Harvey Weinstein’s Abuse Took Many Forms, As I Learned Firsthand

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I worked for Harvey Weinstein from May to August 2014. A
successful independent film producer at the time, I had sold
him two films in 2005, and produced over 20 altogether, 12 of
them selections at Sundance. I was brought on to “fix” an
ailing movie, Natalie Portman’s Jane Got a Gun, and
then hired—ostensibly as a “fixer,” an “indie expert”—to help
Harvey bring indie discipline and ingenuity to large films.
When I left, I was paid for the duration of my contract and
Harvey wrote me a complimentary letter, but my time there did
not end well.

I was not sexually harassed. But I was subjected to egregious
verbal abuse, usually in front of several colleagues, or over
group emails. In my experience, most people who worked at The
Weinstein Company had a similar experience, and some joked
about “PTWS,” or post-traumatic Weinstein syndrome, whereby it
took them months to recover peace of mind and a resting pulse
after emerging from the company’s culture of abuse.

At my first team meeting there, I was asked for my opinion
about a scene on a project in development. The opinion I
expressed was apparently not the one Harvey had in mind. He
looked at me for a long moment, as though trying to remember my
name. Then his face contorted like an animal on attack and he
yelled, “What are you stupid, Stupid?”

I said nothing, paralyzed by the address, and the volume of my
boss. I confess I was so shocked by the volume and viciousness
coming from Harvey that I said nothing in my defense. It went
on from there with a torrent of personal insults.

Afterwards, an executive chastised me for failing to respond
with commensurate strength. “You’re too weak around him,” he
said. “If you don’t stand up to him, it will just get worse.”
He named a woman executive who had handled the same kind of
verbal attacks better: “She finally said ‘don’t fuckin’ talk to
me like that’ and he eventually stopped.”

Next time indeed. It did not occur to me how ridiculous it was
to blame me for Harvey’s behavior, as the executive did, as
opposed to condemning it outright. Later that afternoon, I was
invited to meet with another superior who just wanted to “see
how [I was] doing.” The meeting was brief.

Throughout my short stint at TWC, I experienced this type of
thing repeatedly. I was called names, mocked for my appearance,
irregularly praised or ridiculed, often with several colleagues
present. In the span of three months, I was sent all over the
world, to sets in New Mexico, New Zealand, New Orleans, London
and Los Angeles, often without a day to regroup, or to see my
kids. When I complained that I had not signed on for a job that
entailed so much travel, I was told to suck it up, and reminded
of the number of people waiting for my position.

On each new set, tempestuous directors squared off with Harvey,
and there was a constant revolving door of new staff. A party
for Harvey and only young women guests was organized during my
time in London. It seemed like all women over the age of
30—including me—were dismissed before it began. A colleague of
mine told me that Harvey told him to “be more like the Mossad.”
  The colleague prostrated himself to Harvey, much as I
had done myself. This was the most disquieting aspect of my
time at TWC, the seeming uniformity of everyone’s
experience—the bullying, degradation, and abuse—and the tacit
gag order around it all.

I observed what I came to think of as a silence switch; the way
in which employees, scared for their jobs or simply their place
in the pecking order turned a blind eye to routine and chronic
instances of abuse. We were ashamed and afraid, deterred or
incentivized to say nothing, to tolerate this behavior toward
ourselves and one another. It would take an experience in my
own personal life before I understood the mechanics of this,
not only how abuse is perpetrated often with many witnesses,
but how the reports of this behavior—whether verbal, physical,
or sexual assaults—are disbelieved, dismissed, or silenced.
Aggression toward women does not always manifest itself as
sexual harassment or assault. Verbal abuse is harrowing and
paralyzing in its own right. While it is qualitatively
different than the trauma of being coerced into sex, it is
abuse nonetheless. And it tends to follow the same pattern, in
its rising volume, its repetition, and its progression to
physical acts. Much has been made since the allegations against
Harvey broke, about the silences of witnesses to abuse and
assault. To me, the pearl-grabbing and head-scratching is
disingenuous. It happened just like this—perhaps the alleged
assaults were only in private, but the abuse never was.

My employment at TWC ended much the same way it began. I was on
set in London on a movie starring Bradley Cooper. I showed up
for an emergency budget meeting at a café nearby. I sat at a
table with several other employees as Harvey demanded we reduce
wardrobe, scenes, and locations to cut the budget, and fast. I
made a suggestion that was dismissed.

“What are you wearing?” Harvey sneered.

I looked down at my clothes. A tidy blouse and skirt, leggings
and Converse, standard fare for a movie set.

“You have to be great to be here. Clearly, you’re not
great.”

I finally grew the backbone the executive had advised.

“Don’t fuckin’ talk to me like that,” I said.

“Are you quitting,” he said.

“Are you firing me?” I responded.

A woman colleague sitting across the table looked squarely at
me, mouthing, “Do not cry.” I managed to make it to the
bathroom before bursting into tears.

A few minutes later, I emerged, buttressed by my friend’s
support. As I walked out the door of the café, found myself
walking head-on into Weinstein. He opened his arms. I inhaled,
prepped for an embrace. But he kept on walking. I turned around
me to realize my mistake: Bradley Cooper was just behind
me.

“Brother from another mother,” Harvey said to Cooper, and they
embraced.

Editors’ note: Harvey Weinstein and the
Weinstein company did not respond to Jezebel’s request for
comment on this piece.


Galt Niederhoffer has produced over twenty films, twelve of
them Sundance selections, most recently
Infinitely Polar
Bear and Robot and Frank. She is the author of
four novels, including
Taxonomy of Barnacles and
The Romantics. Her latest, Poison, will be
published on November 21 by St Martin’s Press.

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