Producers Guild to Use CBS Donation to Support Independent Production Safety Initiative

Courtesy of PGA; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Gail Berman (left), Lucy Fisher

The program will use the funds from the CBS grant to pay for on-set, in-person, anti-sexual harassment training as well as up to two hours of legal consultation to any qualifying independent film, television or digital production.

As part of the $20 million it is donating to women’s advocacy groups under its separation agreement with former CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS is giving a $2 million grant to the Producers Guild of America Foundation to support the PGA’s new Independent Production Safety Initiative, which will provide free anti-sexual harassment training and legal consultation to independent film, television and digital productions.

The initiative grew out of the work of the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, which was established last year in response to reports of widespread misconduct in the entertainment industry on the part of Harvey Weinstein and other executives. In January of this year, the PGA released its Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines, making it the first organization in the entertainment industry to provide concrete protocols to combat sexual harassment.

The program will use the funds from the CBS grant to pay for on-set, in-person, anti-sexual harassment training as well as up to two hours of legal consultation to any qualifying independent film, television or digital production. A qualifying production will be defined as one which includes more than 20 individuals among its cast and crew but does not have access to a company human resources or legal department. To assist productions with 20 or fewer cast and crew members, the program will provide complimentary access to group training sessions, which will be held on a quarterly basis across a variety of production centers across the U.S.

“We are grateful to CBS for supporting the Producers Guild’s efforts to combat sexual harassment in our industry,” PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher said Friday in a joint statement. “In speaking to a broad cross-section of our membership, it became evident many independent producers felt strongly that their productions would greatly benefit from professional, in-person anti-sexual harassment training. However, most independent productions lack sufficient financial and institutional resources to gain access to such training. The PGA Foundation’s Independent Production Safety Initiative is a groundbreaking new program created to answer that need by providing free training to independent productions. We believe it will make an immediate impact toward improving the professional lives of thousands of workers in our industry.”

Additionally, any qualifying independent production which participates in the PGA Foundation program, will have access to two hours of free consultation with a legal expert versed in the field of harassment law. These hours may be used at any point as needed during the production process to address any issues or circumstances that arise.

“The inclusion of legal consultation hours is a critical element of the ‘Independent Production Safety Initiative,’” said Lori McCreary, PGA president emeritus and chair of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force. “Unique and often complicated circumstances can arise over the course of any given production, so providing access to an attorney lets producers know they will not be left on their own if incidents of harassment occur. This expert legal counsel will reinforce producers' knowledge and authority around workplace harassment and reporting procedures.”

Speaking with THR, Berman elaborated: "With fewer and fewer studio films and more and more independent films being made, many don't have budgets large enough to train cast and crew in this area, and so it is often neglected and that's when problems arise." She observed that most of the broadcast networks require anti-sexual harassment training at the start of production on a pilot or series, and studio and networks projects have also required safety training as well. But independent productions haven't have been left out of the equation.

Responding to those needs and learning that CBS would be donating to advocacy groups, Susan Sprung, the PGA's associate national executive director, put together a proposal for the new initiative, which, now that it has received funding, will formally begin in early 2019.

The new program will provide access to both anti-harassment training and legal consultation should it become necessary. "And a really important piece of this is having some standardization," Fisher noted, explaining that producers set the tone on the set and, if they can do so successfully, that should prevent problems from happening. And, she said, "Since the training is free, there will be that incentive to get it." 

Added Fisher: "Part of what is exciting for us it that we can do something concrete. We were the first guild to create guidelines, but they were more suggestions and referrals. This is something that we can actually put into practice on a set."

The PGA's program is one of 18 different advocacy efforts to which CBS is contributing. Others include the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, RAINN, the National Women’s Law Center and Women in Film Los Angeles — organizations that CBS said are “dedicated to fostering safe and equitable work environments and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace."

Moonves, who resigned from CBS in September amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, would have been due $180 million or more in severance if CBS were to let him go without cause, but he agreed to depart without any immediate compensation. The separation agreement sees the company holding $120 million for Moonves that he will or will not get depending on the results of an investigation. The $20 million that CBS is contributing to the various groups presumably also would have gone to Moonves.