Cannes: Are Hotel Room Meetings a Thing of Festivals Past?

Hotel Room Meetings_Illo - THR - H 2018
Illustration by: Emmanuelle Walker

From more meetings in public spaces to employing a "third person" rule, the post-Weinstein era has forced insiders to rethink how business is conducted overseas: "People will be more conscious of how they are setting up everything"

In early April, SAG-AFTRA issued a carefully worded guideline titled "No Auditions or Interviews in Private Hotel Rooms or Residences." The action was months in the making and arrived in a post-Harvey Weinstein era after dozens of women came forward with detailed stories of attacks and unwanted sexual advances made by the mogul in hotel rooms that doubled as office suites.

Under the guideline, the union is calling for an end to meetings in "high-risk locations" like hotel rooms because "misconduct … often occurs outside of the formal workplace setting." The French Riviera is about as atypical a professional environment as one can imagine, but hotel room-set meetings have always been de rigueur at international film festivals and markets. That makes Cannes ground zero for such practices considering that producers, sales agents, distributors, marketing executives, fashion stylists and even luxury diamond houses rely on hotel rooms for day-to-day business during the festival.

How will that change this year? THR reached out to a dozen film and fashion industry insiders, and while many declined to comment on the record — opting to steer clear of having their name associated with, as one put it, "one bad apple who spoiled the bunch" — it's clear that many are proceeding with caution.

"You won't be seeing certain bad behaviors anymore," explains Gabrielle Stewart, managing director of HanWay Films. "Men will be much more careful — they'll be watching themselves more. Things are changing. Men are looking back and saying, 'Oh shit,' and the whole world is rebalancing itself, and that means Cannes, too."

Many in the international film community noted a decline in the sleaze element in recent years, saying they're starting to see a drop-off of lecherous producers, prostitution rings and "king makers" a la Weinstein. The shift has come in tandem with the rise of female executives and sales agents on the international scene.

Notes one high-profile producer and sales agent: "The Wild West, anything-goes Cannes was on the way out before the #MeToo movement started. Harvey was an outlier." Still, Weinstein's behavior in Cannes will have a lasting effect. In November, he was sued by aspiring British actress Kadian Noble, who claimed that he invited her to a room inside the Hotel Majestic where he groped her and forced her to perform sex acts. (Weinstein has routinely denied all accusations of nonconsensual relations.)

"The Majestic lobby will be packed!" says one European buyer of the popular destination, while another says he will be changing his behavior just to lower any raised eyebrows. "I expect I'll be doing more meetings outside or in public places," he adds. "If I was going to have a meeting with a female producer, buyer or actress in my hotel room, I would make sure there was someone else [present]."

The fashion industry has been swept up in the #MeToo movement as well, with many top photographers (Bruce Weber to Terry Richardson) and fashion designers being accused of inappropriate conduct. One L.A.-based stylist and groomer agent says sexual harassment is endemic among the ranks — everything from outright exposure and propositions to inappropriate jokes "just to see how far they can push it."

"It was already inappropriate to have 'hotel meetings,'" she says. "I've always avoided that for my stylists at all costs."

Policies are being adopted in the wake of cases specifically involving stylists, the source continued. "I think people will be more conscious of how they are setting up everything, from initial meetings on," says the stylist. "Actor managers will try not to have their clients alone with most anyone of the opposite sex, and especially underage, in order to avoid accusations. I know studio HR policies now are to never have one-on-one meetings. There is always a third person or at least someone else called into the meeting."

Some worry that what's emerging in Hollywood may not apply in Europe. "The ickiness of Cannes and the international space is what it is," says one studio executive who attends all the major festivals. "That's the nature of this business, especially when you're in Europe where there can be a transactional business associated around women and sex. … Removing [Weinstein] from the scene along with the criminal behavior he's accused of will only do a huge amount of good in the long run. It's already having positive repercussions across other industries."

Additional reporting by Scott Roxborough and Rhonda Richford

This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.