

Part of that might have to do with the fact that the film industry at large is still very male-dominated. A study conducted last year among the top 250 films revealed that women made up only 18% of those employed behind the camera. Given that women are the minority, they're also more at risk for experiencing behavior that crosses personal boundaries or being on the receiving end of inappropriate comments. One woman named Sophie shared an anecdote about working as a makeup assistant on a film set in which an actor took advantage of his proximity to grope her. She reported the incident to her supervisor, who discouraged her against filing an official complaint given that the film would be wrapping only a few days later.

For Mary, who also disclosed the details of her assault from an assistant location manager, the consequences of reporting her harasser were negligible - for him. Shortly afterward, she was terminated from the shoot, but the man she had reported for his behavior stayed on. Speaking with HuffPo, she remains convinced that her speaking out has negatively affected her ability to accept future jobs - including opportunities in which she would have been forced to work with the man who had assaulted her. It's been a year, and she is currently not actively working in the industry. According to the article, other women have left for good - and they aren't looking back.

Finding a solution to the problem isn't as easy as simply increasing the number of women on set, either. Continuing to share stories about assault and harassment, male peers being more receptive to listen to incidents, a shifting of the film industry to a younger generation, and holding harassers accountable were all listed as potential solutions to begin a positive change in Hollywood. But there also needs to be a persisting acknowledgment of the insidious problem that drives women out of an industry they love before they even have a chance to really thrive.

You can read the full investigative piece at the Huffington Post.

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