Hollywood’s Largest Union Responds to the Sexual Harassment Scandal

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The entertainment industry appears to be engaging in a superficial public relations campaign in response to the systemic sexual harassment crisis, which has severely tarnished the once-golden Hollywood brand.

In the fall of 2017, numerous women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, charges that spanned several decades and dealt with inappropriate and possible criminal behavior ranging from harassment to rape.

What has followed the initial Weinstein related expose is a host of harassment and sexual misconduct allegations involving actors, producers, directors, and other high-profile individuals.

Many of the alleged incidents are said to have taken place in hotel rooms. In a number of instances, women who believed they were attending a business meeting were instead subjected to various levels of improper behavior.

After the earth shattering revelations had come to the public forefront, what the appropriate response on the part of the entertainment community should have been was, at a minimum, to immediately cease the practice of holding meetings in hotel room suites.

Tragically, this did not occur and the practice of conducting private hotel room meetings continues to take place, despite the avalanche of news stories surrounding the biggest scandal in Hollywood history.

Elite decision makers in the industry argue that the private hotel room setting has been used to conduct meetings for those seeking roles in movie productions or television programs since the early days of Hollywood.

The continued use of hotel rooms for meetings has finally led SAG-AFTRA, which is the largest labor union in Hollywood representing actors, performers, broadcast journalists, and other entertainment professionals, to actually do something.

The union had been under fire in the wake of the sexual impropriety scandal for failing to protect its members from potential sexual misconduct. After holding a series of public meetings and forums with its members and industry leaders, the union has released a new set of guidelines regarding the conducting of private meetings in hotel rooms and residences, which calls for an end to the practice.

SAG-AFTRA is urging its members and their respective representatives to refrain from accepting professional meetings in “high-risk locations.”

If for any reason a producer and actor fail to come to an agreement on a meeting location, the SAG-AFTRA guidelines establish the concept of a “support peer,” which is an individual who will be available to accompany a performer to the meeting.

Distressingly, the guidelines may prove to be ineffective in the long run, since they are voluntary rather than mandatory.

To understand the industry’s intrinsic conflict, a cursory examination of a significant segment of the entertainment business is necessary; one that seems to have escaped a cultural airing and public dialogue—the music business.

Male music performers, who have had serious accusations lodged against them, seem to have been permitted to take a brief leave from their public appearances. And when a seemingly adequate amount of time has passed, they are subsequently allowed to go forward with their careers as if nothing ever happened.

–Singer Chris Brown was accused of assaulting then-girlfriend singer-actress Rihanna and additionally had similar problems with another girlfriend in 2017. The subsequent girlfriend was able to obtain a five-year restraining order to address claims of abuse and violent threats.

–Singer R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, nevertheless has for decades been trailed by accusations of abuse of women and of having had sexual relationships with minors.

–Epic Records chairman and CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid made a swift exit from Sony Music after having been accused of sexual harassment by a female assistant at Epic Records. Variety reported that “multiple” claims were made against Reid. This year Reid announced that he had formed a new record label, Hitco, which has signed rapper Big Boi.

–Singer Trey Songz was recently arrested for felony domestic assault. The felony charge of hitting a woman while at a Hollywood party was rejected by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Songz’s case is still being reviewed by the L.A. City Attorney to determine whether or not to charge the singer with a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic violence.

–Rapper XXXTentacion was arrested in 2016 and is awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. The rapper is also facing other felony counts relating to the case and was under house arrest from late December 2017 through March 2018. The rapper recently reached number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart to become the top musical act in the nation.

–Rapper Fabolous was recently charged with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree terroristic threats. The rapper allegedly punched a female victim in the face with enough force to knock out her front teeth.

The revelations regarding the horrific practices that were going on in all corners of the entertainment industry were a long time in coming. No superficial image repair has the means to restore the integrity of an individual or to address in any meaningful way the wanton exercise of arrogant power.

Perhaps when criminal prosecutions begin to take place, persons in positions of power and influence will be deterred from taking advantage of employee hopefuls, vulnerable subordinates, and would-be stars.

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Sexual Harassment Allegations Surface against the President of the Motion Picture Academy

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The last thing Hollywood needs is another high-profile scandal. Unfortunately, this is exactly what recently landed at the doorstep of a once respected institution.

The president of the Motion Picture Academy, who was at the organization’s helm in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct disclosures, is himself now the subject of an investigation involving multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

According to Variety, John Bailey, the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, is under investigation for sexual harassment allegations. The probe was launched after the Academy received three separate claims of impropriety.

For months the entertainment industry has been in deep distress as a result of the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, which were revealed in reports in outlets such as the New York Times and the New Yorker.

As a means of responding, Hollywood set up a sexual harassment commission and embraced the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

The revelation involving the head of the Academy comes right on the heels of the immensely unentertaining 90th Academy Awards ceremony, which is now infamous for garnering the most disastrous ratings in the show’s history.

Bailey, a cinematographer and film director, is best known for collaborating with big-name film directors including Paul Schrader, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Apted. His list of film credits includes “The Big Chill,” “Ordinary People,” “American Gigolo,” “As Good As It Gets,” and “Groundhog Day.” In 2015 he was awarded the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award.

The longtime Academy member was elected to the post of Academy president in August 2017 and had previously been president of the Cinematographers branch. During Bailey’s tenure, the Academy voted to revoke Weinstein’s membership just days after the first reports of sexual misconduct surfaced.

The choice of Bailey raised the eyebrows of some high-profile liberals in the entertainment industry, particularly because vociferous Academy members had been pushing for, among other things, a more inclusive Oscar organization.

Consequently, the then-newly elected 75-year-old Caucasian male president received a substantial degree of disapproval over his age as well as his skin color.

At the time Bailey told Variety, “What you just said is [expletive],” adding, “I was born a white man, and I can’t help it that I’m 75 years old. Is this some sort of limiting factor?”

Under Bailey’s leadership, the Academy established a new code of conduct, which provides for disciplining or expelling members over abuse, harassment, or discrimination and also sets up procedures by which such accusations can be adjudicated administratively.

Such claims are to be forwarded by the Membership Department to the Academy’s Membership and Administration Committee, a committee currently led by David Rubin.

If the allegations are deemed to be credible and serious, the matter is sent to the Board of Governors, which then determines whether to suspend or expel the member, in this case, Bailey.

One of the members of the Board of Governors happens to be Bailey’s wife, Carol Littleton, who presumably would have to recuse herself from the proceedings.

If Bailey were ultimately suspended or removed due to the investigation and adjudication, he would be replaced by Academy first vice president and makeup artist Lois Burwell.

A couple of weeks ago Bailey told the annual luncheon for Oscar nominees that the “fossilized bedrock” of Hollywood would be “jack-hammered into oblivion.”

The claims against the Academy president, the subsequent investigation, and adjudication are occurring at a most inopportune time, especially when one factors in the omnipresence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Any due process Bailey might receive is jeopardized by the profound embarrassment that plagues Hollywood elites over their roles in the ongoing scandal.

Franco a Fiasco for the Oscars?

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Hollywood is a land of contradictions.

In the aftermath of the sexual impropriety scandal that has engulfed the entertainment capital, the Golden Globes Awards ceremony found itself immersed in the aftereffects of the #MeToo movement, with themes that took the form of black fashion dominating the designer palette, professional presentations being replaced with surreal sanctimony, and a former daytime TV queen toying with a future presidential run.

The sudden explosion of sexual harassment allegations has resulted in a string of unexpected consequences for the entertainment business, including the unceremoniously exiling from the Academy of former Oscar master Harvey Weinstein and the digitally redacting of actor Kevin Spacey from an Oscar hopeful film “All the Money in the World.”

It is expected that the Oscars telecast will follow the lead of the other awards shows and make Hollywood’s sex scandals a frazzled thread woven throughout the proceedings.

Of concern for the Academy, though, is something involving actor James Franco, who in taking home a Globe award managed to increase the awards season buzz for his chances of also snagging an Oscar. Franco additionally won the Best Actor award at the Critics’ Choice Awards, boosting his inflated profile even further.

Franco is scheduled to attend the Screen Actors Guild Awards (prior to the Academy Awards) on Jan. 21, where he is nominated for lead actor.

The Hollywood star has been viewed as an actual contender, not only for a nomination for an Academy Award for his work in “The Disaster Artist,” but also as a top tier candidate for a Best Actor trophy at the Oscar telecast.

Critics are raving about Franco’s portrayal of the real-life director of “The Room,” which is said by critics and fans to be the worst film ever made.

The particular predicament for the Academy, at this extraordinary time in Hollywood history, are some allegations that have been raised against Franco concerning sexually inappropriate behavior. Five women have accused him of inappropriate or sexually exploitative conduct, according to an investigation by The Los Angeles Times.

Franco may regret his decision at the Golden Globe ceremony to wear a pin that supported Time’s Up, the initiative recently formed by 300 women in the entertainment industry with the ostensible purpose of combating workplace sexual harassment. The sight of Franco’s donning of the pin during the Globe telecast prompted several women to call out the actor via their Twitter accounts.

Two of the women cited by the L.A. Times sent out tweets, as did actress Ally Sheedy, who posted the following: “James Franco just won. Please never ask me why I left the film/tv business.”

The actress had appeared in the “The Long Shrift,” a 2014 off-Broadway production that Franco directed. Sheedy subsequently deleted the tweet.

Franco has denied the allegations. Whether or not he receives a nomination will be decided by the actors’ branch of the Academy, which is the largest group of voters, with over 1,200 members.

Nominations are scheduled to be announced on Jan. 23, and Franco will be facing some stiff competition from other heralded A-list actors, including Gary Oldman for “The Darkest Hour,” Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Timothee Chalamet for “Call me By Your Name,” Daniel Day-Lewis for “Phantom Thread,” and Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out.”

There was a great deal of consternation when another actor, Casey Affleck, took the Academy Award for Best Actor last year for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” despite the fact that he had two sexual harassment suits that he settled out of court.

But that was long before the Weinstein story broke and changed Hollywood forever.

Hollywood Picks ‘Man Show’ Kimmel to Host Post-Weinstein Oscars

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It is difficult to decipher what exactly is driving some of Hollywood’s questionable decisions of late.

On the heels of the entertainment industry’s choice of Anita Hill as sexual harassment czar, the announcement that former co-host of “The Man Show” and current late-night political pawn Jimmy Kimmel will once again take the Oscar stage as host of the show.

This will be Kimmel’s second consecutive year as emcee, despite the fact that the results of his last go-round were anything but stellar. The telecast scored low ratings, and there was the infamous gaffe in which “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as the winner for Best Picture, when in fact “Moonlight” was the movie that had taken the top spot.

It could be that Kimmel’s recent hyper-political correctness caught the attention of the Academy, particularly when he jettisoned comedy to do opinion pieces on controversial political topics, including health care and gun control. He purposely used his show to lobby against the effort of the Republican Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he received the gratitude of many on the left for helping to thwart the legislation.

CNN went so far as to declare that Kimmel was “America’s conscience.” Oddly, though, the would-be moral authority has been largely silent about the Weinstein scandal and its many offshoots.

There is a good reason for Kimmel’s reluctance to speak. Before he became the darling of the left, Kimmel and fellow comic Adam Carolla created and co-hosted “The Man Show,” a highly sexualized program, which aired on Comedy Central from 1999 until 2003.

Frequently engaging in the objectification of women and showcasing some racially-charged sketches, in a segment from one of the programs Kimmel approached women on the street and asked them to guess what he had inside his pants.

“I’ve stuffed something in my pants, and you’re allowed to feel around on the outside of the pants. You’ll have 10 seconds to then guess what is in my pants,” he said to a woman, adding that she “should use two hands.”

Kimmel later asked another female participant to “put her mouth on it,” and he made sure that another woman was at least 18 years old because “Uncle Jimmy doesn’t need to do time.”

When one of his contestants was touching him in a more aggressive manner, he told her that she was “gonna make a fine wife.”

At the end of the skit, Kimmel revealed that what he had stuffed in his pants was a zucchini with a rubber band on it.

Other crude segments featured on “The Man Show” included a faux commercial for “Bosom Springs,” a fictitious company that provided water for wet T-shirts, and a “Juggy Talent Show” in which women in sparse swimwear attire would demonstrate their implicitly sexual “talents.”

In other shows, Kimmel can be seen asking individuals he encounters on the street if they would show their underwear and enlisting advice from porn stars on domestic chores.

For the first decade or so of his ABC late-night gig, Kimmel stayed away from controversial topics and became well known for his comedic fare, including pulling practical jokes on Hollywood stars or having celebrities read mean tweets about themselves.

A politically charged Kimmel emerged in early 2017, when, after being fed Democrat talking points from Sen. Chuck Schumer, began attacking GOP legislative proposals. He also politicized the deadly Las Vegas shooting to launch into a gun control rant.

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, which owns ABC, noticed Kimmel’s departure from comedy and excursion into activism.

“That show is to entertain,” Iger told The New York Times.

Then the Hollywood executive said something that Kimmel would be wise to pay attention to as he readies himself for the upcoming Oscar hosting gig.

Iger advised, “I think he should be careful.”

Box Office Down Again in 2017

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As 2017 draws to a close, the entertainment industry is discovering it has to deal with the reality that this year turns out to be the worst ever for the Hollywood brand.

The sex scandals surrounding movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and other major Hollywood players certainly did not help matters. Neither did the vitriolic politics that routinely spewed from left-wing celebrities’ mouths and wound up alienating folks from coast to coast.

This year the movie box office, once the primary gauge of the entertainment business, suffered yet another decline. Despite the fact that over the last twenty years or so gross box-office revenues saw an increase, for the last decade and a half actual ticket sales have consistently taken a dive.

The final 2017 tally for the North American box office appears as if it will be in the range of 2 to 4 percent less than the previous year, somewhere slightly above $11.1 billion.

It is only the third year that the domestic box office has ever made it over the $11 billion level; however, the number of tickets sold turns out to be the lowest amount since 1995.

Basically, a smaller audience is paying a higher price to see movies at the multiplex, and although the price increase is somewhat tied to inflation, it is a combination of factors that is responsible for a shrinking theater-going audience.

Big studios have been relying on existing franchises, and the creation of new ones, to fill the seats. However, the annual revenue performance was down, in part because of some underperforming sequels and remakes.

Additionally, some of the old film franchises are beginning to fade, as seen in the following examples:

— “Alien: Covenant,” Ridley Scott’s installment in the “Alien” series, came in far below expectations.

–“Transformers: The Last Knight” produced the lowest revenue of the franchise so far.

— The attempt to create a DC version of Marvel’s “Avengers” with “Justice League” essentially fizzled.

— Universal released “The Mummy” in order to launch a new “Dark Universe” franchise, but it was dead on arrival.

— “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” “Valerian,” and “The Dark Tower” were all produced and released with the hopes that they would each result in a stream of sequel progenies, but the hopes failed to materialize.

The sequels that fared well created new variations on the super-hero theme. “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” yet another in a series of reboots in the franchise, used a high school setting to insert universal teen angst into the storyline. Similarly, “Thor: Ragnarok” surprised fans of the god of thunder, involving him in a comedic romp.

The horror and comedy genres still have the power to pack the traditional movie setting, thanks to a reliance on the shared audience experience. Unfortunately, the current comedy formula of potty humor laced with profanity produced a series of bombs in “Baywatch,” “The House,” and “ChiPs.”

On the other hand, it is a safe bet that Hollywood will release more films in the horror genre. “It” was a blockbuster, and the box office successes of “Split,” “Get Out,” and “Annabelle: Creation” produced large profit margins due to relatively inexpensive production costs.

Just prior to the start of the summer season, studio heads were taking heart in the early releases that did do well, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Fate of The Furious.” In June, the singular DC success “Wonder Woman” ended up scoring well enough at the box office to create a valuable new franchise.

Still, by summer’s end it was clear that the movie business would have to overcome a season splattered with non-performing releases. The summer of 2017 produced the lowest box-office totals in a quarter of a century, placing studio executives under a deep dark cloud.

It was clear that executives were in a box-office hole as a result of the disappointing performances of installments that were previously proven franchises, including “The Mummy,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

There was, however, a pleasant summer surprise that arrived in the form of “Dunkirk,” a World War II epic and one of the best films of the year. Director Christopher Nolan demonstrated how one can create a film experience that is exquisitely dependent on theater attendance. He used IMAX cameras in the filming of the movie and promoted the need for filmgoers to view the movie on wide screens as opposed to streaming it on a device.

Hollywood insiders were waiting for the anticipated galactic revenue flow from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to rescue the year, but here, too, the numbers did not hit the high mark.

No doubt Hollywood’s image has taken a beating in fly-over country and beyond, due to the sexual harassment and assault allegations, outrageous celebrity political posturing, late-night’s unfunny agenda-ridden routines, and the like.

Perhaps the movie business, like the NFL, is simply reaping what it sows.

Hollywood Unravels

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Hollywood is experiencing a seismic displacement that is impacting its business, brand, and future prospects.

Since the disgusting serial behavior of Harvey Weinstein was made known to the public courtesy of the tenacious reporting of journalist Ronan Farrow, some of the most powerful members of the Hollywood community have been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to criminal sexual assault.

The alleged perpetrators comprise a list of some of the biggest and most heralded names in Hollywood, including Ben Affleck (actor and Oscar winning director), Dustin Hoffman (Oscar winning actor), Kevin Spacey (Oscar winning actor), Jeremy Piven (Emmy winning television actor), James Toback (director and Oscar nominated screenwriter), and David O. Russell (Oscar nominated director).

For decades the Hollywood community has in large part ignored and even condoned the contemptible behavior of Roman Polanski (Oscar winning director) and Woody Allen (four-time Oscar winner).

New revelations related to Hollywood’s unseemly side seem to be pouring in by the hour. Now accusations against Spacey are opening up yet another horrific illegality that has been the subject of rumors in the town for years, the unspeakable crime of pedophilia.

Never before has a scandal this dark and pervasive draped the Hollywood community with such ill-repute. And never before has the Hollywood brand been sullied as badly as it has been during this past year.

Adding to the crushing weight of it all is the fact that the entertainment business is suffering damages in a dollar amount that is still impossible to calculate. Many of those who are currently accused of misconduct have potentially profitable current and future projects that have been cancelled or put on hold.

Some of the accused have careers that are, at a minimum, severely impaired. For others it is most certainly over.

As viewers of entertainment industry award shows are able to attest, Hollywood has set itself up as an agenda driven purveyor of cultural norms. Many entertainment figures are infamous for talking down what they view as “fly-over” country.

Middle America is the place that so-called progressives on the Left Coast use to bolster one another’s views with unfounded smug certainty. Even as Hollywood pitches its out-of-the-mainstream worldview, a twisted form of narcissism, self-idolatry, still rules the roost and blinding hypocrisy reigns. This is particularly evident when it comes to the outward display of self-congratulation via the award ceremony industry.

Movies about Hollywood itself seem to be the recipients of a disproportionate degree of attention, e.g., “The Artist,” “La La Land,” “Argo” and “Trumbo.”

The Left Coast is also in the ugly habit of deriding those who promote government reduction, self-defense rights, border enforcement, and the like. Judeo-Christian faith expression serves as fodder for snide comedic skits and perverse story plotlines. Intact marriages and loving families are the stuff of ridicule. And patriotism has been recast as divisive, outmoded, and worse.

There is a consequence to embracing a worldview that is devoid of time-honored values. What we have now in Hollywood is a frayed fabric that continues to unravel with no apparent way of mending.