The era of outing sexual misconduct that began with Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly exploded with Harvey Weinstein's exposure in The New York Times and The New Yorker.
Now, the list of men accused of sexual harassment and assault in media and entertainment grows every day. The circumstances may vary but one question remains constant: What can society — and Hollywood in particular — do to protect people?
Judd Apatow has been in charge of many sets as a producer and director, and he has some ideas:
Apatow is the director and/or producer of films and TV shows that include "Freaks and Geeks," "Girls," "Crashing," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," and "The Big Sick." He is also part of a show biz family — his wife is the actress Leslie Mann and their daughters have also acted.
When Apatow spoke with The Frame's John Horn, he spoke about what could be done to protect people from sexual harassment in the industry, and how to promote hiring practices that are open to women, people of color and people of diverse sexual backgrounds and experiences.
What is it like where you are to see the news coming in every day?
Well, you know, I'm very glad about the fact that this doesn't touch our world because we've tried very hard to be respectful of people at all of our projects. I worked with Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner for a long time and they talked about what it was like to be a woman in this industry in great detail. We did an episode [of "Girls"] about it last year. And so, it certainly has been in the forefront of our minds that there are a lot of people who disrespect other people in our industry and it is both shocking and horrifying. But, in a weird way, it is a positive time because something is changing and hopefully we're creating an environment where a certain type of behavior is not tolerated.
Is that certain behavior not just what happens, but the culture of silence that allows this to happen?
I think that there's something very wrong in any business where the whole setup is you can treat people badly and then write them a check to go away. People really don't understand how traumatizing it is to be disrespected in this way. When you're young in this industry and a powerful person abuses you, it is truly terrifying. And one thing that people think is, If I make a lot of noise about this, I might get that person in trouble. But there's a chance that everybody else won't want to hire me because they'll just see me as difficult in some way or this will become my identity. I'll just be known as the accuser and I don't want to be known as the accuser. I want to be known as an actress. I want to be known for my personality. And so it's very difficult for these people to make decisions about how to handle this kind of crime. That is why if we have an environment where people in the industry say, I believe you, I'm going to stand by you, then more people will come forward and then hopefully the people who commit these crimes will either change their ways or go away in some form. They'll get fired. There will not be a world where, if you're talented, you still get to be a criminal.
There is a culture that allows this behavior to continue. There are people who are drafting the settlements with Harvey Weinstein's victims and they didn't say anything ... they just kept signing them. How do we change that part of the culture?
That issue is something that has been spoken about. You don't have to take a job as the lawyer of a rapist or someone who sexually abuses or harasses people. We all make choices about what is ethical in our lives, and we understand that everybody who is accused of anything deserves representation. But there are people that are committing heinous crimes and I know I wouldn't be comfortable getting up every morning with the intention of keeping rapists on the street. And that really is what it is.
So I also would never be comfortable being a business manager or an agent or a manager writing checks to Bill Cosby's accusers or to Harvey Weinstein's accusers. That type of complicity is what we need this whole community to speak out against because the guy writing the check to the accusers [has kept] Harvey Weinstein in the business attacking people. And I don't know how that person sleeps at night. So we just need to talk about it and maybe some of those people in those positions will make a stand and say, You know what, I'm not going to work for you anymore. I'm not going to be your lawyer anymore. I'm not going to be your agent anymore. [United Talent Agency] the other day dropped Bill O'Reilly as a client, and that's what you should do when somebody is constantly settling lawsuits for sexually harassing people.
The other thing that agents are doing is they're sending young actors to meet with Harvey Weinstein. Kate Beckinsale at age 17. Gwyneth Paltrow when she was an actress in her early 20s. You are married to an actress who has representation, your daughters have acted. So what do you want their agents to do for them? How can agents protect their clients and make sure that they are not enabling bad behavior?
I think agencies have to communicate with each other better. You know, if I'm at a high level of an agency and I deal with Harvey Weinstein a lot and I'm aware that he has this reputation, I need to tell everyone who works for me to not do business with him. And at the very least don't send actresses into situations with him. There certainly were people in our industry who knew it was dangerous to take a meeting in a hotel room with Harvey Weinstein. So the question is: Why didn't heads of agencies put out an alert to all of their agents to tell clients you don't get yourself in that situation?
Yes, he was a powerful man and he provided a lot of work. But I do think we have to say, Who cares? We don't need Harvey Weinstein movies and we don't need our clients to work with him. At some point the safety of our actors and actresses should be the most important thing, not the potential to be in any of these movies.
I think you're you're putting your finger right on it: It was about the deal; It was about the commission; It was about the career. It wasn't about what happened ... It was all about what could advance the agenda, what could advance the project, regardless of what was actually at stake and what was happening behind closed doors.
Yes, and I think that the people that are in a position to know that other people are in danger have to find the courage to protect young people in our industry. There are people that know. I don't think it's fair to say everybody knew. People might have known he was a pig or he's hitting on a lot of the actresses and it's a rumor and you hear it at a party and you don't hear directly from anyone involved, and so it's very hard for that to become actionable. But if you represent an actress who calls you and says, I had to put a dresser up against my door so Harvey Weinstein wouldn't open it up and attack me, I think it is your job to call the head of Miramax or Disney or whatever company he's working for at that time and say you have a criminal here and we need to shut him down. And and I found one of the most disturbing stories to be Daryl Hannah's story because she talked about calling everyone on her film — the directors and the producers — and nobody helped her.
You're a director and a producer of film and television. How do you make sure that the next time that you're running a set that the cast and crew knows how to safely report sexual harassment? How can you change the culture so that people feel empowered to report what they think is wrong?
I think that it really comes from the top. People know when they walk on the set if they're respected. They know if they're heard and they know if bad behavior is tolerated or not. We are just are not going to put up with anything. If an actress comes forward and says she's uncomfortable or that something happens, we try to take immediate action. We try to talk to the actors and [ask], What would you like to happen right now? What is going on?
People know if they're in good hands or not. So you have to make sure that everyone on your set feels your level of concern. We all do sexual harassment seminars before we start projects. Either somebody from the studio will come and give a speech and explain everything, but more importantly than that, everybody that works with me knows that [I'm] the kind of leader that is going to take care of problems if they happen. And so, clearly, in the world of Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner, a lot of those people didn't feel like [there was] someone that they could go to to seek help. And that's what is very sad and that's what has to change. If somebody works with Brett Ratner and knows that he's causing a lot of problems and doing things which are, at the very least inappropriate and at the most criminal, why does that person not stand up for the actors or actresses?
Does that mean that you, like any other person, would find yourself looking at the men around you differently like, Do I really know you? Can I trust you are you?
I think that it's more about generally paying attention. You know when somebody is a creep. It's not hard to tell. Everybody knows who's awful, for the most part, and if you're their partner or you're working directly with them. Are you more concerned about your job than you are about protecting other people? Do we really think Bob Weinstein had no idea that there was a lot of inappropriate behavior going on? Of course he did.
There is also a power imbalance in the business in which you work: women do not have jobs equivalent and commensurate to men behind and in front of the camera. And what's more, the ways in which they are depicted on screen is not in keeping with the way in which women lead their lives. Is there another problem in terms of the message that entertainment sends out and the way in which women do and do not have access to tell stories?
I think that it's shameful how women are treated in the industry. I think last year six percent of movies were directed by women, and that's a massive problem. It certainly doesn't make any sense. Every time we've done a project with creators who are women, they've been immensely successful. So the audience wants it. There's no reason why there shouldn't be more of it. You know what projects we did? We did "Trainwreck," "Bridesmaids," "Girls." Every time out, the audience has said, This is exactly what we want. And so we do need to focus more attention on finding that balance.
And a lot of the places where we work are very aggressive about changing that. When we work on "Crashing" at HBO, they say, We want half of these episodes directed by women. And they push hard to make it happen. And that changes things. A bigger issue is giving the same women all the jobs [instead of] giving opportunities to people who have not directed their first television show or ran their first show. We need female creators and we need to find young people and break them into the business because it's very easy to say, Okay, we filled all our slots with women. But how many of those women are directing for the first time on television? And that would make a very big difference. It is giving people the big break.
Do you find yourself rethinking your commitment to that idea and trying to be even more aggressive in terms of hiring — not just women but people of color, people of diverse sexual backgrounds — to make sure that you are casting as wide a net as possible with every job in front of and behind the camera?
Yes, I think that is what all of us need to focus our attention on. There are so many ways to do positive things in this industry. You really need everybody to make it a priority. And I do feel it changing. I can feel it from the studios and from the networks, and it just needs to change a lot quicker.
To listen to the full interview, click on the player above.