May 13, 2020

Authored by Anita F. Hill

For weeks, entertainment leaders have been working on myriad guidelines necessary to restart film and TV production. Their deliberations are critical to alleviating the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the industry. As the new normal is being created, nothing is more important than the economic and physical well-being of the hundreds of thousands who want to get back to work. New health and safety standards are a must. The presence of masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers, along with boxed meals, single-use makeup and delayed crowd filming, will help calm concerns about newly reopened workspaces. Everyone benefits.

But in this moment of urgency, there is an important opportunity to redefine what “safe” working conditions mean for workers in Hollywood. The evidence that the coronavirus can exacerbate existing race, gender and sexual identity disparities is growing. Intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse, bullying and retaliation — rampant in the industry — pose their own threat to entertainment workers’ health and ability to make a living. And in redesigning our workplaces, we should acknowledge that the pandemic may add to the injury that vulnerable populations are already suffering.

The #MeToo movement generated awareness and gave voice to entertainment’s sexual harassment epidemic, but many forms of harassment continue. And abuses of power continue to be a very real and pervasive problem. Workers from all ranks of the entertainment business have routinely shared horrific stories with the Hollywood Commission.

Power in Hollywood has always been easy to exploit because of the desperation for work. With an estimated 350,000 entertainment jobs lost in the past six weeks, the economic power balance has further tipped. Simply put, no worker should have to silently tolerate abuse or harassment because of the financial exigencies of the times.

Inevitably, as production returns, it will mean fewer people in close physical proximity to each other, whether on sets, in trailers or in editing rooms. Many will continue to work from home until 2021 and perhaps beyond. All of these new ways of working require a more robust view of safety. How will the entertainment industry keep its workers safe from harassment and discrimination when they are operating in decentralized “pods” or isolated workplaces where interaction with others is rare and systems or resources for reporting problems may not exist?

The complete opinion piece can be accessed here.