MIPCOM: Panelists Talk Sexual Harassment Solutions at Women in Global Entertainment Lunch

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Catherine Zeta-Jones

“It's too easy to be just focused on one man or one industry," said New Pictures co-founder Willow Grylls about the Harvey Weinstein allegations.

With the Harvey Weinstein scandal swirling, sexual harassment in the film industry was the main topic of discussion at MIPCOM’s annual Women in Global Entertainment luncheon, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter's Marisa Guthrie.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won her best supporting actress Oscar for Chicago under Weinstein’s Miramax banner, said she is “shocked and disgusted” by the revelations.

But rather than recount stories, panelists including New Pictures co-founder Willow Grylls, PYPO director of content Farah Abushwesha and Fleur Pellerin, France’s former minister of culture and current president of CanneSeries, focused on finding solutions.

Abushwesha said her company is specifically seeking new female creative talent as well as directors and producers for its comedy platform, and on each production, she requests extras be gender-balanced and cover a wide age range.

“We have to send the ladder back down and keep pushing it down further and further to find new talent across the board and help new talent come up,” she said. “As women, we tend to be the worst discriminators against fellow women and so we have to take a stand within ourselves and check our own behavior, too.”

PYPO, the comedy content platform founded by Veep and Divorce executive producer Stephanie Laing, just struck a deal with Norwegian Airlines for a dedicated channel on their planes. Deals like this prove that there is not only interest in women's stories, but also that such content is profitable.

“It’s not just to have [women’s] stories, but they are also commercially viable, often more commercially viable,” said Grylls, who just produced the BBC and Netflix thriller Requiem, which was helmed by an all-female crew. “We are at a tipping point, but we have a lot further to go.”

Pellerin supports quotas and affirmative action since the industry is not moving fast enough, and she cited the example of a French law that went into effect earlier this year to require 40 percent of corporate boards be women. Pellerin said she didn’t used to support the idea, but now sees it as a success story.

“Political authorities have a responsibility. It’s always very easy to say it should be natural, but if you wait you can see that nothing really changes,” she said. When the law was first passed in 2012 with a timeline of five years to implement, companies and headhunters complained that there weren’t enough quality candidates. “But they managed — somehow they found women!" said Pellerin. "When you force people to do it, they find a way to do it.”

Abushwesha cited the success of Sweden’s 50 percent female director quota and noted that Ireland and the U.K. will soon be implementing a similar program. “This is going to foster a massive change on the content that we see and who is making it,” she said.

However, Grylls argued that the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president shows that it is a problem that is bigger than just the film business.

“It’s too easy to be just focused on one man or one industry, but it’s not just about one man or one industry, it reaches all industries,” she said. “It’s about power, and ultimately what do we do and how do we address this when the leader of the free world effectively legitimizes it? That is the challenge.”