“They’re going to continue to believe that nothing is going to be done, and they’re going to continue believe that they’re not going to be taken seriously,” Hill tells TheWrap
Three years after the #MeToo movement broke out, Hollywood is still searching for answers as to why issues of sexual harassment and abuses of power have not improved in the industry. And last year, The Hollywood Commission, chaired by Anita Hill and founded by entertainment lawyer and trailblazer Nina Shaw and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, deployed what it hoped would be a comprehensive view of harassment and abuse industry-wide.
On Tuesday, that survey revealed the startling figure that nearly two-thirds of its 9,630 anonymous respondents who are current or former workers in the entertainment industry felt those in power still do not face accountability for their actions. In response, the Hollywood Commission said it would launch a reporting platform and a bystander intervention training program to educate witnesses to abuse, both of which could provide resources to those in need.
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But in an interview with TheWrap, both Hill and Shaw said these steps were just one piece of the puzzle toward building an entire system around uprooting a “culture of silence” that still pervades Hollywood. And Tuesday’s news is just the first of what will be five reports drawn from the survey that will roll out by the end of this year.
The survey also gathered 3,300 narrative responses from people who have seen it all in Hollywood and fear that very little real progress has been made.
“Any perceived progress that has been made in Hollywood has been a smokescreen,” one anonymous respondent wrote in the survey. “If someone is powerful enough, they are untouchable, no matter the abuse. Nothing about this has changed. Indeed, the few harassers who have been taken out of power (for now) has caused a backlash within the industry by other men, who are now suspicious of women in their midst. Accountability is the most important thing and right now, there is essentially none for those with any notable amount of power.”
Hill wants participants like that to know that if you voiced your opinion as part of the survey, your words will make a difference. TheWrap spoke with both Hill and Shaw about the findings in the survey.
What was most alarming is that now, several years removed from #MeToo, nearly two-thirds of people in Hollywood think there’s no accountability and that very little has changed. Why was this so important for people to understand above all?
Anita Hill: As you say, two-thirds did say they thought the likelihood of accountability was very low. And we realized that if we don’t have accountability, people don’t have confidence in the system, people aren’t going to come forward. Whatever the system is, they’re going to continue to believe that they may be retaliated against. They’re going to continue to believe that nothing is going to be done, and they’re going to continue believe that they’re not going to be taken seriously. We looked at all three of those factors, and we found that’s where people are right now, and starting with accountability can change that.
Nina Shaw: Accountability is a very clear message to people at the top. Those are people who we hope and we see certainly among our membership are very involved in trying to institute change. We thought that the message of the lack of accountability and the lack of confidence was one that really needs to be heard by people who are most in a position to make the change that needs to happen.
You had so many responses to the survey. First of all, were you gratified by the response or surprised at the number who responded? What was the challenge in finding meaningful insights from all of these different stories?
Anita Hill: The surprise I guess I would say, a lot of people did participate, a lot of people took the time to answer 110 questions, and they gave 3300 narrative answers. That to me says that people are really invested and looking for solutions. They want their voices heard. They want more than just to be counted as numbers. They want to articulate what their issues are, how the culture and the climate and the industry work places feel for them, and in many cases what they think should be done about. I’m certainly gratified that people participated, and that’s exactly what we wanted because it does make our work easier to be able to hear from them and to be able to find specific solutions based on people telling us what is happening.
Just as a second part of that, I would also like to say, this survey came about because industry people in terms of our partners came together and decided it was time for this kind of information to be revealed. This kind of survey had not been done before, not captured as many people. There have been other surveys done by different organizations, but I think it was the fact that three years ago now, coming up on three years, the #MeToo movement burst onto the scene in terms of the social media movement, though the term #MeToo from Toronto had been around for a while, but I think this is an important time for us to now be measuring and thinking about what has changed and what hasn’t.
Nina Shaw: There was a level of, and Anita you’ve pointed this out in the past, of thoughtfulness in terms of responses. And the thoughtfulness and the time that people clearly spent crafting answers, thinking deeply about these issues, essentially creates an even greater responsibility for us who are in a position to lead and implement change. When you asked the question, ‘How did it feel? What did it tell us?’ it told us there is a really great need, and those of us who can must rise to meet that.
The survey was announced last year and was open through February of this year. Were there any delays in putting together all the findings?
Anita Hill: There was a lot of data. The survey was open in November, and we left it open until after the Oscars in February, and people did continue to participate, so we left it open. In the meantime, what we have been doing is pouring over the numbers, making sure that we get them right, that the analysis is right, and then deciding what conclusions we can reach from those numbers, pouring over the narratives to match the narrative experiences or narrative expressions of their experiences to the numbers.
So instead of just getting numbers about accountability, you get statements that gives us a sense of what accountability means, and why it’s so important for people, and there were a couple of quotes that stood out for me. One was an observation than a question. The person said that there are a few famous offenders who have been held accountable, and it happens when the famous victims report, but the question was, ‘What about the rest of us? What has changed for the rest of us?’ And that’s what we’re trying to answer.
One of the real problems: There was accountability around sexual harassment, and that was a question we asked directly, but there were also questions about power abuse and some other topics that you’re going to hear more about in the future. But the question about power abuse gave us some really important information too. Again, it’s a culture and climate survey, and one person put it very succinctly in this sentence: “Stop allowing for a caste system on set.” To me that’s about how it feels to work on a production. And something that we need to think about: How is that being presented to people, and how does it make people feel about the work they do?
The survey provides a number of figures to articulate the many reasons why victims do not report. Was there one reason that was most common, most troubling or most in urgent need of addressing?
Anita Hill: I think it’s worth repeating what people said about reporting. They said they don’t report, first of all, because they don’t think it’s going to be taken seriously. That’s one message, and that’s an important message for us. The other thing they said was that they don’t report because they don’t think anything will happen, and that’s the accountability message too that’s important. There will be consequences for offenders. But, and this is the one that really is difficult to take, they don’t report because they feel there will be retaliation, some kind of retribution against them, and both victims and bystanders said that.
First, let me just say, retaliation is real. It’s a real problem, outside of this. We know from the research outside of this survey. We know from research that exists out there that retaliation occurs to about 60 to 70% of the people who file complaints. So that is a real fear that other people have, and even though the behaviors can be quite serious, there’s this sense that people aren’t going to be taken seriously. So I don’t think of those as separate things. I look at how they come together to create what they’re calling a culture of silence.
Nina Shaw: There is much about the way this industry works that gives rise to retaliation at an alarming rate because so many people are asked to give their subjective opinions about the work of others or are very comfortable volunteering those opinions. Even I have experienced in my professional life instances in which they are not really qualified to evaluate or did not work closely enough with someone to be able to evaluate their work. And that’s a culture, that’s something cultural that we need to see shifted: This wholesale ability to comment on the work of others when you are either not qualified to do it, not asked to do it, not the appropriate person to do it or in the cases that we’re talking about, you’re doing it as a form of retaliation to cover your own inappropriateness or other behaviors. So, yes, very disheartening.
Let’s talk about the two responses that the Hollywood Commission has now laid out. The first is a repeat offender platform. How have you designed this platform? Do you suspect that the industry will widely adopt it?
Anita Hill: The platform exists in a base form already. We looked at several vendors to determine which one was most appropriate for the industry. So we didn’t start from scratch on designing the platform. But we got to that point of deciding what was best by bringing together a working group of eight or so people, but they represented people from throughout the industry, including the unions and guilds, including the studios and streaming, and we brought them together to really go over the things that had to be decided to make this effective, every Friday afternoon for the past three months or so. It took a lot of thought and effort to make sure we were getting a product that was going to be helpful, that was going to protect privacy, that was going to be trustworthy and that people would be drawn to.
Part of the purpose is to be able to identify repeat offenders. And that’s done through a cross-matching system. But the other part is to gather information again about what is going on in the industry with the hope that we can look at certain behavior that might not rise to the level of a repeat offender or a clear violation, we can identify that behavior because we know again from the research that certain behaviors typically escalate to become offenses. We can gather analytics and use the data to decide how we can manage to keep the problems from occurring. Ultimately, that’s our goal, is to have a system that eliminates the problems before they become problems.
What about the tool for conditional reporting and cross-matching? Why was that an important component of the platform?
Anita Hill: The matching part of the system is important because we know there are serial abusers or offenders. But we also know that in an industry that is transient where people are moving around from system to system, it’s hard to identify if you’re just one agency with your own system. It’s hard to identify whether someone is a serial abuser. So what we decided was part of the problem is there’s no mechanism for sharing information. This responds to that, this platform will respond to that.
We are planning to do more development, answer more questions. Development will take us into the first quarter of next year. We do hope to launch by the end of that first quarter. But we also want to make sure we get it right. I am convinced that people will be a part of it because we’ve had participation so far. And as one person who was in the room from one of the majors said, I wouldn’t be here spending the time and effort we put into it if I didn’t believe that this was necessary and it was something I want to see happen. That’s something we’ve heard from various sectors in the industry, that they want to see this brought to an end. They want to see the serial abuser problem and the lack of information, credible information, they want to see that be a real thing. And this is a device to do it.
Nina Shaw: We’re going to be beta-testing this; we’re going to be refining it. But also, we hope this becomes something that, if you build it, they will come. To the extent that this is an effective tool, there will be a demand for it among the people who need some ability, some mechanism for reporting. The people who answered our survey and said this was something that was needed.
So that question you asked, is this something that people are going to adopt, ideally as Anita points out for all the good and right reasons they will adopt it. But this can be a positive because there’s a lot more time and money and effort spent on the other side of outing people or people being outed in the way they are being outed now. There’s a lot of human currency in that, especially from the perspective of survivors, who have been enormously brave in putting themselves forward. And we hope everyone will realize this is a better system and ultimately protects everyone and not something we have now.
The next response is bystander intervention training, so training 450 workers in Hollywood to educate companies on how to properly report if you witness something. Who are the people that will become these trainers, and what does effective bystander intervention training entail?
Anita Hill: We are piloting the training. It’s just coming up. I really don’t want to say exactly all of what it will entail because once again, we’re testing. But we are serious about it becoming an industry standard and being fitted for every situation, whether it’s HR situation or on set. We want to make sure that this becomes something that is really common to the industry.
Let me just say this, about bystander training: This is something that we have consistently heard from our partners that they want available. And that correlates with what the participants in our survey said. 91% of them said that they wanted some kind of form of bystander training. What we do know anecdotally is that people want to help, they see a need to improve the industry as bystanders, but in many ways they don’t know how to, and this training will provide a mechanism or information so that people know how to report things that they witnessed. And that they can do so safely.
That sounds very valuable, and I feel as though a lot of people want to be allies, but people don’t always know what to say or what to do in these situations.
Anita Hill: Our participants in this survey were very clear about that. When you get 91% of the people saying we want this, you really feel like you have a mandate to provide that service. The other things that they requested at a high rate were resources to hold people, offenders, leaders accountable, things like a time stamp reporting mechanism, which we’ve worked on in terms of our platform. They want information about how to navigate systems, and reporting systems can be confusing, and when someone has a report, they often enter into a system with the stress.
So they want to really understand how these issues work. That’s a communications issue. So some of our solutions are going to be taken care of or developed around communications, others will be to develop different mechanism, like the platform. Others will be like the bystander training. There is not one thing. There is no one thing that is going to fix the hole. We’ve got to put together a system to address it.
And this is the first step of all that. What can we expect as you roll out the remaining components of the survey?
Anita Hill: The survey covers a variety of issues that we know are important to the creation of a positive work climate. They are covered by us. Of course, it covers accountability; it covers forms of sexual harassment; it covers the diversity and equity in the industry. And they will all be coming out in the next few weeks. We are trying to roll this out, so we get information about the entirety of the report by the end of this year.
Nina Shaw: What I particularly appreciate about the manner in which we’ve chosen to roll it out is it really allows people to digest information. This requires a great deal of thoughtfulness, the same kind of thoughtfulness that the respondents but into their answers, particularly the respondents who answered the narrative question about their own experience in the industry we’ve discussed here. I really appreciate that we’re focusing on this in a way that hopefully introduces it to the industry in a way that is not only digestible but thought can be given to solutions.
Anita Hill: We’re hoping this is the start of a conversation that’s bigger than the Commission itself. We started with accountability, but what we want to make clear is every part of this is important to creating and understanding the whole of what people are experiencing.
What else do people really need to understand about this issue and this report?
Anita Hill: Even though we started out with some pretty grim figures around accountability, we also believe that this is hopeful, that the fact that we had so many people engaged, that they took time to tell us their stories, is hopeful! The fact that we got to this point with so many people in the industry engaged in this work is all very hopeful. So what I hope, if you have a reader that reads your story and has participated in this survey, I will be very grateful if they look at the story and say, work is being done and that they contributed to it.
Nina Shaw: I couldn’t agree more Anita. I’m so pleased to be part of this. This is the work that needs to be done. It’s not always pretty and fast and tied up nice and neatly with a bow, but, really, if we’re going to talk about change, we need to know what the issues are in a quantitative, data-driven way, and we need to know what the people who are impacted by this feel is a solution, and we need to send a clear message to the people who are in charge and perhaps most capable of making change, and I think the survey is a step in the right direction in all of those instances.
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