Years before the Time’s Up movement erupted and the #MeToo hashtag went viral, the seven major Hollywood studios—Paramount, Disney, ABC, Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony and CBS—sought to create a centralized, industry-wide anti-harassment, anti-retaliation, anti-bullying and anti-racism training. The training would educate crew members, department heads and other employees about appropriate conduct and behavior.
In 2014, the studios turned to Maria Rodriguez and a team of employment lawyers to develop an innovative approach to the training.
Because the training was intended for employees steeped in the “movie magic” of the entertainment industry, the legal team knew it would have to work harder to capture the attention of its audience. Bypassing the typical compliance model, the team pitched an option that had never been tried before: an interactive experience that would entertain as it educated.
To succeed, it was essential for Maria and the legal team to marry the various needs and desires of each studio while they worked to shape the overall training and messages. Although aligned on certain common interests, each studio had its own opinion on stylistic and cultural elements to incorporate into the training.
The team set their sights on creating an entertaining, film-quality training to help the studios efficiently educate employees and curtail workplace harassment. Ultimately, the studios wanted to protect their people, manage their reputations and remain in compliance with regulations, minimizing the risk of punitive damages when incidents of workplace harassment came to light.
The legal team spent a year and a half scripting, vetting and producing the training in close collaboration with the studios. The end product takes viewers through a highly produced film opening and then drops them into an interactive virtual studio map. Each building on the digital studio’s lot represents a legal compliance unit that, when clicked, includes interactive, gamified video vignettes focusing on dozens of harassment and discrimination-driven blunders: excessive drinking with co-workers, tasteless gender-related jokes and more.
Within months after the training was implemented across studios in early 2017, news broke about famed film producer Harvey Weinstein’s inappropriate and often criminal harassment behavior.
That news underscored the critical need for the training the studios and their legal counsel had proactively created, providing clear guideposts for the type of behavior that is acceptable between colleagues. It is designed to instruct employees on best practices in the workplace and on social media, identifying and reporting inappropriate behavior and understanding the actions that could be taken in response to allegations of harassment.
Because of Maria and the team’s early, proactive involvement in developing the training, studios turned to them for solutions and ongoing action as the Time’s Up movement and #MeToo hashtag gathered steam. In the five years since the training was originally released, more than 150,000 people working in the film industry around the world have seen it. Aside from its use among the seven major Hollywood studios, other entertainment companies have licensed the training to provide a standard baseline of anti-harassment education and compliance for their employees.
To supplement the interactive virtual experience, Maria and her team also continue to lead live training sessions around the globe in locations including the US, France and Germany.
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The centralized training provides a turnkey solution for compliance training across major employers within a single industry.
With licensing available for all organizations within the film industry, and for use across borders, the training is a comprehensive global option for ensuring that all members of a film production are adequately trained to recognize and avoid harassment, and to protect entertainment industry employers’ people and reputations.