Friday, April 30, 2010


What do you do when you work on a film crew and are being harassed?

Let's just pretend for a moment that you're a female grip/electric. You live a freelance life, hopping from set to set, from production to production, from crew to crew. And while you're weaving in and out of these shows, you meet a ton of people. Some of which are a little odd, but most of them are pretty great. It's inevitable that some of your co-workers become friends, and eventually, even like family.

But then one day, you meet this one fellow and everything seems normal so far. The show ends and after a while, the two of you grab lunch one day just to hang out as friends and catch up. Totally normal.

But that's where the normal part stops and the creepy part sets in. Shortly after that, you're getting text messages, voice mails and e-mails from the guy, saying he loves you. Saying that the two of you should be together. He's married, but that doesn't stop him from describing how he'd kiss you. He's twice your age, but insists that the two of you would "have fun" together. Needless to say, every message you get from him is highly inappropriate.

Let's say you never call, text, or e-mail him back, but he doesn't seem to take the hint. So you tell him flat out that you don't want to talk to him. He plays the "I'm sorry" and sympathy card in hopes you'll take the bait and finally reply. But you're smarter than that and still give him the cold shoulder.

After a while, the messages die down a bit, but they still don't disappear. Every once in a while, you'll find a text on your phone or an e-mail in your inbox from him, which you keep ignoring.

Things wouldn't be so bad (just kinda creepy and annoying) if you weren't once co-workers. Despite L.A. having a population of around 4 million people, it's still a relatively small town if you're in the Industry. Everyone either knows each other, or knows someone who does. There's no six-degrees of separation here. At most, it's more like three or four.

That means that not only likely to run into him again, but really, it's just a matter of time. Every time you go into a rental house, studio, or any other place where a large number of grips and electrics gather, you become on edge if you see a car similar to his in the parking lot. When you're deciding whether or not to attend an Industry related event, the probability of him showing up suddenly plays a huge part in your decision. The guy really makes you uncomfortable and the last thing you want to do is see him, or even worse, spend the next twelve hours working with him.

So, if this happens to you, what do you do?

It seems like a bad idea to ask the Best Boy on every show that calls, "Hey, will [insert creepy guy's name here] be on this shoot? Because I won't take the job if he is." That will only lead to more questions and gossip about something that is none of their business. And not only that, but the hard truth is that many Best Boys, Gaffers and Key Grips are still apprehensive about hiring females, and putting the idea into their head that they may have to worry about sexual harassment and the like is just one more reason for them to stick with an all male crew. Plus, if the guy in question has a more impressive resume and more experience in this business, he'll probably get hired anyway. After all, it's not like the Best Boy has to worry about getting messages about the two of them making out.

This whole situation might even be easier (though still sucky and complicated) if you were working for a big enough show with a real production company, office, public image and/or HR department. Those kinds of productions tend to be more "by the book" and may even provide certain protections, but let's face it, such a company is hard to find in the low-budget indie world. Most of the time, Producers just want to get their project made and after it's in the can, they disappear. They couldn't care less if you feel "uncomfortable" around a co-worker. They just want you to suck it up and "get used to it."

There doesn't seem to be any good way to handle this situation. All the options seem to put your job at risk. Sure, there are laws that say otherwise, but as we in the film industry know, what the rules are and what we do in practice can be very different; especially in the low budget world. People will gossip and even though you did nothing wrong, there's a chance you'll be branded as the girl who is offended by "innocent flirting", can't take a "compliment", and/or was kind of asking for it.

I hate to say it, but it's looking like there's no other option but to wait it out in hopes that he'll eventually stop. But what if he doesn't?


Nathan said...

I'm pretty sure California's Stalking Laws have you covered. I'd think it might be worth going to your "precinct" (or whatever you've got out there), and just ask for advice about how get a complaint on record without necessarily opening a full can 'O Whoop-Ass.

Juicer said...

I would have to agree with Nathan. The chances are that you are not the first person that he has done this to. Back in the day, I was running lights for a dance co. and the lead male dancer kept harassing me. ( I'm a male.) At first I just tried to ignore him, but it became a real problem. Eventually I had to threaten him with physical violence to get him to stop. At this time ( the early 80s, there were no rules or laws about this.) I urge you to contact the police and take out an order of protection. You may find out that you're not the only one to do this against him. Best of luck.
A fellow Juicer.

ed "sloweddi" said...

restraining order... with a copy to the wife.

Michael Taylor said...

For dealing with the harassment, the advice offered by Nathan, Juicer, and Sloweddi sounds right on: sic the cops on this creep and shove him up against the metaphorical wall.

My reading of your dilemma is that you want to put a stop to the obnoxious behavior while minimizing the impact the whole thing might have on future employment prospects -- and that's a bit trickier. Hollywood really is a big little town, where word spreads fast. By bringing in the cops, there's a possibility you could get a reputation as a dangerously volatile hire. Among many best boys, being a woman is already strike one -- rumors that bringing you on a job can cause problems for any guy on the crew who gives you a second look ("Jeeze, I hear she called the cops on that one guy...") won't help your employment prospects.

Yes, those fair minded BB's who know you and appreciate your knowledge and work ethic will still call, but a free-lancer can't always get by on jobs from people you already know. We all depend on good word-of-mouth and a solid reputation that makes it easy for others to recommend us to new employers -- that's how our own contact/employment base grows.

There are problems in life that don't have nice clean solutions, and sometimes an issue like this -- thorny though it is -- will go away after a while. If you ignore the guy long enough, he'll likely get bored and turn his attentions to someone else, but that just passes the poisoned chalice to some other poor girl. Still, unless you're willing to take a chance on bringing in the big guns, you might just have to endure this situation until the creep fades away.

Only you know how bad this situation really is -- and if it's bad enough, then there may be no choice but to get heavy with this guy. Sometimes you have to draw the line and take your chances with the consequences. Where that line is -- and when to pull the trigger -- is up to you.

I wish I had a better answer...

Anonymous said...

It probably isn't the ideal solution but perhaps have a male friend call him and pretend to be your boyfriend. Not necessarily threatening but to tell him that he doesn't appreciate his girlfriend being called by another guy. If he isn't a complete crazy then he won't want to step on another guy's "territory". If he is crazy call the cops.

Nathan said...

I could be wrong, but I'd suspect cops in your neck of the woods are capable of keeping it between them and the interested start with. If things escalate...and his problems become known, that's not your responsibility.

Get it on the record that the guy stepped over the line. You may need that evidence down the line. (Or hopefully, just the existence of that evidence will make him stop being your problem.)

A.J. said...

Nathan, Juicer, ed - While under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't hesitate to file some form of legal action/protection, Michael Taylor hit it on the head: people talk in Hollywood and if word gets out that I took legal action against the guy (and it will), my already small work pool will get even tinier. As stupid as it is, I can see how this might easily turn into a he-said-she-said predicament and Best Boys would rather be safe than sorry and go with hiring someone who'll be less likely to go after them for sexual harassment.

Michael - Unfortunately, you're right. The only "safe" recourse I can think of at this point is to wait it out and hope for the best. It sucks and I hate the thought of him doing this to anyone else, but maybe one day, if/when I'm more established enough that I won't have to worry about anyone not hiring me, I can finally call this guy out for the creep he is.

Anonymous - Seeing as how he's married himself, I'm not sure pretending I have a boyfriend will stop him...

Anonymous said...

Keep a record of all past communication. Print it, keep it in a file, be ready in case you need to use it.

You could inform him that you aren't interested, and upon further communication, you will make your feelings clear to all concerned parties, including his wife.

If that doesn't work, then you might mention that you have no choice but to deal with this through more official channels.

I dunno. I don't like the idea of returning contact in this situation, but it's a definite toughie.

I wish you luck. Hopefully you can grab your union card soon. I'm sure they would deal with it quickly.

A.J. said...

Anonymous - Previous months of unemployment leading to multiple viewings of daytime court TV has taught me the importance of documenting everything. Hopefully, I'll never have to use it, or talk to this creep again, but it's always nice to know what my options are. Thanks.

And to everyone who's commented and/or e-mailed me about this post, THANK YOU. I appreciate each and every response and now feel like I have a better grasp on the situation.

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