Hollywood needs to put adults back in charge after the Weinstein scandal

Hollywood needs to put adults back in charge after the Weinstein scandal
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The uncovering of the world’s worst kept secret, the Hollywood "casting couch," makes it clear that studios need more oversight from their corporate masters. 

The scandal is sending daily shockwaves through “the industry,” and it's subjecting the rest of us to a Greek chorus of “shocked, shocked” on the part of Hollywood insiders who swear they never heard of this Harvey Weinstein guy. The same applies to Democratic bigwigs; this is finally a moment where conservatives can be glad they’re outnumbered 10-to-1 in Hollywood. The costs that Hollywood will incur as a result of lawsuits against individuals and studios has the potential to crimp political contributions to Democrats; Democratic politicians will scramble to donate the money they've received to women’s charities, draining their campaign coffers; and Democratic surrogates from Hollywood will become useless when they admit they knew about Weinstein’s bad behavior but did nothing.

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A fish rots from the head, and Hollywood is no different. After the initial ritual expressions of shock (these are actors, remember?), Hollywood insiders have started confessing that they knew all along about Weinstein’s predations and chose to do nothing. Quentin Tarantino confessed, “I knew enough to do more than I did,” though he’s still vague about what it is he did. Likewise, Matt Damon, who arguably owes his career to Weinstein, admits to “racking my brain” about how he could have missed the signs. And the call for “massive systemic change” tells you everything you need to know about that town: only in Hollywood is finally starting to treat people with respect a real game-changer.                            

 

Once the dust has settled, Hollywood will need to trade "auteur" for accountability.

The Big Six studios — 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures & Walt Disney Pictures — are owned by publicly-traded corporations, but the studios don’t act like it. They need to be subject to the policies of their corporate masters. That shouldn't be hard: Disney's manual on “business and ethics standards” is only one page long! If that’s too hard to process, just remember, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” 

Studio owners need to apply their corporate standards to employees at all levels of the industry. Other than professional athletics and organized crime, Hollywood is the only place where any personal excess is excused as long as the person is an “earner.”

The inevitable court-ordered cure on behavioral standards will no doubt include some mandatory training. If so, the studio executives and every living Hollywood A-lister should have to endure the required lectures and role-playing before they disrupt the schedules of the makeup artists, electricians, and catering managers. Hollywood newcomer Jeff Bezos didn’t hesitate when he learned that Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, was targeted with credible sexual harassment allegations. Bezos acted decisively and rid himself of a toxic executive. There was no “Roy’s changed!” Roy was a leader who failed in his duty and had to go. "Old Hollywood" needs to start acting like the new kid from Seattle.

Hollywood’s problem has been caused by a combination of entitlement and a “go along to get along” mentality. Despite the snark about "Harvey Gate," many innocent lives have been upended by abuse, so we must pay attention. After the naming and shaming is over, the corporate guys (and some new ones may be necessary) need to have a “full and frank” discussion with the “creatives” about the new rules.

Whether Harvey Weinstein’s encounters with the starlets were transactional or abusive is immaterial. This is no way to run a business. Putting adults back in charge won’t ruin Hollywood. There are good stories to be told by serious filmmakers who respect themselves, their colleagues and their audience.

James D. Durso (@James_Durso) is the managing director at consultancy firm Corsair LLC. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years specializing in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served afloat as supply officer of the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).