Utah film industry takes strong stand against sexual harassment
With conversations about sexual harassment in the workplace brewing across all industries, the effect is perhaps no greater seen than in the media production business, where the snowball effect began after allegations were revealed about film producer Harvey Weinstein.
In Utah – and specifically Park City – media production companies visit to film year round. The Utah Film Commission, a resource for production crews filming in Utah, decided to take action against sexual harassment. The organization recently instituted a policy that states that any productions filming in the state must have a workplace harassment policy in place. The commission posted the state of Utah’s workplace harassment policy on its own website and is encouraging companies to adopt the policy if they do not have one of their own.
Currently, the TV series “Yellowstone” is being shot in Park City at Utah Film Studios. The production team from Paramount Network has about 160 crew members and 500 local extras.
Dave Schwarz, spokesperson for Viacom, which owns Paramount Network, said that the company already had a workplace sexual harassment policy in place before the Utah Film Commission came out with its statement.
“We work closely and diligently with our production partners to create a safe environment for all involved,” he said. “There is no work-related project or business opportunity more important than the well-being and safety of our employees, freelancers, crew and talent.”
Schwarz said that one of Viacom’s priorities is to make sure that staff and non-staff are all aware of the policies, and that the company provides harassment prevention training.
The Sundance Institute, which puts on the Sundance Film Festival in Park City every year, is also showing support for the movement to reduce sexual harassment.
In October, the organization released a statement denouncing Weinstein’s alleged actions, some of which reportedly took place at the film festival.
“We recognize that too often a pattern of abuse like this one thrives in the shadows, and we stand in solidarity with the courageous women whose honesty has helped shine a light on it,” the statement said.
Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, said that big organizations like the commission have felt a responsibility to publicly take a stance.
“To have a state agency — someone above the production (employees) are working on — that they know could be a resource, I think it’s important,” she said. “It did feel like we needed to take a step and make sure we had some resources and policies in place that would help address the issue.”
Pearce said that part of changing the culture is to have more women, as well as minorities, in positions of power. She said that promoting their work is another way that she feels the industry can promote change.
“Policy only really can go so far,” she said. “It starts to become more about empowering more women both in front of the camera and behind the camera.”
She said that the commission in recent years has been showing more support to some of those women, such as by aiding the nonprofit Utah Women in Film and the group of women directors Film Fatales.
Pearce said that the decision to create the policy came in part from a meeting with women from those organizations. She said that people in all industries are taking these issues seriously and finding ways to make a difference.
“It’s not OK to shrug it off,” she said. “I think now is the time to create steps for real change.”
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A study pegged the number of Sundance Film Festival attendees at 122,313, with the event generating an economic impact of $182.5 million. Both numbers represent a slight decrease from the 2018 festival.