Star-Studded Ads Distill Workplace Sexual Harassment Into 30 Seconds

Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer's short films are cut into PSAs

The Ad Council/RAINN/NWLC

A series of anti-sexual harassment films made last year by Sigal Avin and David Schwimmer are finding new life as a set of powerful 30-second TV ads.

Three spots, ominously titled “The Boss,” “The Politician” and “The Coworker,” illustrate the kinds of real and exploitative scenarios to which women are frequently subjected in job settings. They feature celebrities including Schwimmer, Zazie Beetz, Emmy Rossum, Harry Lennix, Grace Gummer and Joseph Sikora, and are cut down from six four-minute shorts, written and directed by Avin and produced by Schwimmer, that launched last April.

The new PSAs, set to air on TV and online, manage to distill the longer originals into perhaps their most awful moments, pointedly capturing the discomfort of the women on screen as professional interactions rapidly devolve into out-of-the-blue advances from men in positions of power.

Part of a #ThatsHarrasment campaign backed by three non-profits—The Ad Council; the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN); and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)—the ads were executive produced by Avin, Schwimmer and Mazdack Rassi of MILK Studios. The longer originals—essentially U.S. versions of a series that Avin, an Israeli American filmmaker, earlier created in Israel—are viewable on the campaign’s Facebook page. The shorter clips will run in donated time on channels like Amazon Prime, CBS, the CW, Fox Networks, Freeform, Hulu, Showtime and Starz, as well as in New York City taxi cabs.

“Knowledge is key for change,” says Avin in a statement accompanying the PSA launch. “For me, the biggest achievement of #ThatsHarassment is giving harassment a face. Taking what some consider ‘a grey area’ and making it clear, ‘that’s harassment.’ The fact that there’s a visual aid to clarify and demonstrate what sexual harassment is, will minimize the phenomenon.”

Adds Schwimmer, “My mother, my sister, countless female colleagues and friends have all experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Now I’m a father of a young daughter and I’m angry and concerned about the rise in, and our culture’s acceptance of, totally unacceptable behavior by men towards women. Men who demean, deride, discredit, harass and assault women—no matter what their position of power—need to be held accountable.”

Schwimmer may catch some flak for bringing his daughter into it, and has already come under some minor fire for overshadowing Avin’s more significant role the films, even if only by virtue of playing into the broader set of patriarchal norms the campaign seems aimed at combating. But it’s hard to argue against the added exposure his name recognition brings to the cause.

“The current conversation around sexual harassment is giving us an opportunity to inform, educate and ultimately end harassment and assault,” says Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are proud to join forces with Sigal, David, RAINN, National Women’s Law Center and the media to help all of us—men and women—speak out, stop it and most importantly, prevent it.”

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