Not for the first time this year I feel like I have dodged a bullet.
Recently I wrote a blog about my immediate reaction to the Harvey Weinstein case and knock on effect of the hashtag #MeToo entitled #NotMe. As is often the case facts are still being gathered and in turn released about this ever deepening story one of the more recent being Ronan Farrows’ piece in The New Yorker explaining in frightening detail how tangled the web Mr Weinstein wove.
I guess that about the same amount of people who agreed with my piece disagreed with it based on the comments and subsequent conversations I got into following its publication. Some of my statements were brash and I am happy to admit to that now as I was then and that’s probably because I was angry when I wrote it.
I stand by my piece. It was absolutely how I felt. Part of what I try to do with my blogs is open up the possibility of dialogue and discussion without judgement. Some of the opinions I express may not be popular however that is not a reason to withhold them. I feel quite strongly that if we do not express our potentially unpopular views we run the risk of ultimately causing more long term damage by allowing these thoughts and feelings to unhealthily fester instead of airing them and possibly learning something which, who knows, may lead to a change in opinion, education even personal growth.
And it might not. That’s OK too. This is something else we are all free to do; change our minds.
For me this is something that is lacking in our society. We judge people for their fleeting remarks and opinions without offering an opportunity for them to chew the cud. We freeze them in time under a name, banner or group. We have the ability to block and delete contacts on our phones, on social media emboldening this ‘all or nothing’ approach which for some develops into disposable lifestyles, disagreements and relationships.
The irony here is tangible. The definition of an opinion is a view or judgement formed about something not necessarily based on fact, basically a voiced thought and as we all know thoughts can be fleeting.
A few weeks ago I spotted a Facebook post advertising an independent made for TV project looking for actors so I submitted myself as I often do for various jobs that crop up. The man behind the project got back to me and gave me a lot of well thought out information asking me to go to a meeting at his studio out of London to ‘discuss’ the part. I thought nothing of this at the time; as actors we are often asked to go to strange studios or addresses to meet strangers under similar circumstances, I’ve attended legitimate theatre auditions, sent by my old agent, in living rooms on council estates in the past. We agreed on a date in a month’s time when we were both available for a meeting and I asked for a script so I could assess the material pre-meeting.
As a currently unrepresented actress, which I’m finding scary and frustrating after seven years of secure, loving representation, I wanted to believe I had found a solution to my problem, an end to horrible day jobs and a much needed TV credit that would aid my hunt for a new agent.
Then I started reading.
First of all I wasn’t sent a script I was sent a Novel that the script would be based on. If I’m completely honest my gut was saying no immediately and I ignored it until I got to page 174.
It was weird. There were so many unexplained teenage lesbian sex scenes, I honestly learned stuff about sex toys and tried desperately to link it all to a plot. There was a plot however what five female aliens sent to earth to extract ‘sex juices’ from teenagers has to offer I do not know. I also can’t see the BBC sticking it on after Blue Planet 2 not with constant female masturbation, gratuitous lesbian sex, two rape scenes and everyone watching porn ALL THE TIME. Strange how he had sold it to me as being perfect for post watershed terrestrial viewers?
It sounds absurd now but when describing it to people I always, always justified my reasons for going, focusing on the potential of getting a TV credit and toning down the material. I mean this was just the Novel, maybe the script would be different? I did also know a male actor who had already filmed with the man in question and had said that there was nothing to worry about. I hasten to add that my character was the least sexually involved aiding my justification which then begged the question ‘do I really want to be involved in a project that portrays the majority of young teenage girls as sex mad porn obsessed nymphos?’
Then on the morning of the meeting after finishing the second rape scene when I had just received what could only be described as a manipulative text from the man in question saying he would be unable to reach his phone from now on, which I read as ‘you have no way out of this’ I decided to go with my gut and cancelled.
Bullet succesfully dodged.
I felt noticeably relieved and knew I had made the right decision. It is worth mentioning that the meeting was in a remote location an hour out of London and I was to be picked up in a car driven by a man I had never met.
Only then did it strike me how susceptible we are as actors to being lulled into a false sense of security. When debating with my sister on the morning of the meeting whether or not I should actually attend a meeting for a project that a) would be deemed unsafe in any other scenario and b) I didn’t even like the content of finally the Harvey Weinstein penny dropped. The universe showed me why I should have felt some sympathy for the women I had chastised for not coming forward sooner.
No I didn’t go to the meeting. No nothing happened to me. I am old and wise enough to, albeit at the last minute, escape an uncomfortable situation regardless of whether or not it could enhance my career. But I nearly went. I was worried enough for a moment to consider that maybe this would damage my future prospects or enhance my credits. Imagine how susceptible I could be for a project I actually liked and wanted to do that was properly paid? Imagine what I could have tolerated then?
Fortunately for me having just written a piece about how we should stand up to this shit regardless of what we have to gain or lose helped me massively in that decision to not go and fuck the consequences. And fortunately having had some interesting conversations with people who challenged my blog I was then able to look at what I had stated and reassess my position on some of those thoughts and opinions.
Isn’t it amazing when your own words come back to inform you?
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com