California’s Fair Pay Act Puts Studios On The Spot

By Daniel Miller
Los Angeles Times.

Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid 7% of the profit on the 2013 ensemble film “American Hustle,” a big payday for the A-list actress. But Bradley Cooper and two other male co-stars each earned 9%.

That’s the kind of inequity potentially targeted by California’s Fair Pay Act, which is aimed at leveling the compensation field between men and women. The bill, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week, applies to businesses statewide but has particular resonance in Hollywood, where women have become increasingly vocal critics of the pay gap.

Indeed, the entertainment industry played a key role in pushing the bill forward. Patricia Arquette raised the issue of pay inequality while accepting the best supporting actress Oscar during this year’s Academy Awards — a moment that the Fair Pay Act’s author, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), said gave the measure momentum.

Arquette said in an interview with The Times on Wednesday that the lower profit participation paid to Lawrence, which was disclosed in the leak of stolen emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment last year, exposed how women are routinely paid less than men in Hollywood.

“She had been in ‘The Hunger Games,’ which has grossed so much money,” Arquette said. “That’s where you start going: This is just because she’s a woman.”

At the same time, salaries for top talent in Hollywood — not only for actors but writers, directors and executives as well — have long been a matter of negotiation. With passage of the bill, studios and producers will now have to ensure that the art of compensation becomes more of a science — using box office performance, awards haul, physical demands and other empirical measures to justify different pay rates.

“This will ultimately force production companies, studios, TV networks, talent agencies and management firms to look more closely at their practices to make sure that they are providing equal pay,” said attorney Bryan Freedman, a veteran Hollywood attorney and a founding partner of Freedman Taitelman.

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