Interview: David Schwimmer And Sigal Avin, Producers Of '#ThatsHarassment' Israeli playwright Sigal Avin teamed up with her friend David Schwimmer to produce #ThatsHarassment. The short films — some inspired by her own experiences — aim to clarify what harassment is.
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These Short Films Shine A Spotlight On Sexual Harassment

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These Short Films Shine A Spotlight On Sexual Harassment

These Short Films Shine A Spotlight On Sexual Harassment

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A male boss brushes up against his female employee. Off the record, a male politician makes suggestive remarks to a female reporter. Those are just a couple of examples that may be all too familiar to some career women. Producers Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer and Mazdack Rassi have released a series of short films called #ThatsHarassment. Each film begins with a headline, quote, "based on a real incident," like the episode "The Co-Worker," which takes place at a bar. Take a listen. And we should warn you that the nature of this conversation and the clips we're about to hear are graphic.


JOSEPH SIKORA: (As character) Because you know guys, they'll be getting drunk, and they think they can have whatever they want, you know, the whole grab them by the [expletive] thing...

GRACE GUMMER: (As character) Oh, yeah.

SIKORA: (As character) ...And then it's like out of nowhere they're like, boom, right there. You know what I mean though?

GUMMER: (As character) Yeah, no, I get it. You just - you, like, totally, like, grabbed - you...

SIKORA: (As character) I was totally showing how...

GUMMER: (As character) No, it's fine.

SIKORA: (As character) ...Well, here look, let's make things even...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joining us now from NPR's New York bureau is Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer. Thanks so much for being on the program.

DAVID SCHWIMMER: Thanks for having us.

SIGAL AVIN: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So if you couldn't tell, the male character whose voice we hear grabs his new female co-worker inappropriately after quoting President Trump's hot mic moment. Let me ask you, Sigal, what is the goal of this series?

AVIN: I created this in Israel before it came here to the States. I was reading about a lot of sexual harassment in Israel as in the States. And I started asking myself, what is sexual harassment? We hear about it all the time, but we never actually see what it is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You had a personal experience. One of the films called "The Actor" is based on something that happened to you.

AVIN: Yes. I was a young playwright. And I went to speak to an actor who was a pretty big star back then. And he was always - really cool guy, always funny. And we were at his place talking about the play. I went to the restroom. When I came back, he had taken it out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mean he exposed himself, his genitalia.

AVIN: Yes, he exposed himself. The dialogue that he used is the same dialogue that the actor uses. It's, look who came to say hello. It took me a couple of years to realize that was sexual harassment. I mean, I thought this is a weird guy; I just want to get out of here. That was kind of humiliating. But it took me a while to understand that he was using his power.

SCHWIMMER: And that's one of the reasons, personally, I was struck by the original films because everyone is so used to violent sex crime being portrayed in the media. In television and film - you know, the guy hiding behind the bushes, jumping out at you and grabbing and attacking. But this kind of crime happens with such frequency on a daily basis to most women - if not all women - where there's any kind of imbalance of power and often at work. I think one of the goals for us was to really show it. There's something about the power of actually seeing it for victims because it's by seeing it happen that they realize, oh, that was sexual harassment. It wasn't just me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, women may understand about sexual harassment in the workplace. They may experience it. But what is it that you want men to understand through watching this?

SCHWIMMER: And that's one of the reasons I wanted to get involved because we really don't feel this is a, quote, unquote, "women's issue." This is a human issue. And I think for men some of the films, which are less overt than, say, the one I'm acting in where I actually grab and kiss an employee as her boss - there's a lot of confusion with some men. They're like, well, how is that sexual harassment? And so we're hoping that by showing these and having a conversation that men will become more aware. And they will work to protect their colleagues and their wives and their daughters.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David, you just mentioned the short that you were in. Let's hear a clip.


SCHWIMMER: (As character) No, I just - I just want you to know that I - I really believe in you, you know.

ZAZIE BEETZ: (As character) Thank you. It's nice to hear that from someone...

SCHWIMMER: (As character) These are cool. Did you - where'd you...

BEETZ: (As character) Um...

SCHWIMMER: (As character) What?

BEETZ: (As character) I'm sorry. I have a boyfriend.

SCHWIMMER: (As character) No, that's - that's OK. I'm married. I mean, I just - I was just trying to show you how much I appreciate you, you know.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So for our listeners - you go in to kiss your employee, and obviously it's not a welcome advance.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who is the boss for you?

SCHWIMMER: Well, it's really inspired by different people, specifically in Sigal's life and from my own observation. I've seen men abuse the power they have, especially on a film or television set or in the theater. And, more often, younger actors and actresses are subjected to things that they feel they don't really have the ability to say no to out of fear that the repercussion will be the loss of a job or word will get out of what they're like in the industry or they're difficult to work with, you know. I was channeling, I guess (laughter), this kind of behavior - this guy that I've seen my whole life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Where does this live? Where does this go from here? What is the hope here?

AVIN: When you see this, it kind of hits a nerve. You understand things better.

SCHWIMMER: Yeah, the goal is to change the culture simply. And this is just one of many steps we still need to be taking.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer, producers of #ThatsHarassment. Thank you both so much for joining me.

SCHWIMMER: Thank you.

AVIN: Thank you.


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