Putting an End to the Casting Couch
My father always said that money makes you rich but it doesn't make you free. Options are what make you free. The option to say yes and, equally as important, the option to say no. To choose to forego certain paths in favor of others, or to choose not to take a path at all but to remain where you are. It's the ability to make a choice for yourself that leaves you free to create the life and future you desire.
But when you've devoted yourself to breaking into an industry and building a career and the stakes are high, options often seem nonexistent. It's in conditions like these that monsters like Harvey Weinstein not only exist but thrive. Powerful and predatory people like him tell artists to "lie on the casting couch and watch all your dreams come true, or walk out the door and have your reputation and any hope of a career ruined before you even begin." Rather than picking between options that free you, you're left to choose between threats that imprison you. And so the casting couch lives on, with new talent for it to feed on walking through the door every day.
So what is the answer to the casting couch and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world? Because let's face it: he is not alone in his depravity. There are many other people like him in the entertainment industry who have used their reputation and status to take advantage of artists seeking a chance to prove themselves and launch a successful career. The reality is that there is no silver bullet that will stop people like Weinstein, but as this scandal has played out in the newspapers, two pieces of the solution that are near and dear to the heart of Indicoe have presented themselves: information and community. These solutions are interconnected, each feeding into the other. With a growing community comes more information, and with more shared information comes more success within the community. With both tools in possession, artists everywhere can better prepare themselves to combat the predators of the entertainment industry.
Information is crucial to protect artists from being vulnerable, not just against sexual harassment and assault, but also against those that would take advantage of them financially, legally, and in any other manner. Information can include an awareness of how such predators operate and which situations to avoid, whether it's a producer inviting you to their hotel room or an agent taking a hefty fee in exchange for an empty "promise" to "make you a star." Information can also include what is standard in a contract and what is out-of-the-ordinary; how people conduct themselves in a studio or on set; how and when to negotiate compensation; and which demands are acceptable and which are completely inappropriate. Without such information, one is left to muddle around in the dark, often unknowingly taking the wrong path when a little piece of information could have shed some light and shown the way. And once in the dark, you are left at the mercy of these predators, who thrive on their victims' lack of information and the anonymity they have been given by an industry that continues to protect them.
The second and, in my opinion, the most important tool is community. And not just any community, but a supportive community that promotes healthy competition and collaboration. Such a community gives you a variety of options and resources to draw from, the chance to network and to share experiences with peers, and the opportunity to gain advice and information from mentors who seek to uplift, rather than take advantage of you. Such a community provides the means of circumventing industry giants altogether in favor of developing working relationships with like-minded peers and working on art that you care about and support. And such a community also gives artists the opportunity to take a chance on each other when no one else will, and to support each other through the highs and lows of one's career.
Community can also make you feel less isolated, less alone. For example, what has developed over the last few weeks in the wake of this Hollywood scandal is a sense of community between actors and actresses who have shared previously untold tales of harassment and assault at the hands of powerful people. The number of women and artists coming forward who have shared their stories have led to many feeling less alone, less vulnerable, and less to blame for what happened to them. And better still, more prepared to combat such aggression in the future.
At Indicoe, we work to provide both information and community to artists in all disciplines. We want to connect you to other artists so you can self-produce the art that you love. We want to support artists and arm you with resources so that you never feel as if you are out of options and at the mercy of whatever opportunity, no matter how questionable, that comes your way. By doing so, we hope to disrupt the entertainment and art industries and their industry standards, the same way streaming services like Netflix have challenged the TV and film industry, the way Uber has taken on taxi companies, and how AirBnB has thrown down the gauntlet at the hotel industry. But we can only do so with your help. We need the participation of artists like yourselves who want to make good work and be recognized for it without jumping through endless hoops or navigating inappropriate or distressing situations.
All artists should have options, and the freedom to create the art they want, when and how they want. With a supportive community from which to draw talent, tools, support, and information, we can feed each other’s creativity and inspiration while simultaneously starving the casting couch.