News / Toronto

Hollywood North optimistic about treatment of women in a post-Weinstein film industry

As the entertainment industry is flooded with allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, Canadian women are hopeful it can bring about change.

The #MeToo campaign, encouraging women to denounce sexual abuse, swept across social media in the wake of allegations targeting Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP

The #MeToo campaign, encouraging women to denounce sexual abuse, swept across social media in the wake of allegations targeting Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

For years, they say, they’ve been underrepresented on sets, in the director’s chair and at film festivals.

But now women in Canada’s entertainment scene are hopeful that sexual-assault allegations plaguing Hollywood will finally spur some long-awaited improvements to gender equality.

“Women are being listened to and being believed, which was not always the case. We have gone from whispering to open discussions,” said Heather Webb, executive director of Women in Film & Television-Toronto. “There has been a lot of momentum in the last few years and people talking about gender equality, but I think the Weinstein allegations were a tipping point.”

Webb’s optimism comes ahead of TIFF's Friday breakfast panel about confronting harassment in the entertainment industry and actress Mia Kirshner's two-day #AfterMeToo symposium set for next week in Toronto.

And it follows a meeting between 17 of the country’s biggest entertainment organizations, which emerged with plans to draft an industry code of conduct. That document would include ways to alleviate the fear of retaliation many women have when coming forward with stories of sexual harassment.

David Sparrow, the president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists National — one of the organizations involved in the discussions — mused that plans could include daily reminders on sets about appropriate behaviour and more effective incident-reporting systems that take into account the harassment that happens off set, in auditions and even once filming has wrapped.

“We have a real urgency and we want it done as quickly as possible, but we want it done right so six months in the future we are not making the same errors and delays as we have in the past,” said Sparrow.

Webb hopes their efforts become “more than a policy on paper.” She and Chloe Sosa-Sims, the co-founder of women’s organization Film Fatales, both think the industry needs to build a pipeline for women in every kind of role, especially decision-making positions.

“A lot of sexual harassment comes out of men trying to maintain their power, and the only way to tip the scales is for more women to be directors, producers, have leading roles and write scripts,” Sosa-Sims said. “Hiring women and funding women will create change.”

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