The good news: The times they are a’changing.
The not so good news: Change isn’t easy, and a lot of people (let’s face it – a lot of guys, even well-meaning ones) still don’t get it.
#MeToo’s Impact on Hollywood Writers Rooms
by Michael O’Connell
Writers rooms, Hollywood’s corporate-sanctioned haven for sex talk and self-indulgent stories about horrible dates, are suffering from some unexpected growing pains. The era of #MeToo and Time’s Up hasn’t just shifted daily conversations, it stands to change their tone forever as many writers second-guess their candor and showrunners strive to foster healthy environments that don’t forsake creativity.
“The room has always been, theoretically, a safe space for people to discuss their most twisted thoughts,” says Liz Meriwether, creator of Fox’s New Girl. “This is a place where you’re supposed to be able to occasionally cross a line or two, if it’s done with respect, but now you think to yourself, ‘Maybe that’s a joke that I can’t say.’ ”
Questions over where the line is dog some writers, perhaps because it’s so different from room to room. One, staffed on an upcoming comedic streaming series, cites frequent breaks to allow writers to recover from “triggering conversations” — often discussions about the industrywide harassment and assault narratives and the personal stories that come out of it. Meanwhile, a network sitcom veteran sums up the post-Weinstein mood as “business as usual.” In both rooms, however, the writers acknowledge a sense that their colleagues are giving more thought before sharing a story (just not necessarily keeping it to themselves).
This is not the first time that private TV writers room discussions have spurred public debate. Several scribes who spoke for this story recall the 2004 Friends lawsuit in which a former writers assistant sued producers over, among other things, vulgar dialogue she heard in the room. The case was dismissed by the California Supreme Court in 2006, citing the fact that the writers room was a creative workplace. Industry response was decidedly different then. One writer, who took a new job that year, says she was required to sign a document affirming that she acknowledged and “welcomed” offensive subjects and discussions as vital to the creative process. While that pressure is rarely put in writing, it can be pervasive, particularly for women in male-dominated rooms….