As women, the issue of sexual harassment comes up quite often, in our lives, and as an editor for a women’s site, in our work as well. And being that this month is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it only makes sense that we highlight and feature the work of other women who are fighting the same fight. Angela Hutchinson is one of those women. The write, producer and director produced a documentary titled “H.U.S.H. (Hollywood’s Uncovered Sexual Harassment).” The confessional style film seeks not only to highlight a very real issue within the industry but also to show the resilience of women.
See what Hutchinson had to say about the film below.
How did the idea for the documentary come about and why did you feel you needed to raise awareness for this issue?
About a year and a half ago when I kind of first got wind of the Bill Cosby issue. A couple friends and I were talking about it and it was kind of interesting because half of us, at the time, didn’t necessarily really believe all the women. Then, there was another group of us that thought, ‘Well, you kind of know what you’re getting into in this business. If you go take a meeting with someone who’s married at their hotel, what are you really saying?’
And then I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore because Bill Cosby is not the first and certainly won’t be the last instance of men, powerful and even not so powerful men, in the business, victimizing women, unfortunately. There’s so much of it and I’ve experienced a lot of it myself.
So, I thought it would great to bring light to this issue. Not to get into male bashing but really more so to help other women who are coming into the business. A lot of the situations I think my colleagues have experienced, they would have handled them differently, if they were not blindsided by the industry itself, like understanding this is a part of it and this is how you deal with it.
Did you and your friends’ opinions change about Bill Cosby and when did that happen?
I think it was as more and more women started to speak out. At first it was like, you’re innocent until proven guilty. It’s supposed to be you’re innocent until proven guilty. But it just became such an extreme amount of women coming forward. That’s similar to situations that we’ve experienced. I might say something about a producer and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s that guy’s name?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s so-and-so.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, the same thing happened to me.’
A lot of times women aren’t going around saying ’It happened to me, it happened to me.’ But once someone does speak up about it, the situations are so similar. Because people have an m.o. They have certain characteristics in how they approach women.
So, over a period of time, at least for myself, I definitely grew to have a different point of view about the women as opposed to just thinking ‘Oh well,’ you know what to expect.’
Tell me about your own experiences with sexual harassment in the industry?
One of the first ones that I experienced, which I talk about in the documentary H.U.S.H. I had scheduled a meeting with a big time production company executive. And I was so excited to have the meeting. We were going to talk about my script. The meeting was supposed to be an hour. We ended up there being there an hour and a half. And I kept trying to bring up, the script but he would keep going back to ‘Am I dating?’ trying to give me advice about the business. He always kept circling it back to my personal life. I would try and reel it back in and he was like, ‘We definitely would be willing to buy it. If you’re willing to put out, we would be willing to put up the money for it.’
I just looked at him and thought, he’s joking to see how I’m going to react. I just kind of laughed it off. But he was straight-faced, he was not laughing, it was not a joke. And I was like, ‘Oh, well the only thing I’m selling here is my script.’ And he said, ‘That’s what they all said.’ I’m like, ‘Ok, well this one really means it. So, thank you for your time.’
Then I just left the meeting. He continued to send me e-mails with all these sexual innuendos and he was doing it from company e-mail. It was ridiculous. But he was so bold to do that, which made me know, this is not the first time he’s done this. At one point, he said to me, ‘The script is on my couch if you want to join me.’
Finally, he stopped. That was when I first moved to Los Angeles, that was 10 years ago and that was a wake up call for me. Because I was exposed so early that every situation, thereafter, I’ve been a little more guarded and went into things different than I would have been normally.
Recently, I was trying to find a distributor [for one of my scripts.] and I met a guy, who’s a producer. He’s done ten movies, very legitimate guy, I know his life as a colleague. And he said, ‘This is a man’s business. I can help you sell this better than you can.’ And he said, ‘I need the dvd’ I said, I’ll get it to you on Monday. He said, ‘No, I’m going out of town you have to drop it off tonight.’ It was really late already.
Because so much had happened, I had a girlfriend run with me to downtown Los Angeles. And she’s like, ‘’It’s 11’o clock at night!’ I said, ‘I know but this dude wants me to drop off this DVD.’ And we get down there and I said [ to his concierge] ‘I want to leave this for so-and-so.’ And he said, ‘ He specifically told me that I can’t accept anything from you. You have to take it up.’ So I’m thinking this dude he’s really got some balls. So I told my friend, ‘If I’m not back in 5 minutes, call the police.’ She was like, ‘What?! That seems so dramatic.’ I said, ‘I know it seems dramatic but trust me.’ So I went upstairs and put the DVD on the bottom of the door and just knocked on his door and then just walked off. And by the time I got almost to the end of the hallway, he had opened the door and said, ‘Hey Angela, come back. Come back.’ He was literally dripping wet. He had a towel on, just on his lower. And he’s like, ‘My wife is gone. Why don’t you come in and have a drink.’
And I’m like, ’No I’ve got to run. My girlfriend’s downstairs. She’s in the car waiting for me. I gotta go.’ And he was like, ‘Alright, ok, it’s like that?’
And I said, ‘It’s not like anything.’
He was a very legitimate guy and actually did watch the movie. He said, ‘It was a great movie, I’m going to try to hook you up.’ And it got some offers in. I ended up passing on them; but still, he did what he said he was going to do. And I think that’s why it gets difficult. You know, we always hear the examples about the crazy people trying to get stuff from you and can’t do anything for you. But then there are some situations where the person can actually help your career, or elevate you in some way, whether it’s financial or opportunity and so it becomes a challenge.
When something happens to a woman, the tradition is to blame the her instead of attempting to correct the man. Does the documentary address that?
The documentary is a confessional style so it doesn’t speak on it head on. But I think indirectly it does. One of the women, who is a model, experiences that. So she speaks on that. When she says no to a man, he said ‘Well, why are you a swimsuit model?’ And she’s like, ‘What do you mean, why am I a swimsuit model?’ What does that have to do with me not wanting to have sex with you?’ So we definitely address that issue indirectly in the documentary.
Tell me about the process of putting this documentary together.
Start to finish, this was the first project I was able to complete from concept to it airing on a network, within a year. The process went very quickly. The hardest part was finding women who were comfortable doing it and being on camera to talk about it. Because when we first announced that we were doing it, I had 200 e-mails from all over, New York, Chicago and back. But a lot of the women weren’t comfortable talking on camera, they just wanted to tell me their stories. They’re just like, ‘I’m glad you’re doing this because this happened to me.’ But they said, ‘I don’t want to go on camera, I don’t want to talk about it. I want to work again.’ And I understand that, so I think it took a lot of courage for the women who did want to do it.
Shooting it was a lot of fun. A majority of our crew was male…when I would be like ‘Cut.’ It was silent. The men were just so stunned by what they had heard. They were so apologetic on behalf of men.
What do you believe men can do to support women as it relates to sexual assault.
I think one of the biggest thing is when they hear about a situation—because guys talk—and they kind of laugh it off. I think what they can do is not do that. When a male friend of theirs is doing or saying something to offend a woman, they should speak up and say ‘That’s not really appropriate.’
When men hear from a woman, telling you, this is what happened to me and this is how it affected me, they might take a second look. You think just touching her butt is no big deal. But it is a big deal and it has an affect on how she views her self worth. Is that what you want to do to women? Would you do that to your guy friends? No, you wouldn’t.
Angela’s documentary H.U.S.H. airs tomorrow, Saturday, April 30, on Los Angeles’ KLCS, at 9 p.m. and again on May 1, at 10 p.m. on the same channel. It will be available in other parts of the country later this year.