By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — When Toronto-based sound editor Jane Tattersall received an email from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this week announcing a new code of conduct it seemed an obvious move — but a very necessary one.
“I thought, ‘I hope you wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour anyway, but why not be specific about it? It doesn’t do you any service to not say these words, not to put in writing that this is wrong,’” said Tattersall, who became a member of the academy earlier this year.
Sexual harassment and assault allegations have been pouring out of the industry for months now, and many organizations have revisited their codes of conduct or policies surrounding the problem.
But it seemed to send a big message to many in the industry when the academy — which oversees the Oscars — explicitly released its first code of conduct for its 8,427 members Wednesday.
The academy says its board may now suspend or expel those who violate the code or who “compromise the integrity” of the organization.
“The academy is an incredibly well respected institution and symbol of the entertainment business, of Hollywood,” said Tattersall. “The fact that they’re making the statement, I think, is a comment about the brand of the academy and how much they want to maintain it.
“It’s also a comment that … a lot of behaviour has been tacitly allowed to continue for many years and this will be the beginning of the end of it. So I think it’s a symbol, but I think it’s a very strong symbol.”
The code comes after the academy expelled producer Harvey Weinstein in October. It states that members must “behave ethically by upholding the academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”
“There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency,” reads the statement.
“The academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality.”
Montreal casting director Lucie Robitaille, who was made an academy member in 2015, said she was surprised the academy never had a code of conduct.
“For me, it’s obvious that if you’re going to be in the academy, to follow these rules,” she said.
“I would certainly hope that it would change something…. I hope that the people reading it will take it into consideration.”
Having such a code on the record “solidifies the things that people have been saying over the past few months, like ‘enough is enough,’” said Tattersall.
“It’s just saying, ‘OK, you’re right, we’ve turned a corner, this is a new way of behaving that is going to be standardized and we support it.’ It doesn’t necessarily change the behaviour, but I think people who are exhibiting it, they’d be more obviously lying to themselves if they think this is not wrong.”
Last month, groups representing Canada’s screen and stage talent announced they will enact an industry-wide code of conduct as part of a new collective approach to end sexual harassment.
The more companies that make these public proclamations, the more it will become the norm that sexual misconduct is not allowed, said Tattersall.
“When I hear some of the stories, I think, ‘Oh my god, people thought they could do that?’ And obviously they did,” she said.
“So now that the word is getting out and people are spreading their stories — which I think is pretty interesting, that there are so many stories — it just says, ‘OK, these are all real, we can’t behave this way. That’s just wrong.’”