#action: Breaking the culture of silence

2020-01-10 | Undertecknarna padlock


Shocking accouts from the Swedish film and theatre sector. 703 peope, among them stars such as Marie Göranzon, Lena Endre och Sofia Helin, have come toghether in Svenska dagbladet in a collective petition against the abuse they have to suffer. Here they write about the abuse themselves. All the quotes in the article are anonymous.

It all started with a question to some ten actors about making a joint statement about #MeToo. The group grew rapidly and after 24 hours, 1 100 people were giving testimonies about numerous instances of abuse during our careers.

When abusers – who in the thread were made anonymous – started contacting the victims who had written in the secret group in social media we had to close it down. Not even in a secret group, that should have been a protected zone, we were allowed to speak out about what had happened to us.

The culture of silence is prevailing in our sector. Male stars and directors are seen as geniuses and are protected by the sector no matter what they put their colleagues through. Their stardom mean that the abuse never result in any repercussion for them. The testimonies are, however, saved, some of them are included here, and they will be read out their entirety from stage at a later occasion.

More and more actors are signing the petition, the list will be updated.

”An intimate love scene in a bed on film. The atmosphere overall is aggressive and frustrated. The director thinks we don’t commit enough. He has just punched his fist into a wall, a centimetre from the male fellow actor’s head. Now the director asks him to get up, lies down in his spot under the cover and shows with caresses and passion, by going through parts of the scene, how he wants my fellow actor should caress me.”

”During a film set I acted against one of the biggest and most hired actors in film, both in Sweden and abroad. He often spoke patronizingly about my own outfits, that they were provokingly square. At a party he followed me into a hotel room, pushed me hard onto the floor, threw himself on top of me, pinned me down and laughed at me with kolsvart blick. I thought: ’he’s going to rape me now’, but somehow I managed to get free and ran from there. The morning after I was flying home, he was sitting next to me and while crying was explaining his broken life to me. I told the director what had happened but the recording just continued as if nothing had happened, with the difference that I now was afraid at work.”

”A stage manager at the theatre where I work worked up the courage to tell the theatre manager of what the very esteemed did to his ensemble in the way of bullying, threats of violence and so on. He returned from the meeting with a warm and happy feeling, finally he had been listened to. The following day the theatre manager made an announcement that the O’Neill award would be bestowed on the actor. After six months the stage manager resigned.”

”It was on of my first jobs. In the lift at a big theatre I was pushed up against the wall by an actor who was in the same production and I was ordered to come to his dressing room at three o’clock, or I wouldn’t be allowed to continue working at the theatre. Another time, in connection to a production at ’the Great theatre’ I was pulled into the bathroom at a fancy restaurant by the male lead. He was drunk and ordered me to hold his genitalia while he took a piss in the sink.”

”I was 23 years old and was lying down on a mattress having a rest between rehearsal and show. One of the conductors of the theatre entered asking me he could give me a back rub. I immediately felt I didn’t want to but didn’t manage to say no. He sat on top of me and started to massage me. The he took his thing out and started masturbating. As he was coming quickly he lifted up my top and came on my back. The he stood up and left. Before the show started that evening he grabbed my arm and told me it had been nice and that it was our secret.”

”I was filming with one of the country’s great male stars. The star came and went to the film set as he pleased, often high, drunk or hungover. A whole team was waiting, sometimes for hours, every day. When he finally showed up it was all about keeping him in a good mood, pandering him. We had a couple of sensitive scenes together, the star and I. He never remembered his lines, the script supervisor had to read each line to him beforehand, it was more or less impossible to work. One day the star took me aside. He said I needed to understand that it was impossible for him to remember his lines when I was so fucking hot and all he could think about was what I looked like naked and what he would do to me.”

”I was going to film a love scene with the ’male genius’. The idea was for me to sit on top of him during the sex act. While we were rehearsing he asked me in a hushed voice if he could suck milk from my full breasts (he knew I was breastfeeding at the time) while pushing his erection against me.”

”I was attacked (stranglehold) by a drunk male colleague outside the theatre after having performed a show. He claimed all I do is shit and he makes art. He told be not to think I was any good and so on.”

”The director has an enormous power over the actors as we are to perform and fulfill the vision of the director. The vulnerability that one as an actor can feel can be compared to the feeling of seeing a doctor or a psychologist. What does power mean? And what does it cost? What sort of responsibility does one have as an individual if one accepts a position of power in a creative situation?”

The male actors are often held up as stars and get role after role while women remain interchangeable. Male stars are protected by the sector no matter what they put their colleagues through. Due to their celebrity status their abuse never lead to any repercussions.

The sexual abuse is connected to the power structure that our sector is situated in, which is still burdened by a cult of genius characterised by male attributes which since the days of Ingmar Bergman has allowed male geniuses get away with any type of behaviour as long as they create great art.

”I was at my first meeting with the acclaimed film director telling him I didn’t feel comfortable with being naked in the way that was described in the script. As the day for filming the scene was approaching I called it into question again. He got angry and said that I should take the decisions and do the directing myself. The following day I showed him a suggestion of underwear. He refused to even look at the, I was told off. I was called into a meeting with the female production manager whom I felt was trying to pressure me being nude (in the scene). She explained the director was despondent over me not trusting him. She also set out the great amounts of money involved in the production and that I was now jeopardizing it. I didn’t cave and performed the scene in underwear. I was the only actor on set and during the whole day of filming the director ignored me completely. I asked for instructions, he refused. He just stared at his monitor, not looking at me once. I cried. Women in the team sneaked up to me saying ’I see what he’s doing’. They comforted me but no one dared to question him. Another day he wanted me to not wear a bra under a very thin tank top. I refused again and the whole thing turned into a circus, they called my agent in order for him to persuade me to take of the bra. Between each take make up was applied to cover my tears. Everyone in the team lived in the same place and all of sudden I was supposed to have many conversations with the director in his flat, just him and me, late at night. They all were all amounting to breaking me down in order for him to comfort me, to hug me. At the end of the filming he took me aside just before a suicide scene, and confessed that he was in love with me. Afterwards I learned that at least two of his actresses from earlier productions had received declarations of love. When I left the production it was like leaving a cult, a prison.”

”Some time ago I was filming my first larger part in a danish film. My role was that of a wife. After the dinner at our first meeting my coactor put his arm around me and said: ’Look at these lovely tits, I will have them around for weeks. Don’t tell my wife for fucks sake, she would be so jealous.’ His wife was also in the film and said nothing. In one scene when I was alone in front of the camera I was supposed to do internal emotional states without saying anything, in a long close up my coactor stood behind a backdrop and taking his dick out. ’Just for fun’ he said. No, in order to mess with my focus when I was becoming too good.”

”I was at a shoot where the male star was acting so horribly toward all women, and especially those in a position of dependency, mask- and wardrobe assistant, so the company had to hire a chaperone in order to guard him at all times.”

”Rehearsal. On the big stage. First week. The whole ensemble. The male genius tells a joke in front of everybody and all of a sudden he grabs my boob really hard. Shocked, I scream ’What are you doing?’ before I have time to think. He keeps holding on hard to my boob. Ignores me. Time stands still. Everyone looks on. I see their eyes widening and how their faces turn red. I think someone soon will do something. But it is totally silent. Male and female actors I have admired for a long time, some of whom are my close friends. No one says anything. Ever. Remaining in my body is the shame. Later during the filming he chastised me several times. Was called derogatory names in front of the others. I tried to speak with him, thought I could sort it out with him rather than go to the producer. I thought I reached him but some time after the filming my agent heard from the producers that I was not in question for any future work since ’Apparently there was something between her and mr X that didn’t really work’.

”The whole filmcrew and the actors are staying in the same hotel. When I’m alone at night I hear the director and the guy who plays my husband sit and talk about who will do me first. I get scared and return to my room which is on the ground floor. The whole night I hear them trying to get into my room, both through the door and through the window. I asked a male actor, whom I never met (before) which he did, and I am forever grateful to him for that.”

”The number of times I’ve been numb by discomfort is staggering – between takes, at lunches and at parties where male colleagues in provokingly loud voices, broadly have been reviewing the looks, bodies and physical ’assets’ (or lack thereof) of me and my female colleagues in an effort to manifest their role to decide what is a desirable woman. The first time I was eleven years old. Now, 22 years later, the comments and stories about women actors non desirable behaviours (such as standing up for feminist values) are even more plentiful.”

”I was raped by a co-actor. When I told a director I have worked with about the abuse he replied jokingly that ’now I am getting worried that you will report me for sexual harassment’, he was referring to that time he tried to kiss me when I as his director’s assistant. Later on he became theatre manager and hired the rapist as an actor with the motivation that they were friends. (The rape was reported to the police, but the investigation was dropped).

”I am thirteen years old. I will under a whole summer be acting at a theatre at a place far away from my hometown. I am so happy. The male star gives me attention already in the first week. I am between being a child and a youth so I don’t really understand if he’s really flirting or simply being a ’fun’ guy. One evening with late rehearsal I have to spend the night by myself for the first time. I had never kissed anyone. I remember the fear when he climbs into my bed and start touching me and kissing me. The sadness about is about to happen. I know I can do nothing. But before he gets a change to do what he has set out to do another actor enters the room and stops it. Says something along the line: ’What are you doing. Come with me.’ I don’t sleep at all that night. Terrified that he will return. The morning after I was my mouth with soap. Then I work at the theatre a whole summer with this bastard. The first prickle had been placed.”

”Acting school. Horny disgusting actor males that are to educate young women and all the time blame their abuse and their groping on them being so in love. Dangerous to say no. Your entire education could be ruined.”

”Had text messages from a male co-actor about he will fuck me with his grandadick in every hole. Just three years at the ’great theatre’ and he is a permanent member so I can’t turn to the theatre manager.”

”Been so pissed (’suit yourself whore’) that I woke up at the place of a much acclaimed male genius and not until afterwards I realise he has had sex with me. He says he can ruin my career with a simple phone call when I confront him. I am quiet. The shame and the guilt. Never, ever get too drunk.”

”Have worked with men with a criminal record. Am working with one of them right now. He flew into a fit of rage under a rehearsal. I was afraid. There was an atmosphere of violence. If he’s in a bad mood I accommodate. I rather have stupid comments than the violent rage.”

”That the ’theatre genius’ moreover the director called me under a time we were performing a play and said he wanted me sexually was costly for me personally as well as for the tax payers. I was contracted for his next production and had to resign as we wouldn’t stop calling me constantly though I asked him to. They had to hire someone else. The producer was told and then she suggested I was given half of the amount on the condition I kept quiet about what had happened. It concerned two and a half months worth of salary so some 130 000 SEK. I told him that he was in a position of power but he replied that ’he didn’t view it that way’. How could that be possible if you’re both a theatre manager, a ’genius’ an a director? It cost me, on top of the money, a feeling of shame and failure. I was unemployed that autumn.”

”A male lead in between takes: ’Why haven’t I ever fucked you? I would like to take you from behind against the table with your pregnancy belly.”

”I was seventeen years old, consequently underage. The movie script said I was to lie down and sleep in a bed naked. The moonlight was to light up my back and bum. I was very nervous about this scene. Felt sick with apprehension. The director told me I could trust him, that it would be lovely with the light and all. When it was time to do the scene it turns out he wasn’t planning on filming my back. Instead he instructs me how to lie on my side and pull up one of my legs. The camera is not, as one may have thought, placed behind me but by the end of the bed. When I pull up my leg, according to my instructions, I am consequently filmed straight in between my legs. I tried to protest but didn’t dare to object since I wanted to be an actress and continue filming. The scene continued by the male actor, who is seventeen years older than I, was to enter and look at my body. The director told us we were both to be so horny we trembled. He wasn’t pleased with the excitement I tried to act where I was lying, naked and afraid. He wanted me to be hornier. When we were done he added an extra nude scene which wasn’t even included in the script. Later he sent me an e-mail where I told me he had dreamt beautiful erotic dreams about me.”

”Sitting in the office of an independent theatre company in the 90s. On the phone. Suddenly a male actor enters and opens his fly and puts his dick into my mouth. To shut me up. I was to cocky.”

”The male lead started nagging me constantly in order for us to sleep together. He said it bluntly. I immediately told him I had no interest whatsoever but he kept on throughout the time we worked together. His nagging was constant: ’Come on, please, lets sleep together, just the one time, I know you really want to, please just give me a blow job, please.’ I tried to handle him and the situation in different ways: I got pissed off, confronted him, tried to ignore him, told him that I felt very uncomfortable by it, threatened to contact his wife – nothing had any effect. Finally I spoke to the producer who said: ’It was probably not serious but said in jest.’ Her advice was to respond with jesting of my own.”

”I had such great admiration for them. Some of the greatest. He who was playing the character of my father. Who grabbed my neck and tried to push his tongue into my mouth the first time we met. He had to be horny while acting, he told me. The playwright who wrote me a big part in his play. Him whose hands were all of a sudden on my breast in the darkness behind the stage. He thought I should be naked in a scene. Until I got pregnant. ’You and your fucking cunts’ he said then. You learned little by little to navigate their sexuality. To say no thank you without injuring their ego. In that way I too became part of a structure that allowed them to go on. Production after production. Admiration was gradually changed into disdain. Against the men who abused but also against those who had power to stop them. Who made decisions. And maybe not in the least against myself. For not having the courage to ask them to fuck off.”

Directors, you have failed. Producers, you have failed. Production companies, you have failed. Theatre managers, you have failed. Politicians, you have failed. It is your responsibility to make sure no-one is sexually exploited in their workplace.

We demand that employers (movie companies, theatres, publishing companies and tv-channels) stop protecting, hiring and make money on predators.

We demand a zero tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and violence. Sexual abuse or fits of rage should lead to consequences in the form of termination.

We will use the stories that we have shared for support.

We will continue to listen to each other and support one another.

We will no longer be quiet.

We will hold those responsible accountable and let the law enforcement act when there is ground for it.

We will assign shame where it belongs – with the perpetrator and those who protect him.

We know who you are.

703 female actors have signed this appeal. We speak with one voice and will not further comment the contents of the article. A no means no, respect that!


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