I worked in the movie business in New York in the nineties. Although I met Harvey Weinstein a few times, I had no idea he was harassing and abusing women. At the time, I was Vice President of Production at Lions Gate Films. My boss was an absolute prince of a man and an incredible mentor. His bosses, all male, were also wonderful to work with. I enjoyed my ten years in the movie business, and I never considered myself lucky to have avoided being sexually harassed. I assumed a base level of decency and that was exactly what I experienced.
But when I think back on that time, there was one incident that stands out. I was producing a film with a director who developed a strong aversion to me. He was a solid, experienced director, and we hired him to shoot a particular script as written. Unfortunately, he kept trying to coax the actors into improvising their way toward a different version of the story. We were concerned our foreign distributors would reject the film if we strayed too far off script, so I was thrust into the awkward position of having to babysit this very experienced director on set.
Neither of us wanted to be in this position, but sometimes your job calls for you to do difficult things. I accepted his cold stares, his bursts of rage, his snide comments and outright insults on set. I was a professional. I wasn’t there to be popular. I was there to get the film in the can, on budget, as scripted. It was an ugly, contentious, difficult shoot, the most difficult of my career. But we got through it.
Then I learned that this director had been spreading vicious lies about me behind my back, namely that I got my job as producer and VP of production by sleeping with my boss. This ugly rumor made its way through the entire crew, all the way to my boss’s boss, who informed me immediately. He didn’t believe it, thankfully. But it was profoundly disturbing to discover that an entire crew I’d just worked with were wondering about me, doubting me. It undermined my authority, my confidence, and my rapport with people I knew I’d be working with in the future. I can only assume this was precisely the director’s goal.
I tried to confront him, but he refused to take my calls. He was bold enough when it came to spreading ugly lies about me behind my back, but a complete coward when it came to facing me directly. Finally, his agent called and apologized on the director’s behalf, a mealy-mouthed gesture if there ever was one, and utterly insufficient.
This director did not drive me out of the business. I went on to produce bigger and better films with Lions Gate. The experience did not break me. But it took a chunk out of my confidence. Now add up all the similar incidents that women face every day, and just imagine how much stronger, more creative, more fearless we would be—imagine how much more we could contribute!—if it weren’t for the vicious, ugly things we have to face down in the work place.