I got all enthusiastic when an upcoming director from São Paulo called me about a project.
“You are so talented, I want you onboard this project,” he said on the phone. “My secretary will send you a plane ticket for a meeting tomorrow in São Paulo, ok?”
Yeah, I though, I will hop on a plane to get a new project! Of course! Work! Money!
I put on my best jeans and heals, the lucky-charm blazer, a buttoned-up shirt and boarded the 8 am flight from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo. The air shuttle takes only 40 minutes, but the traffic in the biggest metropolitan city of Latin America can take much longer. We had a 11 am meeting and I did not want to be late. This was the first time I would work with this director and his producer, an older lady who had produced many films. A great networking opportunity, at least. And the opportunity to see my dad, who lives in São Paulo.
We met at the producer’s company, a three-story building with its own parking lot. I was nervous, not because I had not done that before – but because I really needed to close a deal in order to pay my bills and maintain my sanity.
We made introductions, producer, assistants and a couple of investors – besides me and the director. All went well until, halfway thought the meeting, the director leaned sideways to me and whispered: “I will hire you to write the script if I can take you out to dinner tonight. Only if I can have you.” Fuck, I thought! What an asshole!
I pushed my chair away, but he continued trying to whisper things in my ear. I looked at the older producer, trying to send smoke signs, but she did not get it. Or maybe she did get it, but in her old school ways, she did not see anything wrong. To her defense, I need to say that this happened back in 2010, when we were still silently ruminating the #metoo movement. To my defense, I never wanted to work with her again.
As we left the meeting, Mr. Asshole grabbed me by the waist. I tried to dodge it, but we were walking a big hallway filled with employees. I didn’t want to make a scene.
Dirty Little Game
As we walked to the parking lot, he pulled me close to him. I was about to tell him that I did not like his approach, and that declining or accepting his invitation should not influence in choosing me as a screenwriter. But I did not have time, he grabbed me and kissed me, sticking his disgusting tongue inside of my mouth. For a second, I felt so distraught that I could not do anything. I got paralyzed.
When did Mr. Asshole think it was ok for him to kiss me? We were at a professional meeting, it was the middle of the day, I was dressed like a nun (not that it should matter), I had never flirted with him. I mean, I had never sent any signs - what was wrong with this guy?
For a second, I thought to myself, cowardly: what if a kiss is what is going to make me get the project? Gutlessly, and because I needed to get the project so badly, I just let him finish his thing with my mouth. I felt trapped.
“I gotta go,” I finally said, shaking, disgusted.
About the money, since I am being honest, between you and me, my production company was not working as I expected. And mostly due to another harassment episode (read post Lies That Destroy). Money was burning even with the low overhead. Looking back, I know that the main reason Mr. Asshole attacked me was because of the false rumor spread by another producer, months before. I was an easy target, much more because I did not know about it.
Maybe now you can better understand why I allowed Mr. Asshole to kiss me and agreed to go out and have dinner with him the same night. All set up by the Mrs. Producer, so I was confident that we would discuss the project.
Run, Laura, Run
“Where is the producer?” I asked as soon as I arrived at the restaurant.
“She is late,” he replied with a smile. “Even better, right? We have time to explore each other!”
I thought to myself: explore each other? What the fuck is he talking about?
I sat across from him, to keep a distance. As he stood up wanting to come over, the waitress showed up, interrupting the scene, to my absolute relief. He sat back at his place.
“So, first, tell me about the project? What is going on?”
“Well, baby, we decided to go with a different screenwriter. A male. I think this project calls for a male’s energy,” he said, no remorse, no clue that I was there for a job, and not a disgusting kiss. “But hey, we can still fuck, right?”
My eyes filled with tears – not of joy or sadness, just pure anger.
“NO! You are a disgusting piece of shit!” I said, as I picked up my bag to leave.
I flashed out trying not to make a scene, I wanted to vanish into thin air. As I crossed the parking lot, the tears multiplied in unexpected speed. Mr. Asshole came after me in the parking lot. He tried to grab me by the arms.
“Stop! Stop! Let me go, you are disgusting!” I finally let out.
“Oh, she is angry, turns me on, baby. Turns me on!” he gasped.
“I am going to scream!” I said with fire in my eyes.
But he ignored it. Just got closer to me, trying again to kiss me again. Finally, I shoved him away, he stumbled on his feed, laughing. Right there I could tell he was a true rapist who was used to fighting women and had fun in imposing himself. He was delighted by my struggle.
I entered the car I had borrowed from my dad.
“Where are you going?! Look at it, I am so turned on by you!” I could hear him.
“Fuck you!” I yelled.
Me Too, Again
As I drove away, I wanted to stop at a police station and file a complaint, but I knew the policemen would laugh at me. The guy only forced me to kiss him, no signs of violence. I drove home and never told anybody about this.
Just a reminder to all the people who judge harassed women for not coming forward earlier. It really sucks to have to go over those things. It feels like reliving all of it. But hey, #metoo, again. I will continue to speak up.
#harassment #metoo #toxic #maledominatedworld #work #screenwriting #weinsteinera #enough