The Hollywood Commission spent four years surveying the entertainment industry about discrimination, harassment, and bullying. They learned that while things were bad all over, low-budget film and TV sets had it worst. These crew members reported more sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, and gender and racial bias than their major-studio counterparts. Furthermore, these abuses were reported at much lower rates because workers believe nothing will be done.

Now, the HC is making moves to address the discrepancy. It’s teaming with IATSE on a subcommittee that will determine protections and provisions for sexual harassment and discrimination for IATSE members and employers who work under the Low Budget Agreement. Any LBA signatories, which cover film and TV projects made for under $15 million, will be required to comply.

Formed in 2017 after the rise of #metoo and chaired by Anita Hill, the Hollywood Commission is an organization designed to root out abuses of power in Hollywood.

Harassment and other abuses aren’t eliminated from major productions, but at least studios have HR departments. Smaller productions don’t have that infrastructure. Currently, these employers must include the IATSE safety hotline (844-IA AWARE) on paperwork and call sheets, and employers also need to have a conduct prevention policy about how workers can go about reporting harassment and misconduct to their employers. That only goes so far, and IATSE and the HC want to flesh out the best practices to end abuses on set.

“[Low-budget productions] don’t generally have the resources that the studios have to address these issues,” said Vanessa Holtgrewe, IATSE’s VP and assistant department director of motion picture and television production. “We want to help them along with The Hollywood Commission in developing a way that they can tap into a program that benefits the workers and also allows the employers to have access to resources that they may not have had access to in the past.”

Specifically, the HC plans to launch a third-party reporting structure, Respect on Set, in the second quarter of 2024. Many resources from the program are available now for producers and employers, but Respect on Set also will provide the subcommittee with a template for developing the rules that guide protections and provisions. This will include a toolkit for low budget producers with a code of conduct and an implementation guide, which the subcommittee will work to codify into a future LBA.

“It’s very special, and it’s groundbreaking,” said Holtgrewe. “It’s good to understand that this is an important step towards protecting workers on these low-budget productions.”

Holtgrewe said it’s still early days for defining specific policies; the current LBA doesn’t expire until the end of 2025. LBA rules also won’t have any bearing on the upcoming negotiations between IATSE and the AMPTP.

“We applaud the steps taken by low budget producers who, understandably, want their sets to be free from sexual harassment and abusive conduct. This collaboration will help ensure we meet that goal through our collective effort,” IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb added in a statement. “We thank the Hollywood Commission for their leadership in this area and welcome the continued input of IATSE members and the entertainment community on how we can all best achieve our shared goals.”

Said Hill in a statement: “It is very significant that the producers and IATSE have added this plank to their agreement: employers have recognized their obligations toward providing a workplace free of harassment and abuse, and the Hollywood Commission is here to help them with a program that offers a good suite of resources. Workers and executives alike routinely tell us that there is a need for an independent reporting system specifically designed for low-budget productions, which have lacked the infrastructure to maintain robust enforcement protocols. Respect on Set fills that void.”

The new subcommittee will be chaired by Hollywood Commission executive director Malia Arrington. The new subcommittee also includes IATSE VPs Mike Miller and Holtgrewe, international representatives Marisa Shipley and Jamie Fry, IATSE West Coast associate counsel Jacob J. White, and producers Jeanette Volturno, Monica Levinson, and Bart Rosenblatt.

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