"Harassment Within a Union: Rosanna Arquette, Jessica Barth, Caitlin Dulany, Pamela Guest, Sarah Scott, Sarah Ann Masse and Matthew Modine"
If you didn’t have a car and wanted to get from Hollywood to downtown Los Angeles, you’d have several options: taxi, rideshare, public transportation or a rental car. You could ask a friend for a ride, bicycle, or even walk. What you wouldn’t do is build a new car for $1,000,000. Which is how the current SAG-AFTRA President chose to address sexual harassment and #MeToo survivors within the Union. Rather than work with several powerful, well organized, existing organizations, Ms. Carteris built her own million dollar initiative.
In November of 2017, National and LA board member Pamela Guest brought forward the idea of a Sexual Harassment Task Force to the SAG-AFTRA President. Ms. Guest’s plan was unanimously supported by the LA Board, and Ms. Guest was positioned to spearhead the Task Force. But then, The union President turned Ms. Guest’s Task Force into her own President’s sub-committee. Frances Fisher, Rosanna Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Ellen Barkin, and Jennifer Esposito worked diligently alongside Ms. Guest and submitted numerous safety provisions that could have been implemented immediately. But, to their dismay, the President adopted none of them. Ms. Guest personally alerted the President to the growing enthusiasm for Intimacy Coordinators as chronicled in the New York Times, August 30, 2018. Then after much fanfare, the President’s sub-committee did not meet from June, 2018 to May, 2019, almost one entire year later.
Survivor Rosanna Arquette shares, “When many of us came forward about Harvey Weinstein, I met with Gabrielle Carteris for lunch. I told her I wanted to put together a committee to deal with sexual harassment issues so that it might not ever happen again. Gabby was kind and very receptive. Or, so I thought. The very women who came forward to painfully revisit their experiences were shut out of these “confidential committee” meetings. Why? Carteris was the one who would sign off on all members on the Task Force. Why wasn’t I included? I was told by one of Ms. Carteris’ supporters on Twitter that I was asked to come onboard - it was a complete and utter lie. This never happened and if it were to have, I would have been asked by Gabrielle because she was the only one to sign off on who was to be included on the Task Force. I wasn’t.”
Survivor, Jessica Barth - “A chorus of bravery ignited the #MeToo movement into a global phenomenon bringing to light the fact sexual offenders tend to be serial offenders. It became obvious that a reporting system that could track serial perpetrators was critical in the fight to end sexual harassment and assault so I made it my mission to create one. When I first developed a reporting platform, it was October of 2017 and I assumed support would be as plentiful as the promises of safety and gratitude for our courage. When I founded Voices in Action with fellow
Silence Breaker, Caitlin Dulany, we realized this would not be the case. When we met with President Carteris, she seemed supportive but then completely stopped communication. Despite our matching system being responsible for multiple criminal investigations, civil investigations, perpetrators losing positions of power and survivors speaking their truth, we have received zero support from our union or even our industry as a whole. SAG-AFTRA’s refusal to offer Voices in Action as a resource to its members shows an abhorrent lack of responsibility and a shockingly low sense of urgency to keep members safe.” www.voicesinaction.org
Survivor, Sarah Scott, brought her SH story to the Union against a fellow SAG-AFTRA member. The Union ruled that the accused actor was “guilty of serious misconduct in violation” of the SAG-AFTRA constitution. When she was asked what changes she’d like to see the union adopt, Ms. Scott stated, “A Code of Conduct that defines what sexual harassment is and what it looks like in our workplace. Clear punishments for any abusers found guilty. Transparency. The reporting process was insensitive and the Member-to-Member Hearing I went through was demeaning and ineffectual. The current system is antiquated and needs reform, and the punishment falls flat. A third party investigative team should be handling these cases, not our peers. I was assured that short term mental health therapy was available through the Actors Fund. False. The resource personnel that is actually made available is called an Options Counselor. They’re social workers who help members navigate certain options, but they’re not able to provide any therapy or legal advice.”
Caitlin Dulany writes “It’s the union’s job to demand safe working conditions for its members. It’s shocking to me that almost two years post #MeToo, this hasn’t happened. Ms. Carteris’ Guidelines and Codes of Conduct are not protective measures with penalties and fines attached. They are not enforceable. They are, at most, strong suggestions. It is imperative that safety from sexual misconduct be negotiated as part of our contractual agreements with producers.”
Survivor Sarah Ann Masse writes “Current SAG-AFTRA leadership, which had the opportunity to promote transparency, safety, and survivor-driven, trauma-informed programs and policies, instead, created an ineffectual, non-transparent committee that has done nothing but slow these imperative changes.”
Ms. Guest added, “The Intimacy Coordinator Initiative, as recently announced, falls far short of mandating that Intimacy Coordinators be present on every set whenever an intimate scene is being filmed. After all this time, SAG-AFTRA leadership still hasn’t successfully addressed this urgent necessity.”
On July 23rd, during a Los Angeles Local Board meeting, a board member presented a sexual harassment initiative that could have had an immediate and positive impact upon the safety of our members. While everyone in the James Cagney Boardroom agreed that the proposal would be beneficial, the initiative was voted down because of a technicality of procedure. This is an example of the viciousness by members within our boardrooms. These accounts, retold by the members above, demonstrate how far members in our board rooms are willing to go to magnify division within our union. Sexual harassment and abuse of power is nonpartisan and should not be used as a political football.
Sexual harassment and assault are by no means unique to the entertainment industry. It is an obscene perversion that occurs in every community, city, and state across our nation. It exists within our schools, our homes, our religious institutions, our athletics, and our government. If you speak with SAG-AFTRA members, they will explain, in painful detail, that they do not feel safe working in the industry today. They will tell you that they don’t feel protected by the union or its leadership. This is a sad and dangerous state of affairs when a cornerstone of the union is providing safety for its members.
“Survivors of sexual assault want our leaders to stand up and say that they understand sexual abuse is a serious problem in our nation. I stand beside every person who has survived these crimes and deplorable behavior, and I promise to take actions to change it.” ~ Matthew Modine
"For over four decades I have had the honor of working alongside some of the most famous actress in the industry and have personally experienced abuses of power in relation to moments of cinematic intimacy.
When an actress friend (who shall remain nameless due to fear of industry reprisals and who is currently engaged in the Harvey Weinstein lawsuits) became aware of my candidacy for Sag-Aftra President, she reached out to discuss sexual harassment on film sets. She explained the urgent need for intimacy coordinators, just like stunt coordinators, for the protection of our members.
This became a central issue of my campaign and our MembershipFirst platform.
It also prompted me to speak with Pamela Guest, who I knew was advocating for intimacy coordinators. She arranged a video conference with several I.C’s from around the country and it was during that conversation that I learned about the habitual ineffectiveness of our current leadership.
It was clear to me that the need for intimacy coordinators was important to everyone. However, no entity — the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild or Sag-Aftra — wanted to assume responsibility.
For me, there’s no question that IC's should be our Union’s responsibility.
Someone who understands the demands and pressures put upon a performer and who can effectively provide a safe working space for our membership.” - Matthew Modine