Healing Film’s Toxic Culture

Nicole.Wensel.ConsciousCinemaCo

I started my production company, Conscious Cinema Co., in direct opposition to the toxic culture at the root of The Weinstein Co.

With all of the stories finally coming out about the toxic nature of the film industry and all of the women’s voices, in particular, finally being heard after years of silently suffering harassment and abuse, I believe we have reached a tipping point, where positive change on a large scale is truly possible. It’s time to heal and create a better reality for ourselves and future generations.

Letting the Pain Meet the Light

Oprah described this as a “watershed moment,” stating that, “it’s triggering a lot of unreleased pain, repressed anger, guilt and suffering.” This is where we have to start: with the pain. We can’t quickly brush it under the rug or instantly try to move on from it. These traumas have had a very real impact, usually privately, in a million devastating ways on those who have suffered them.

As long-repressed trauma finally begins to see the light of day, whether through an individual’s private process, in a group setting or through a public forum, it’s a time for us all to focus on being conscious of how our words and actions may be affecting another. If someone decides to speak up about their own experiences, let us listen with compassion and empathy. If someone decides to not speak up or detail their trauma, let’s not assume they don’t have any. You never truly know what someone else is going through. Even if someone may seem alright on the surface, they might struggling with something that you might know nothing about.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” — Ian Maclaren

I chose to speak publicly last summer about one of my more severe experiences of dealing with sexual harassment in the film industry; however, I do not think I could truly put into words the “million devastating ways” events like this as well as many other instances of sexual harassment and abusive treatment have affected me. When the NY Times story broke about Weinstein, I found myself crying for a good long while, half because I was overwhelmingly grateful that sexual harassment in the industry was finally getting major coverage and half because symptoms of my own PTSD were bubbling up to the surface. Everyone has their own way of dealing with this and to truly heal, we cannot rush the process of letting our pain finally meet the light.

Confronting the Toxic Powers that Be

“I would rather die fighting for what is right, than live passively amidst all that is wrong.” — Suzy Kassem

As we move forward with the business of doing what we love — making movies — I believe there is an opportunity to seize this moment of heightened awareness and use it as a catalyst for creating positive change in the industry. One of the biggest issues in the industry has to do with individuals in positions of power who let their ego run the show. When the industry’s culture rewards over-inflated egos vs. valuing genuine service, a toxic breeding ground for conflict and abuse develops. These fear-based environments are what allow harassment and assault to not only occur, but for others to feel that they have to “look the other way” in order to survive. Every single person working in the industry has the power to help create healthier work environments by checking themselves first: where might you be turning a blind eye to unethical behavior out of fear for your own career?

There’s always another possibility for a job/income source — don’t let the fear involved in not knowing what that is yet convince you that staying in an unhealthy situation is your only option. Be subversive against the toxic powers that be. Speaking up in person can be terrifying, but do it if you can. I’ve also found building relationships with like-minded journalists and bloggers to be one of the most powerful ways to overcome the lack of HR in the industry. Tell your story if you dare…it might just help someone else. If you feel alone and powerless and stuck and like standing up for what’s right is impossible right now, shoot me an email and let’s see what we can do: consciouscinemaco@gmail.com.

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel

However, it’s not enough just for the well-intentioned to try to do better. There are still very sick people working in this industry. There are Oscar-winners who are still getting away with sexual harassment and assaultThere are pedophiles still directing blockbusters. In order to create a safer industry, there needs to be a clearly defined, effective and ethical way of reporting these instances of abuse that will actually protect the vulnerable individuals who are victimized by them. Let’s put our heads together and brainstorm viable solutions.

I love the idea of LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who suggested creating “an industry-funded commission comprised of a wide variety of representatives from legal, labor, film, and feminist backgrounds [who] would be responsible for developing new, industry-wide protections against sexual harassment and abuse…the solution would include zero-tolerance policies for abusive behavior and a secure, reliable, unimpeachable system in which victims of abuse can report what’s happened to them with a confident expectation that action will be taken without placing their employment, reputations, and careers at risk.” If you have an idea of your own, please share in the comments section below or privately via email.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.” — William Faulkner

Cultivating “Mindful Production” Processes

It’s time to take a more mindful, human-centered approach to the process of producing movies and implement ethical systems for preventing future predatory behavior.

I started my production company, Conscious Cinema Co., in direct opposition to the toxic culture at the root of The Weinstein Co. and other similarly virulent environments in the film industry. It’s time to take a more mindful, human-centered approach to the process of producing movies and implement ethical systems for preventing future predatory behavior.

Heavily influenced by the manner in which the “fair-trade” movement has taken on the titan of the fast fashion industry by putting ethics and people above bottom line profits, I focus on taking a similar approach with my work through Conscious Cinema Co. My mission is to set a new standard in the film industry: a standard of respect, compassion, kindness and support for fellow artists and individuals. I focus on producing purpose-driven films ethically, with integrity and respect for all of the work that goes into creating movies. I would love for the concept of “mindful production” to spread throughout the film industry and create waves of positive change.

Hiring More Women

With the subject matter at hand, I would be remiss to not point out the obvious, which is that hiring more women does, indeed, make the industry inherently safer for women. In addition, the more that women are financially empowered, the easier it is for them to walk away from toxic situations.

Want to hire more women but don’t know where to start? Check out the resources below.

Female Directors:

Female DPs:

Female Crew + Department Heads:

If you want to team up in the movement to cultivate positive change in the film industry, enter your name + email below to join the Conscious Cinema Co. Network.

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Fiscal Sponsorship via From the Heart Productions!

I’m very excited to announce that From the Heart Productions will now act as the fiscal sponsor for my new feature film project, Suburban Blues, City Lights!

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I’m incredibly grateful to collaborate with From the Heart Productions. They are an amazing non-profit with a mission to “help fund films that are unique and make a contribution to society“–what more could I ask for in a fiscal sponsor? 

If you’re not familiar with the term “fiscal sponsorship”, here’s a basic overview…

Fiscal sponsorship refers to the practice of non-profit organizations offering their legal and tax-exempt status to groups engaged in activities related to the organization’s missions. It typically involves a fee-based contractual arrangement between a project and an established non-profit.” 

What that means for my project…

I’m able to apply to grants that require a fiscal sponsor and also solicit donations from individuals and corporations. In addition to becoming part of a purpose-driven feature film project, the amazing benefit to donors is that…

All Contributions are Tax-Deductible

Thanks to fiscal sponsorship through From the Heart Productions, Suburban Blues, City Lights is under the umbrella of 501(c)3 status, meaning…

Any dollar amount that an individual contributes can be used as a 1:1, 100% tax deductible dollar donation.

From the Heart Productions will take a 7% service charge on credit cards (5% on checks) and the rest of the dollar amount will reach our production. From the Heart will provide a receipt to all donors to use under the itemized deductions in the donations portion of their taxes. Donors can then use the 100% tax deductible amount to adjust their gross income.

Win-win!

If you feel inspired to learn more, please check out the fundraising page for Suburban Blues, City Lightshttps://fromtheheartproductions.networkforgood.com/projects/31105-feature-films-suburban-blues-city-lights

I’m going to integrate a more formal pitch video later on, but wanted to share the exciting news with you all today!

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

XO,

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Osho Inspiration

Man, I love me some Osho. In fact, we make reference to Osho in a meditation scene in my film, “Quarter Life Coach”.

I was thumbing through the book we used in the movie today, and came across a page that I found so fitting for this moment in my life.

In your twenties, sometimes it feels like life is all about finding “success” and “making it”.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that life is truly about learning to enjoy the process, not about getting to some specific “perfect” destination in life.

Here’s what Osho has to say about it:

“To have approval and be recognized is everybody’s need. Our whole life’s structure is such that we are taught that unless there is recognition, we are nobody, we are worthless. Our work is not important, but the recognition. And this is putting things upside down.

Our work should be important a joy in itself. You should work, not to be recognized, but because you enjoy being creative. You love the work for its own sake. You work if you love it.

Don’t ask for recognition. If it comes, take it easily. If it does not come, do not think about it. Your fulfillment should be in the work itself.

And if everybody learns this simple art of loving his work, whatever it is, enjoying it without asking for any recognition, we would have a more beautiful and celebrating world; otherwise, the world has trapped you in a miserable pattern. What you are doing is not good because you love it, because you do it perfectly, but because the world recognizes it, rewards it, gives you medals, Nobel prizes.

They have taken away the whole intrinsic value of creativity, and destroyed millions of people because you cannot give millions of people Nobel prizes. And you have created the desire for recognition in everybody, so nobody can work peacefully, silently, enjoying whatever he is doing. And life consists of small things. For those small things there are not rewards, not titles given by the governments, not honorary degrees given by the universities.

Any man who has any sense of his individuality, lives by his own love, by his own work, without caring at all what others think of it.”

Much Love,

Nicole

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