Vancouver film industry veterans speak out about sexual harassment in Hollywood North
For Lisa Ovies, it was a heavy conversation: speaking with teenage students at her Vancouver-based acting school about her own experience with sexual harassment.
“It was raw,” Ovies says of the dialogue. The conversation was prompted by the harrowing accounts of Harvey Weinstein‘s sexual impropriety that have been rocking Hollywood for almost a month.
However, Ovies and others say it isn’t just a problem in Hollywood: it’s happening in Canada too.
“My first experience was while I was still in school,” she said. “It was a mentor and someone who I should have looked up to — I did, up until that point — abusing their position of power and trying to get me to meet them in a private apartment while they were married.”
Harassed on set: stories from survivors
At the time, she shared the ordeal with a girlfriend. She says her harasser had a history, but it was overlooked — and turning a blind eye unfortunately became the norm in Hollywood North.
“All of us in the community know about certain people that are out there being predators and taking advantage of their roles and up until now there’s been an odd complacency about it,” she says.
A history of harassment
While she’s never been the victim of a violent sexual assault, Sarah Deakins says she’s also endured her share of sexual harassment throughout her 20-year career in film in Vancouver. From unwanted touching to overt sexual advances, she can hardly think of a shoot where something didn’t happen.
“Something happens. Everyone there sees it, but they look the other way,” she said.
“If I’m that woman and I see 50 guys just turn around and walk away, they may not be the perpetrator, but they didn’t help me,” she says.
What’s more, she says women remain silent out of fear of being labelled a troublemaker.
LISTEN: Sexual harassment in the B.C. film industry
“If you are trouble on a set, you’re probably not coming back.”
This is more than a ‘social media moment’: Ovies
For both women, sharing their encounters with sexual harassment is about breaking a deafening silence, joining the chorus of voices calling for change.
The last thing Ovies wants is for the conversation surrounding sexual harassment in the film industry to simply fade away — garnering attention in the moment, but having a limited long-term impact.
“My fear is that it’s a social media moment and then it goes away, so I think it’s our responsibility to keep the dialogue going,” Ovies said.
For Deakins, change means more accountability: identifying known offenders and disseminating that information through an established network.
“If you’ve had a complaint against you about sexual harassment, that should be in a computer. That should come up whenever you go out for a job.”
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