Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein isn’t an anomaly and there are “heavy hitters” in the Australian film industry who use their position for access to young women, says filmmaker Sophie Mathisen.
Weinstein has been accused of decades of sexual harassment and abuse, with Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow joining the growing list of accusers.
Mathisen said in the three years she had been in the industry she had experienced multiple instances of unwanted advances, including being propositioned in a taxi by a senior industry member who was going home to his pregnant wife.
“Harvey Weinstein is one part of a bigger structure, he is definitely not the only one,” Mathisen told News Breakfast.
“We have some fairly heavy-hitters in the industry that definitely see people like myself and definitely my peers who really want access to a system, and they think they can leverage that for whatever they want.
“It is about men who understand their position within the hierarchy and leverage that for sexual access to younger women.”
Mathisen has previously criticised male dominance in the Australian film industry, and was one of the group that arrived at last year’s AACTA Awards dressed in sausage costumes chanting, “End the sausage party.”
However, Australian actor Pia Miranda said her experience in the industry had been different and that there were differences between here and Hollywood.
“The industry is quite small, so people tend to get weeded out quite quickly if they’re behaving badly or something untoward is going on. I mean, that’s my experience,” she said.
“I think in America, there’s so much money to be made [and] so much power. Someone like Harvey Weinstein has so much power.
“Whereas in Australia, it’s definitely more of a community feel, which I think holds us in good stead.
“I know for me, working with young actors, they’re really taken care of quite well. There’s always someone looking after them on set.”
Mathisen said she accepted Miranda’s experience had been different, but that there were wider issues at play, including representation of women in the industry.
“I think this is a question about gate-keeping,” she said.
The latest Screen Australia data shows that in the local feature film business over the past five financial years women made up 34 per cent of producers, 15 per cent of directors, and 22 per cent of writers.
“When my first feature drama came out I worked with a 50 per cent female crew and the men that worked on that crew, they were so surprised seeing also my crew and myself in positions of power on a set,” Mathisen said.
“They called us a ‘sexy crew’, they diminished our professional responsibility.”
Screen Australia is trying to address gender representation by allocating $5 million to its Gender Matters program — an initiative designed to have half of all production funding going to projects with creative teams that are at least 50 per cent female.
It has recently announced a 17-person Gender Matters Taskforce to help guide this process.