“Alias Grace” showrunner, filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley is talking about sexual harassment on film sets, saying that instances of such abuse against women is an “every single day experience.” Some stories from set would simply “make your blood run cold,” she added.
In a recent interview with Now Toronto, Polley said that women are forced to acclimate to a sexist work culture. “There is such fear about not being able to handle the environment of a film set,” she said. “There’s a real culture of machismo [on set], even among women, where you don’t want to be the person in tears or complaining. That carries its own stigma.”
She described “a million ways in which you are taught to think that this is completely fine and consensual when it absolutely is not,” adding that “it takes a lot of years before you have words for it, being able to name something.”
Polley said that women on set often put themselves and thier sense of “humanity or awareness” second to the production. “‘Unwanted.’ ‘Harassment.’ ‘Not consensual.’ These are words that take a long time to attribute to the experience you are having,” she said.
Polley recounted an experience she had as a child actor, in which she told a camera operator,, “You make me really hate men” after he made inappropriate comments. She said she was nine years old at the time. “You won’t be saying that when you’re 40 and you’ve got cobwebs in your box,” he responded. She said she was later asked not to say things like that because the operator would take out his anger on other female staffers.
The set of “Alias Grace,” however, is a different story. Producer Noreen Halpern wouldn’t put up with sexist comments or bad behavior, “not because I’m a woman,” but “because I believe everyone needs to be treated with respect,” she told the Canadian outlet.