As we noted in our prior article on the latest round of Hollywood sex scandals, Harvey Weinstein’s actions and those of a myriad of other producers in Hollywood are unethical. However, except for the accusations of sexual assault, probably not illegal.
You see, the women were not actually employees directly supervised in any way by Weinstein at the time the untoward sexual advances were made. In most cases Weinstein did not directly have the power to even hire the actresses for specific parts, so in the current general sense, his actions would not fall under California’s very strict general workplace and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws.
I live in Altadena California. Most people are not familiar with our town, and the locals really like it that way. Everyone in the world though, has seen our town. In the last twenty years Altadena has become the back lot for television and movie studios. Funerals in this town have to be arranged around shooting schedules, and entire neighborhoods are under the dominance of multinational corporate studios. There is at least one shoot in town everyday, and often three and four a day. This was accomplished with “Special Legislation” that was created with little to no input from the residents of my city and against our will.
Filming used to be rare in our town, maybe one shoot every couple of years. Then Beverly Hills 90210 came to Altadena. Almost every exterior shot on that show was filmed on Altadena Drive, our town’s major east west commuter artery.
Traffic would be blocked for extended periods of time, so long in fact that cars in summer would overheat waiting to move. Even more aggravating was filming often took place during commute times – going to work or coming home. These times of day are referred to as the “Magic Hour” in the Movie industry because of the quality of light.
As expected, the natives became restless. Committees were started to limit local filming operations. Neighbors whose lives were disrespectfully disrupted by arrogant film companies began to play stereos at high volume during filming, have parties, and those of us literally trapped in movie traffic jams began to honk our horns because we had places to be and things to do, like get to work on time or get home to our families.
Off duty police are often hired as security for the film crews and these officers would demand we stop making noise and employ general tactics of intimidation that eventually ceased to work. Everyone soon realized no laws were being broken and there was nothing the rented cops could do but threaten.
Eventually several Altadenan’s went to our then State Senator Adam Schiff, seeking relief from these movie locusts devouring the quiet livability of our sleepy little town. However, unknown to us, was that while we were discussing with our State Senator, now Congressman, Adam Schiff our plight, movie and television industry moguls, who were NOT in his District, and who he did NOT represent, were discussing what to do about those ungrateful upstarts in Altadena who were disrupting the filming of culturally and artistically important shows like Beverly Hills 90210.
Schiff, our “representative’ came up with a brilliant idea – Special Legislation. Did this special legislation by our “representative” Adam Schiff enact protections for the citizens by limiting filming hours? The number shoots per year in a specific location? The length of time traffic could be stopped for a shoot? Demanding garbage left by film crews in the area be cleaned up? Surprisingly, NO!
What “our representative” Adam Schiff did do in his special legislation was to essentially turn over our neighborhoods to the complete control of multinational corporations. Adam Schiff’s special legislation literally outlawed residents doing anything that disrupts a movie shoot.
Movie companies operating in Altadena have literally shut down children’s birthday parties a block away from a movie shoot because the noise was ruining a shot. The fines can range from $5,000-20,000. That’s right, a backbreaking fine for not shutting down your child’s 8th birthday party a block away from a movie shoot.
In California, thanks to Adam “Shifty” Schiff championing special legislation, anytime a movie company rents your neighbor’s house or business for a day and pays them, the movie company is granted total control of anything in your neighborhood that they say affects their shoot. A citizen has no right to the use of their property in California when movies are being shot in your neighborhood. In spite of Hollywood’s protestations against Capitalism, Hollywood itself, if you are a California resident, is Capitalism’s most frequent abuser. Thank you, Adam Schiff.
But there are other pieces of special legislation in California favoring Hollywood. Early in the 1920’s California passed special legislation allowing movie studios to become their own special kind of incorporated cities where the executives became the city government. Each of these has their own fire department (probably a reasonable idea back in the era of nitrate film) and their own POLICE FORCE. Not security guards, mind you, but each studio, like Universal, Warner Brothers, MGM, CBS, NBC has their very own police force to investigate any crimes that occur on studio property. It’s pretty likely, and widely rumored in Southern California, that these police forces see to it that people illegally entering studios seeking employment or to gawk at stars are excessively fined and prosecuted. It’s also widely rumored that misconduct by movie and television stars, producers and executives is covered, hidden and the evidence destroyed, preventing the slightest hope of prosecution.
There is special legislation at the State and Federal level granting Hollywood special accounting rules making it even more possible for Hollywood, than for other industries, to claim a loss while actually making a profit. For instance, that neighbor who is renting his house gets the first $25,000 of location rental income TAX FREE. That is just another incentive that is available to no other industry, especially in California, a State greedy for every imaginable fee, tax and penalty.
Like clockwork, every few years Hollywood goes to our very pliant state legislature and demands more tax breaks to “Keep Employment Here”. However, the tax breaks are of questionable economic benefit to the state. Compared to other industries that California has willfully driven out of State such as Furniture manufacturing or Apparel, Hollywood is insignificant, except for two things: Political contributions where Hollywood is literally the King of California industries, and the access elected have to movie stars.
Anytime I go to a California elected’s office, I always see at least one photograph of their normally somber, now amazingly goofy happy childlike face smiling next to a movie star. One example is the photo of Morgan Fairchild’s photo with Congressman Schiff with an autograph thanking him for “All his Help.”
If the moral ship of Hollywood is to be righted, some SPECIAL LEGISALTION is needed. It is clear that Hollywood has cleverly designed its systematic sexual predation of aspiring Actors and Actresses in a way to skirt California employment law. Generally the sexual abuse occurs while “consulting” a person on what career moves to make, and not while the person is a direct employee or applying for a particular job.
This can, and should be easily remedied at both the State and Federal level with a law specifically making it a crime for mentors or persons working within a specific industry giving career advice to a person they are not married to engage in sexual conduct with the person receiving the advice or career guidance. This very simple law would destroy forever the Casting Couch not just in the Film and Television fields, but also in law, architecture, music, psychology, politics, and medicine, where to a lesser but known extent, these conditions occur.
It’s possible, it’s easily done, and it’s the right thing to do. It’s a law literally ten decades overdue. Hopefully one day we’ll find a representative who can give Hollywood a taste of their own special legislation.
By Steve Lamb