Hollywood’s Labor Problem Is A Gender Bias Problem

That freaked out the studios, and they begged the government through their lobbying to say we can self-regulate. And they started something called the Hays Code in the early 1920s, because there were a lot of scandals happening in Hollywood, and they were continually under the threat of censorship.

That was Will Hays, the former postmaster, who brought in what some people thought of as a more puritan sensibility to Hollywood.

Exactly, which was also sexist, because we were dealing with the post-suffragette movement. There was a lot of feminism in early Hollywood, and I think about 50 % of writers were female and writing about single women living their lives in big cities.

This did not go over well with church groups and small towns. So there was a lot of pressure to censor Hollywood.

Ever since then Hollywood has been really good at keeping the government out by saying, we can self-regulate. In 1969, after the civil rights legislation and Title VII, Hollywood was investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and they did discover huge disparities.

What's interesting, though, is they didn't even focus on gender, because there were so few women working in Hollywood behind the scenes. They focused mainly on people of color. They came up with a bunch of things I think they wanted the studios to be compliant about, but all of that kind of drifted away and nothing had any teeth.

There was an effort to take this to federal court.

There were these six incredible women called the "original six " of the Directors Guild women's committee, who were not getting work.

They had an Oscar among them. They had two Emmys. They had a Fulbright. In the film, one of them says the only thing we didn't have was a penis.

They all got together at a Women in Film event, and they all admitted to each other that they're not working. And it was a revelation to hear they weren't the only ones.

These women in solidarity started collecting the data with the help of the Directors Guild and found out that between 1949 and 1979, half of 1 % of all television and movies were directed by women. Half of 1 %.

They went to the national board of the Directors Guild, and the Directors Guild started talking to the studios and tried to get the studios to change these hiring practices. And then the studios stopped meeting with them.

Voluntary compliance was not working. So Michael Franklin, the executive director of the Directors Guild, decided he was going to sue two of the studios.

That began two years of a trial that ended with a judge appointed by Ronald Reagan, a woman judge named Pamela Rymer, who basically threw the case out, saying that the class action suit did have merit, that women were being discriminated against but that the Directors Guild was a flawed representative because within its own organization, directors discriminate against second assistant directors, first assistant directors, etc.

Then, to use a movie metaphor, what is the Norma Rae moment. What gets the machine to stop--at least gets the machine's attention ?

You would hope that what Maria Giese did by getting the ACLU involved, and then the ACLU getting the [EEOC ] involved. Then maybe that could have made a change. But there's no real proof that much has really changed.

What you really need are the John Landgrafs of the world [Landgraf is the chair of FX Network and FX Productions ]. Even though voluntary compliance is not the way to make change, I think in this environment, with this government, it may be the only choice that we have right now. And that means we need more John Landgrafs at the top to say, OK, there is absolutely gender discrimination going on here ; what do I have to do as the leader of this organization to change that and to give women more opportunities ?

What's important about the story of John Landgraf from the film is that he didn't do this on his own. He had a female reporter from Variety who collected the data, published it in Variety and noticed that the worst offender was FX network's hiring 89 % white men to direct their TV episodes.

And when John Landgraf saw that, he couldn't believe it. I think he actually initially argued with her ; he actually, I think, initially argued with her.

But then he came around, and he realized, I consider myself a feminist. I don't see how this could have happened under my watch. But he asked a really important question, which is, what can I do to change thisBecause this doesn't have to be our reality. And now they're leading the charge on this issue.

Does this say that improving the lot of women in Hollywood is up to men ?

I would say the majority is up to men, because men control let's say 80 % of the resources in Hollywood and maybe 80 % of the businesses in Hollywood and thus do 80 % of the hiring in Hollywood. So, yes, I think it's very, very much up to men to make this change.

You started working on this film before the MeToo movement. And the title of the film is sardonic--"This Changes Everything "--because over and over, we've heard this has event happened, and this changes everything. What has the MeToo movement changed, and what could it ultimately take to shake things up ?

Well, the title is ironic. However, it's also not, because "this changes everything " refers also to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. When I was making the film, I had a lot of women who were reticent to go on camera--a lot of the higher-profile women. What happened after Donald Trump [was elected ] was I started to see solidarity among a lot of these women, where now they felt they had each other's backs and they were willing to go on camera.

I think MeToo has had a great effect because it has hopefully stopped men from doing these kinds of aggressions and micro-aggressions, or at least got them to think twice before they do it, because now there's finally consequences.

And that's great. But what I worry about with MeToo and Time's Up is that we're not dealing with workplace discrimination, and in a way we're being misdirected to talk about sexual abuse and harassment, when all these things are very, very connected.

We can't lose sight of any part of this battle.

Are we ever going to see actors on picket lines ?

I think there's no reason not to do it. Let's do it on Hollywood Boulevard. I think that would be powerful. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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