Actress Sarah Scott Reported Sexual Misconduct On A Hollywood Set And Found A Difficult Path To A Resolution

The Emmy-winning comedian says she feels the union has a "long way to go" to ensure safety on set, in auditions and rehearsals.

"Most actresses I know have experienced violations on set of a sexual nature, including myself," Schumer told The Times. "You can be shooting a scene, or even auditioning a scene and your scene partner can take it too far. And if you speak up about it, you're made to feel difficult."

Scott had filmed intimate moments in projects before "Mogulettes," and says it's rare for any production member to discuss the details of such a scene before shooting it. That was the case on "Mogulettes," where she says she and Pardue never had a conversation about how to approach their scripted kissing scene.

"It was just kind of, like, 'Go!'" she says. "It was pretty awkward."

Last week, HBO announced that the network will hire "intimacy coordinators" to monitor any sexually intimate scenes filmed on the sets of its programs. Scott says that such an individual might have prevented the alleged misconduct that happened during "Mogulettes."

"Walking through the intimacy of a scene could be super preventative," the actress says. "We have weapon masters. We have stunt choreographers. A designated position for this kind of work is encouraging to me."

Sympathetic to Scott's plight, Schumer connected her with Rebecca Rottenberg Goldman, the chief operating officer of Time's Up. Goldman sent Scott to Katherine Atkinson, a lawyer who had volunteered her services to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, which has received more than $20 million from Time's Up to help women who could not afford legal counsel.

On May 25, when Scott told Atkinson that she did not want to file a civil suit, the lawyer advised her to speak with Kendra Barkoff, a public relations consultant with SKDKnickerbocker who represents Time's Up.

Scott agreed to speak with Barkoff, again recounting her on-set allegations. Barkoff said that if Scott was interested in telling her story to a reporter, she could help connect her with different media outlets. Eventually, Barkoff referred Scott to The Times.

Meanwhile, Scott continued to discuss her legal options with Atkinson, but on their third phone call, the lawyer told Scott that she would need to pay Atkinson $2,500 to retain her services.

Scott had assumed Atkinson was working pro bono, but some lawyers working through the Legal Defense Fund ask to be paid.

According to Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, not all of the attorneys affiliated with the organization charge a $2,500 retainer. "Some work pro bono, some work for less, and we've had cases where they applied for funding to cover the retainer for the client, 'We'll take this case if we get funding, and if we don't, we won't,'" she said.

Atkinson later said Scott could file for financial aid through the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, but told her "it wasn't 100 percent certain they would reimburse" her.

Unwilling to take the financial risk, Scott set aside the idea of retaining an attorney and returned to SAG-AFTRA.

Schumer had connected her with actress Frances Fisher, a member of SAG-AFTRA's National Board who told The Times she proposed Scott reach out directly to the union's president, Gabrielle Carteris. Scott emailed her, relaying how she felt the union had let her down.

"Gabrielle got back to me that night thanking me for sharing this," says Scott, who began to read aloud from Carteris' email: "I am eager to hear how the Time's Up will help on this issue. As for the union, I am making sure that this is reviewed as we continue developing best procedures and support systems."

Through Greenwalt, Carteris declined to comment specifically on Scott's case.

Bolstered by the quick response from Carteris, Scott decided to move forward with the member-to-member complaint, which she initiated on June 11. Two weeks later, she received a questionnaire in the mail asking her to recount her experience and share any witnesses and documentary evidence. She did that and sent the questionnaire back to the union the same day.

By the end of August, she had heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement that the paperwork was received. On Aug. 26, she filed a police report with Officer Brent Zuber at the Hermosa Beach Police Department.

"Since I wasn't interested in pursuing any kind of civil case, I felt it was one of my duties to go on record in this way," Scott says. (The Hermosa Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.)

Hoping to receive an update from SAG-AFTRA, Scott messaged Carteris, who said she would check on the status of the complaint. The following day, Scott was informed that her case would be heard by the guild's disciplinary committee on Oct. 26. (According to the guild, "hearings are not granted unless staff believes there is probable cause.")

That committee would decide if Pardue should be expelled or suspended from the guild, which would mean loss of work and possibly health insurance, or sanctioned another way.

In mid-October, Barkoff, learning that Scott did not have a lawyer, secured Atkinson's representation for her without the retainer. By that time, the SAG-AFTRA hearing was just days away, and Atkinson was unable to travel at the last-minute from her office in Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles.

Both parties jointly agreed to enter mediation, which meant the hearing was postponed. If either side is dissatisfied with the mediation process, they can still proceed with the guild hearing.

Jonathan Steinsapir, Pardue's attorney, says his client "would welcome a SAG hearing or any other fair process to resolve this matter."

"I am disappointed that Kip has chosen to hide behind his actions," Scott says. "Speaking out about this has been extraordinarily difficult for me, and now I understand why so many people don't. My goal remains the same, my wish is for Kip to take full responsibility for all of his actions."

Despite close to six months of regular phone calls with lawyers, SAG-AFTRA officials and other industry support staff, Scott says she remained hopeful that sharing her story might create change in the entertainment business.

"In Hollywood terms, I am not a name, but I am a working actress," she says. "This is how I make my money, and help support my family. I've been out in Los Angeles pounding the pavement as a proud union member for 15 years. I was sexually violated while at work, and even though I had the courage to tell anyone and everyone who'd listen, as time went on it seemed like I had very little control in truly preventing this from happening to anyone else."

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