JuVee Productions CEO Viola Davis and her husband, JuVee President Julius Tennon, said the entertainment industry must become a kinder workplace. They spoke at a Produced By conference panel called “Shooting for Tomorrow: The Future of Producing,” moderated by Yvette Nicole Brown.
“We really have to think more about how this work-life balance works out,” Tennon said. “Where we can, we need to find a way to make those hours less to make productivity go up. Productivity is going to go up when you’re rested.”
Davis said that exhaustion leads to more volatile workplaces, too.
“We meet each other exhausted,” Davis said. “When you’re under stress, you start screaming at people, and you only scream at people you think are beneath you. You scream at the PA, the makeup artist, the people who are sacrificing just as much as you to be there.”
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Davis said her exhaustion is compounded by “50 million microaggressions going on for me as a Black Woman in this room that I have to address.” She said White-focused hair styling and makeup, script issues, and any number of unintentional comments become issues she must navigate on top of working extreme hours.
“I’m not calling anybody a racist,” Davis said. “I like these people, but I’m just telling you it doesn’t service me.”
Comparing film and television acting to her work in theater, Davis said that while theater is not without its own unique issues, the stage world is better at encouraging people to talk their issues out with the material and with each other.
Davis said people are afraid to speak up on film sets because of the risk of jeopardizing their relationships. Davis said below the line crew especially sacrifice basic needs.
“When you create the sacred space where people can share and you can hear the other voices, that’s when things can shift,” Davis said. “That’s when you can service the mother who says, ‘Listen, I haven’t seen my kid in the last two months. I’m having health issues. I’ve got to go to my doctor’s appointment.’”
Tennon also suggested that instead of yelling at crew members for mistakes, they should create an environment for teaching and learning.
“Okay, they’re making mistakes, but teach them, be kind,” Tennon said. “The three Cs: Courage, compassion, collaboration. Not necessarily in that order, but we need those three things.”
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