The drumbeat of allegations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood is being heard in Utah — and the state agency that oversees movie and TV production here is working to do something about it.
The Utah Film Commission, which provides networking and tax incentives to an industry that spent $66 million in the state in the last fiscal year, recently instituted a policy that mandates any film production using the commission’s resources must have a workplace-harassment policy in place.
Revelations in early October of sexual abuse and harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, followed by allegations against other prominent Hollywood figures, “obviously has brought up lots of conversations about what we should all be doing to ensure that people feel safe,” Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, said Tuesday. “That’s where the conversation started: How can we help? What can we be doing?”
That conversation took on added urgency in Utah with a story published Monday night by the industry trade paper The Hollywood Reporter. The paper reported that actor Tom Sizemore was told to leave a Salt Lake City film set in 2003, after an 11-year-old actress allegedly told her mother that he had touched her genitals.
The woman, now 26 and no longer an actress, did not comment to The Hollywood Reporter other than to say she was considering legal action against Sizemore and her parents. Sizemore’s agent, Stephen Rice, told the paper, “Our position is ‘no comment.’”
A Salt Lake City Police report released Tuesday confirmed that officers met with the girl and her mother in 2003, and that prosecutors at the time declined to press charges.
Pearce said the film commission had no records that it was notified of accusations against Sizemore or the film, a crime drama with the production title “Piggy Banks” that had a limited release in 2005 as “Born Killers.”
Every film production now shooting in Utah — a list that includes the Disney Channel sitcom “Andi Mack” and the Kevin Costner-starring dramatic series “Yellowstone” — either has a workplace-harassment policy in place or is posting a version of the state’s current policy, the film commission said in a statement. The state’s policy, the statement continued, “requires work environments be free from discrimination and harassments based on race, religion, color, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.”
Kynan Griffin consulted with the film commission to develop its workplace-harassment policy for the cast and crew of “The Outpost,” a fantasy TV series that starts shooting in Orem in January.
“The policy we ended up distributing [to our employees] makes pretty plain what sexual harassment, or any kind of discrimination, is,” said Griffin, the show’s executive producer. “Is it unwanted? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?”
The company making “The Outpost,” Arrowstorm Entertainment, has been working in Utah for years, most notably on the “Mythica” series of fantasy-adventure films. Griffin said most of the company’s key creative personnel are women, and “having that balance in the workplace has fostered a good environment for us.”
Pearce has met with the nonprofit group Women in Film in Los Angeles, and with the Utah chapter of Film Fatales, a group of women filmmakers, to hear women in the movie industry talk about harassment and sexism in their workplaces.
The stories Pearce heard at those meetings, she said, “range from the annoying and embarrassing to much stronger than that. The telling part is that everyone has a story.”
Diana Whitten, a documentary filmmaker who founded Film Fatales’ Utah chapter, said the Weinstein allegations and those that followed “left a lot of women feeling triggered.”
“Every one of us has a story, and right now everyone is revisiting those stories,” Whitten said Tuesday. “It’s healing, and it’s useful for building the kind of networks we’re talking about to keep those abuses from being perpetuated.”
Tribune reporter Aubrey Wieber contributed to this report.