STRANGE, STRANGE THINGS — Stranger Things creators and showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer say they are “deeply upset” about a crew member’s allegations of verbal abuse, while Netflix has found no wrongdoing on the set.
In a statement, the Duffer brothers said, “We are deeply upset to learn that someone felt uncomfortable on our set. Due to the high-stress nature of production, tempers occasionally get frayed, and for that, we apologize. However, we think it is important not to mischaracterize our set, where we believe strongly in treating everyone fairly regardless of gender, orientation, race, religion, or anything else. We remain totally committed to providing a safe and collaborative working environment for everyone on our productions.”
Netflix also weighed in, noting, “We looked into the concern that was raised when we heard of the allegation on Thursday, and found no wrong doing. Maintaining a safe, respectful atmosphere on set is important to us, and we know it is to the Duffer Brothers as well.”
In an Instagram post this week, crew member Peyton Brown wrote that she would not be returning to the set to work on Season 3 of the series because of alleged verbal abuse toward some women on the set.
“I personally witnessed two men in high positions of power on that set seek out and verbally abuse multiple women,” Brown wrote. “I promised myself that if I were ever in a situation to say something that I would. I have 11.5 thousand followers who can hear me say this, TIME IS UP.” She later confirmed to a commenter that the men were the Duffers.
Brown later deleted the post, but a screenshot was captured by Entertainment Tonight. She further alleged in a post that yelling occurred and the Duffers made threats to the crew and insulted them, which caused several crew members to quit.
So, she got yelled at. Is that abuse? I guess it can be viewed as that, but I do believe that’s part of any high-stress job, where tempers run high and the pressure is intense. Someone made the point to me over the weekend that accusations like this, diminish to a large degree the entire Time’s Up movement; where real abuse is taken very seriously.
Where do you draw the line … that is the question.
THE TIARA SYNDROME AT SXSW — Fresh off of Frances McDormand’s rousing Oscar acceptance speech in which she introduced the phrase “inclusion riders” into the national lexicon, actress Dakota Fanning provided another example of how women are finding their voices in Hollywood.
Sarah Aubrey, executive vice president of original programming for TNT, said the actress’ manager insisted that Fanning be included in the promotional materials alongside her two male co-stars in the television series The Alienist.
“We had a very explicit conversation about that,” Aubrey said of negotiations with manager Brittany Kahan. “You were not going to be little-missed off the one sheet.”
Aubrey joined with other powerhouse women in television — Paramount Television President Amy Powell, Claws Executive Producer Janine Sherman Barrois, and Warner Bros.’ Vice President of Development Susan Rovner — in a frank conversation about how they’re ‘flipping the script’ and driving change in the television industry from the inside-out.
The SXSW discussion at times felt like women were dispensing career advice to their girlfriends.
Rovner talked about avoiding the “tiara syndrome,” a term coined by Carol Frohlinger and Deborah Kolb, the founders of Negotiating Women. It refers to women’s expectations that if they keep their heads down and work really hard, someone will notice them and place a tiara on their heads.
“I used to do that,” confided Rovner, noting that she looked around and noticed her male counterparts weren’t waiting around for their promotions. “I picked my head up and said this is what I deserve. I earned it and I’m going to demand it and I’m not going to wait for someone to give me my crown. I’m going to demand my crown.”
Sherman Barrois talked about the trap of apologizing — how women are raised with this conception of politeness. The veteran television executive, who has worked as executive producer on such hit shows as Criminal Minds and ER, talked about how she apologized when she told a group of writers she needed a script the next day.
“A guy pulled me into an office. He said, ‘You never have to apologize. Stop that shit,” Sherman Barrois said, eliciting applause. “Because we’re so used to making everyone feel comfortable and feel good and not being critical, being afraid to be quote/unquote ‘a bitch.’ ” To get into the top jobs, we have to be unapologetic about your decisions.”
The female executives talked about how they’re working to create opportunities for women and people of color in the television industry — and fight for financial parity.
Rovner talked about Ava DuVernay, creator of the drama Queen Sugar, who made it a point of hiring only women to direct each episode.
“We gave all these amazing talented women their first opportunity,” Rovner said, who called to help these women land other gigs. “I went out of my way, saying, ‘I’m calling on behalf of all these women to make sure they get other opportunities.”
Powell, whose Paramount TV studio produces The Alienist for TNT, talked about how the studio deliberately fleshed out the role of Fanning’s character, who was a tertiary figure in Caleb Carr’s best-selling crime novel set in New York City in 1896, from which the series is adapted.
“One of the first things Dakota, (Aubrey) and I talked about was her character having agency and driving story,” said Powell. “Her role in the show was not to be someone’s love interest. We worked hard with our writers to give her something significant.”
Fanning said she likes to think of the character, who is described in the books as the New York City Police Commissioner’s secretary, as a ground-breaking figure who was the first female to work for the New York City Police Department. She even breaks loose of the constricting corsets of the era.
“In the last episode, Sara is actually wearing pants … which was very nervy to wear in the police department, doing her job,” Fanning said.
SHORT TAKES — Speaking of The Alienist on Netflix; have been loving it. It’s a got a great look; the 5 Points era of early-New York and the acting from Daniel Bruhl, Luke Wilson and Dakota Fanning just off the charts. Honestly, one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Netflix. Interestingly enough, our colleague Roger Friedman (via his ShowBiz 411) recently asked readers of his
column, what was your favorite Daniel Day Lewis movie. Mine is 2002’s Gangs of New York, which I happened to see on the screen this weekend and I couldn’t believe how bloody and violent it was. What a great flick … among Scorsese’s best. Essential viewing to me … Here’s Micky Dolenz Friday AM on Fox’s Good Day Orlando, with the anchors – L-R: Danielle Knox; Jayme King; and Amy Kaufeldt … Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam opened Saturday night for legendary-rocker Edgar Winter at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater. Miller and PGS begin recording their new album next month … Heard Alicia Bridges “I Love The Nightlife” (1978) at the gym yesterday; what a tremendous song … and, kudos to Willie Geist on Sunday Today for a great feature on the currently-on going SXSW event in Austin.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Leslie Miller; Ilene Lieber; Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber; William Schill; Robert Miller; Bobby Shaw; Bob Siegel; Ray Caviano; Vince Aletti; Deb Caponetta; Sharon white; Billy Carroll; Zach Martin; and, Tony King,