Producer Gary Foster On Why Abusive Set Behavior Happens & How The Industry Can Stop It – Guest Column
My dad always used to tell me: “Be nice to people on your way up, because people like to kick those who bullied them when they are on their way down.” We’ve all heard some version of this advice. He wasn’t really telling me to be nice. He was warning me about the bullying, kicking and knocking down that everyone in this industry has experienced.
I’ve learned a few things as I have made my way, most importantly, to be kind and treat all humans on set with respect. It’s simply not true that you have to be a jerk [asshole] to get ahead. People who treat others badly always pay a price for it, one way or another—on the way up or on the way down, out of their pockets or out of someone else’s. Yet, treating people well has not hampered my career at all. In fact, on every set, I’ve been able to get people to perform above and beyond because everyone I’ve ever worked with actually wants to do a great job—at least until someone starts kicking them.
When the film Short Circuit was greenlit in 1985, I was given my first producing role, suddenly in charge of hundreds of cast and crew members. As with any production, issues arose—including interpersonal conflicts, inappropriate behavior, and problems around unaddressed unconscious or conscious biases. I had no warning that the role I would be stepping into went beyond making the film, but in fact – I discovered that, along with filmmaking, I was also stepping into a much more critical position, charged with responsibility for the crew, cast members and their well being. I had never taken a class in people management, conflict resolution, nor had I (or most producers on set) been trained on how to be a de facto HR executive, which it turned out is a significant part of the job. I had controlled a script that someone wanted to finance. Those were my credentials. I was qualified for the job of Associate Producer… not Associate Leader.
By: Gary Foster