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?