NEW YORK (AP) — After Rashida Jones exited Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” in 2017 she noted that the studio, after 25 years in business, had not made a single feature film directed by a woman, calling it “a culture where women and people of colour do not have an equal creative voice.”
So when Pixar co-founder and CEO John Lasseter stepped down earlier this year after acknowledging “missteps” in his behaviour with employees, he was more than another casualty in the long list of film industry power players toppled by the #MeToo movement. He was a symbol of a Hollywood culture that is dying — or at least under siege.
“These giant, multi-billion-dollar companies, they all need a makeover,” Jones now says. “And I think people are starting to recognize that. To me, that is a victory. Brave people have come forward and made this whole machine start to question itself.”
“Everybody’s looking for their female content,” says Jones, whose documentary “Quincy” was recently released by Netflix. “They’re starting to understand that content that’s created by and shepherded by women and people of colour is super underrepresented in the business. And everybody’s scrambling to try to fix that.”
Measuring cultural change in a far-flung, $50 billion industry is difficult. Many of the epicentres of the movie business — red carpets, film festivals, award shows — have struck a different tone in the wake of Weinstein. While “who are you wearing” has steadily crept back into the red-carpet lexicon a year after women wore black to the Golden Globes, protest has engulfed many of the frothiest events on the movie calendar, from the Oscars to the Cannes Film Festival .
In addition, “inclusion riders” — contractual agreements to try to hire diverse casts and crews — have proliferated. Last month, Warner Bros. became the first major studio to make a similar pledge. Many prominent film festival directors have also signed agreements to push their executive boards to gender parity.
In an attempt to abolish the “casting couch” culture that Weinstein allegedly exploited, The Screen Actors Guild created guidelines — supported by the producers’ guild — instructing producers and executives to refrain from holding professional meetings in hotel rooms and homes. It urged members not to agree to meetings in “high-risk locations.”
“People have been talking for decades about how terrible the casting coach is. Even with that knowledge, it was still going on. There was nothing concrete, written down saying: unacceptable,” says Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA. “Us putting that in a guideline was so empowering for members because we’ve all been put in that situation. And I really want to salute the studios because we did it really in partnership with them.”
The guidelines will soon be expanded to establish rules around nudity on set.
“The kind of work we do is so intimate. It’s different than being a lawyer or a doctor or a dentist,” Carteris says. “But there are rules for workers in this country, and it was really important to define what those rules are.”
The movie business still lacks a single, industry-wide reporting system for sexual harassment and assault, though a committee led by Anita Hill is working to create one. Time’s Up , which is spearheading much of the pressure put on Hollywood, has also amassed a $21 million legal-defense fund for women who suffer from harassment and assault at work in any industry.
Yet with everything that has happened in the last year, most observers say not nearly enough has been done to address long-term inequalities in Hollywood.
“It feels like we’re moving in the right direction, but women and minorities are such a tiny percentage of this industry,” says filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, whose latest is “The Land of Steady Habits.” ″I open up my Director’s Guild magazine, and it has films that the DGA is screening and sometimes there’s not one woman, not one black person. They are all white male directors and my jaw is on the floor. I think: How can this still be?”
Holofcener has mixed feelings about all the attention on gender.
“It’s a good thing to highlight our work, but I wish we didn’t have to,” she says.
Julia Roberts, who was once among the highest paid movie stars, agrees.
“Every year that it’s ‘the year of the woman,’ let’s just have it always be the year of the artists,” Roberts says. “If we have to keep spotlighting the gender of this and the gender of that, we’re kind of blowing it.”
There are plenty of others in Hollywood who have misgivings about #MeToo. Sean Penn derided what he called the movement’s “salacious” quality, saying its spirit is “to divide men and women.”
But as the recent re-editing of “The Predator” showed, some behaviour remains a work-in-progress. Shane Black called his casting of an old friend, Steven Wilder Striegel, a previously convicted sex offender, an “irresponsible” decision. Striegel was cut the from the film only after actress Olivia Munn alerted 20th Century Fox to Striegel’s past.
Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of the advocacy group Women in Film, believes that the path to ending harassment is through parity. Evidence backs her up.
“The more women we have in leadership positions, the less likely the incidents of harassment. So we have a lot of work to do on that front,” Schaffer says.
“We’ve been living in a sexist, racist society for hundreds of thousands of years,” she adds. “We’re not going to undo it in a year.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP.