Kathleen Kennedy Proposes Industry Commission and "Zero Tolerance" in Wake of Weinstein Claims

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Kathleen Kennedy

"Predators must come to feel they can't count on power or wealth or fame to shield them," the Lucasfilm president and 'Star Wars' producer said at Elle's Women in Hollywood Event.

Kathleen Kennedy addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding Harvey Weinstein and suggested bold proposals to tackle the culture of fear and abuse in Hollywood on Monday night for the 24th annual Elle Women in Hollywood celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The Lucasfilm president prefaced her keynote address by taking "a moment to get serious," suggesting that the event was the "perfect platform" to talk about the "terrible and terrifying stories of sexual harassment and assault in the film industry that has dominated the news."

"A demand is growing for action to prevent further civil and human rights abuses in the future," Kennedy said, directly naming Weinstein. She added that the "increased awareness of the belittlement, objectification and predation long endured by women who work in film will certainly be one result of the exposure of what Harvey Weinstein did."

Kennedy praised the women who had come forward to accuse Weinstein and said that their act will embolden other women. 

Admonishing the culture in Hollywood that allows men to harass and assault women, Kennedy said things must change so that "predators must come to feel they can't count on power or wealth or fame to shield them."

She suggested the establishment of a commission to change the culture of Hollywood, with "zero-tolerance policies for abusive behavior and a secure, reliable, unimpeachable system in which victims of abuse can report what’s happened to them with a confident expectation that action will be taken, without placing their employment, reputation and career at risk."

Kennedy continued, "For the past few days, I’ve been in discussions with friends and colleagues, and I want to use my few moments of speaking tonight to offer a proposal. The organizations that constitute the American film industry — the studios, the unions, the guilds and the talent agencies — should immediately convene a commission charged with the task of developing new, industry-wide protections against sexual harassment and abuse."  

She said the commission would be composed of labor and management specialists as well as lawyers and legal scholars, sociologists, psychologists, feminist activists and theorists, as well as people who work in film and television.

"The commission should be fully funded by our industry in order to address the task at hand in a thorough-going, comprehensive fashion. The goal of this commission would be to transform our industry in regard to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace," she said. 

Later in the evening, fellow honoree Jennifer Lawrence said she supported Kennedy's proposition. "If we build this commission, this community of support where anyone can come to us and ask questions, I will give my all to it," she said in her speech. 

The prolific producer has worked on such films as Schindler's List, Back to the Future, several films in the Star Wars universe and many others.

Kennedy is also featured on one of the eight Elle November issue covers celebrating women in the entertainment industry. Lawrence, Laura Dern, Tessa Thompson, Jessica Chastain, Cicely Tyson, Margot Robbie and Riley Keough are the other cover ladies being honored by the Hearst-owned magazine.

"I don't like to step in front of the camera, but if I can be a role model for women to recognize they can make it in film, I'm happy to do that whenever I can," Kennedy told Elle in an interview accompanying her cover.

The evening was hosted by Elle editor in chief Nina Garcia and publisher Kevin O'Malley, along with presenting sponsors L'Oréal Paris and "Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond." and supporting sponsor Calvin Klein.

Read Kennedy's full comments at Elle's Women in Hollywood Event:

Thank you — I’m very honored to be receiving this award tonight. A night that is honoring Women in Film, a night that has increasingly gained significance with each passing day. Along with the terrible and terrifying stories about sexual harassment and assault in the film industry that have dominated the news this past week, a demand is growing for action to prevent further civil and human rights abuses in the future.

Increased awareness of the belittlement, objectification and predation long endured by women who work in film, will certainly be one result of the exposure of what Harvey Weinstein did, and was permitted to do; women who are subject to similar criminal treatment in the future will certainly look to the brave women who’ve come forward to tell what was done to them as these shocking and also horribly familiar events have been brought to light. The light of public scrutiny will have been strengthened, and we all hope the ability of corporations, board of directors, and colleagues to cover up and countenance sexual predators will be severely curtailed.

Predators must come to feel that they can’t count on power or wealth or fame to shield them from the consequences of their actions. But sexual harassment of women and men, predation, rape and the misogyny that is the context for this inhumanity will continue unless there is a decisive, industry-wide, institutional response that legislates change rather than hopes for it to happen.

For the past few days, I’ve been in discussions with friends and colleagues, and I want to use my few moments of speaking tonight to offer a proposal. The organizations that constitute the American film industry – the studios, the unions the guilds and the talent agencies — should immediately convene a commission charged with the task of developing new, industry-wide protections against sexual harassment and abuse.

The commission should be composed of specialists in labor and management practices, lawyers and legal scholars, sociologists, psychologists, feminist activists and theorists, as well as people who work in film and television. The commission should be fully funded by our industry in order to address the task at hand in a thoroughgoing, comprehensive fashion.

The goal of this commission would be to transform our industry in regards to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. We must make the film industry an exemplar in this regard, a model for self-regulation that other businesses can emulate — because of course this kind of abuse is epidemic in every sector of industry and throughout our society. And we have to act to change that. We should have acted long ago; we must act now.

I believe that, with determination, hard work, a willingness to act and a recognition of the urgency of immediate action, it is absolutely possible to protect people from sexual terrorism in their places of employment. It seems to me that the solution would include zero tolerance policies for abusive behavior, and a secure, reliable, unimpeachable system in which victims of abuse can report what’s happened to them with a confident expectation that action will be taken, without placing their employment, reputations and careers at risk.

The next goal would be to find a path toward universal compliance with these new standards and practices. It’s often the case that real-world application of good ideas is more difficult than arriving at the ideas themselves, and of course any new system will have flaws — but a new system that’s 80 percent right can change the world for the better.

I’ve asked the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, of which I’m a Governor, to take the first steps towards creating this commission. We have to act. I am proud to have worked in film my entire adult life and I reject the idea that misogyny is the true heart of this industry. Misogyny is depriving human beings of their humanity, and that’s fundamentally antithetical to the empathic examination of human experience that is, or at least ought to be the core of what film at its best can be. People in our industry know that we have our own complicity, hypocrisy and avoidance of this issue to examine and to answer for, but we cannot let that necessary work prevent us from immediately doing what needs to be done to build a better and safer industry. The time to begin that work is now.

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