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Working in the Creative Industries after the #metoo movement

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 15:42
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On October 5th, 2017, an article written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey entitled ‘Sexual Misconduct Claims Trail a Hollywood Mogul’ was published in the New York Times. This article was the beginning of what is now called the #metoo movement. One year later, they were awarded the Pulitzer prize in Public Service: 

‘For explosive, impactful journalism that exposed powerful and wealthy sexual predators, including allegations against one of Hollywood’s most influential producers, bringing them to account for long-suppressed allegations of coercion, brutality and victim silencing, thus spurring a worldwide reckoning about sexual abuse of women’

The purpose of this article is not to explore or discuss any specific cases that have come out of this movement, but to very briefly explore this impact and how this may affect you, as someone who wants to work in the industry. I have had many conversations about this and it surprises me how many people think the #metoo movement is ‘just’ about sexual harassment and that it is a ‘woman’s issue’.  It is not.

Employer expectations and the workplace

One of the most important impacts of the #metoo movement is the analysis of the work place environment and expectations. Now unlike most other industries, the work place in the creative fields is hugely diverse and you will be exposed to many things. It cannot be denied that alcohol and drugs are a key feature in the creative industry. Try to think of a music venue where alcohol is not served or a Theatre without a bar, there are not many. A musician friend of mine has just come back from touring with a major artist and he explained to me that in the wings, there is someone whose job it is to hand out beer to everyone as soon as they walk off the stage after their set. 

A recent survey stated that people working in the creative industries are 80% more likely to suffer from mental health conditions than any other industry. Imagine, you have secured your first lead role on Broadway/West End and that role is actually in Equus - a play about someone who is fascinated with horses and has to be naked on stage, with a horse. My point? The creative industries are like no other and as an employee, you will inevitably be in situations that may make you feel uncomfortable. Until the #metoo movement this had not been openly discussed and there certainly hadn’t been any guidelines or policies. You must know your rights and what is acceptable behaviour especially in the crazy, creative industries.

So what has actually changed?

We are now, finally, starting to change the culture and the #metoo movement has been the start of a change in the working environment and defining professional standards. We now have policies and guidance that state what is unacceptable and we are starting to feel empowered to speak up when we are exposed to unprofessional, unethical and discriminatory behaviour. Now, when we see unprofessional conduct, we feel more confident to speak up and know that we are supported.

An end to the casting couch?

New casting policies, guides and manifestos have been created to empower individuals and ensure clear working standards and conditions are adhered to. Equity - the UK based union with over 47,000 members - released their manifesto for casting after a significant amount of research. Their aim was to: 

“examine the relationships with casting directors and broader issues surrounding casting, and its practices in stage, screen, audio and new media, with a view to bringing the various strands together to arrive at simple, good practice guidelines for all sectors. Any guidelines arising out of the debate should include consideration of diversity in casting and access to casting sessions’


Equity guidelines state that in an audition:

  • No sex act should be requested at any audition 
  • A performer should not be requested to undress in whole or in part unless a mutually agreed observer is present

This may seem obvious, but this is the first time this has ever been included in any guidelines or openly discussed. It must also be noted that serious consideration is now being given to diversity and accessibility which is a significant step in starting to address the diversity imbalances in the industry.

We have also recently seen (November 2019) Directors UK releasing guidance for directors where nudity and simulated sex is required. The guide has been created to support a positive working environment for directors and performers.

‘Everyone deserves the right to feel safe at work - this is just as true when working on a Hollywood blockbuster as it is on a prime-time drama or debut short film’

Directors UK

This is all incredibly encouraging but we still have a very long way to go. This is a huge shift in attitudes and behaviours and a massive change in culture at the very core of some areas in the creative industries. The movement explored an abuse of power that has enabled wider conversations about inequalities and a lack of diversity in many industries. We are stronger and now have more confidence to speak out when we see unacceptable behaviour and injustices. Bring it on.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson.


Trained in dance, drama and music Fiona Ross has been working in the creative arts Industry for many years with her first professional job at the age of two. Currently working in the jazz industry, she has released four critically acclaimed albums in the past three years and performed in London’s top jazz venues. Fiona is also a freelance journalist for three major jazz publications and passionate advocate for mental health promotion and is a patron for the mental health organisation Insomniac Club.

She is involved in teaching, leadership and arrangement in education and was Head of British Academy of New Music, London, for nearly nine years (Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Jess Glynne etc)


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