Friends star David Schwimmer and Israeli-American director Sigal Avin are shedding a light on the ‘grey area’ of sexual harassment in a series of six short films, one of which is based on an experience Avin had when she was young, titled #ThatsHarassment.
Each short film will contain a different man in a position of power— the Boss, the Co-worker, the Doctor, the Photographer, the politician, and the Actor— and depict different situations where the man in power put the victim in an uncomfortable situation.
During an interview with Cosmopolitan, Avin, Schwimmer, and Rassi each spoke about the films and their experiences with sexual harassment, with Avin saying, “I realised that I really wanted to see what sexual harassment was instead of hearing about it and reading about it all the time,
“There was nothing on it, everything was much more violent, or unreal, but there was nothing that showed the grey area of sexual harassment”.
The Actor, which is the film based on Avin’s own experience, depicts a young playwright having coffee with a famous actor who revels himself to her.
“I went to the restroom and when I came back, the scenery was the same — the cup of coffee, everything — except for it was out,
“The exact words that are said in the clip, ‘Look who came to say hello,’ all that [happened to me]. I knew it was weird, but it took me a couple of years to understand how humiliating it was and that I was harassed, she continued
“And it was shocking for me when I sat down to write the script — I remembered all his sentences as if it were yesterday”.
Schwimmer, who served as an executive producer of each film alongside Mazdack Rassi and appears in The Boss, also spoke about his awareness of sexual harassment from women in his life, saying, “I grew up with stories of sexual harassment from my mom. Every woman in my family, in my life, has been harassed, except my daughter, thank god, who’s only 6,
“But my mom was one of four women in a class of 400 lawyers when she was going to law school. And then she was a young woman lawyer in California, in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Countless stories of harassment, he continued
“But I sent her the link to the films and only after she watched them did she say, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was harassed by my doctor?” I was like, “No.” Then she told me my sister was harassed by her doctor when she was a young woman [too], and I didn’t know this either”.
The films also take a look at the idea of being complicit in sexual harassment, which is shown in the film ‘The Photographer’ which depicts a model being asked to masturbate and ends with the camera panning out to show roughly a dozen people standing around not doing anything about the situation.
“That scene is something all of us in the entertainment industry can somehow relate to, and the reason I think that’s one of my favourite scenes is because of all the witnesses in the room and how complicit everyone is,
“That’s really the biggest statement you can make about the business we’re in, the business of entertainment in all forms, in music, television, film, advertising, fashion. I think it’s the culture we really have to look at, he continued
“A parallel can be drawn to what happened with, say, Bill Cosby. That’s a much different level but it’s the same idea. There’s so many people who knew what was going on and just remained silent”.
Mazdack Rassi, the other executive producer of the short films, also commented that the films made him think about his own actions in past, telling Cosmopolitan, “As a male, I have this reaction: ‘My god, have I ever crossed this line when I was younger?’ Because it’s so subtle,
“I showed it to a few male colleagues and some of them thought it was comedy at the beginning” he continued, “They were just like, ‘Oh that was funny,’ especially when the guy pulls out [his penis]. And all of a sudden, there’s this moment, one of my friends was like, ‘This is not a comedy’ — and you start seeing what happens within them”.
Also appearing in the short film series are Cynthia Nixon, Emmy Rossum, Cristela Alonzo, and Michael Kelly.
You can watch each video here.