Empowering Women in Arts and Entertainment in Partnership with TIME’S UP Foundation, featuring Eryn Brown
Welcome back to our interview series, ‘Empowering Women in Arts and Entertainment’ in partnership with TIME’S UP Foundation. For our fourth installment, we spoke to Eryn Brown, Talent Manager and Partner at Management 360. For over 20 years, Brown has helped build the careers of acclaimed directors, writers and actors from around the world. As demonstrated through her clients’ work and her social activism, Eryn believes in the power of positive cultural change through art. Separate from Management 360, Eryn has founded and will soon be launching “1 IN 4,” an intersectional coalition of disabled creatives currently working in Hollywood. “1 IN 4” is the first effort led by Hollywood change-makers focused on long-term institutional shifts to increase employment and authentic representation of people with disabilities.
What first drew you to the entertainment industry (and eventually becoming a Talent Manager and Partner at Management 360) and how was the climate for women when you first started working?
I was really interested in popular culture and how film and television can impact the way people think and behave.
When I first started working in Hollywood, the trend on the creative side of the business was for young women to be so-called “D Girls,” development executives for big producers. It was not a term of empowerment. The goal at the time was to get the hot spec scripts for your boss, and women who were “in the scene” (having drinks and going to parties) seemed to have the advantage over those of us who were not as visible. I knew that was not my forte, and that was one of the reasons I set my sights on representation. If I represented the writers and creators, I would be the gatekeeper to the scripts.
As a woman, what is the biggest hurdle you have faced in becoming successful in your industry, and/or what are some of the key issues that women face in your profession?
The biggest hurdle that I have faced as a woman and specifically a disabled woman has been being able to get into the room. Then, once in the room, being overshadowed by louder, often male, voices. The lack of access and opportunities for women continues to be a hurdle in the industry.
One key issue that women face is not having access at all levels, especially to decision-makers. Another issue is how women are perceived, both from a business perspective and in the content that’s created. When the industry was so heavily dominated by male artists – writers and directors – there seemed to be a tendency toward male agents, managers, lawyers, etc.
What is the best piece of advice a female peer or superior gave you, specifically relating to being a female in your profession?
There was a moment that I was struggling with consistently being excluded from a professional circle of men when a business friend said, to paraphrase: It’s going to happen. Don’t seek validation in being accepted by men. Create your own circle and find power in that support.
As a woman working in your industry, are there benefits to having a female supervisor or mentor?
There are enormous benefits to having a woman as a supervisor or mentor. It’s invaluable to be able to learn from someone who is older and has been there before you, who understands your lived experience as well as the specifics of a professional ecosystem. It can be affirming and empowering, and also makes constructive criticism easier to receive.
Have you personally helped to drive positive change for women in your industry or have you seen others do so?
I have made intentional efforts to work with and advocate for women artists. Through TIME’S UP, I’ve seen and experienced the importance of community in finding the courage to speak up.
What piece of advice would you give someone starting out in an entry-level role in your industry?
Read and learn as much as you can. Be curious about people’s life experiences. Ask questions and really listen.
Earlier this year, TIME’S UP released a Guide to Working in Entertainment with practical ways entertainment professionals can advocate for themselves and their safety. How would you advise someone who is struggling to report harassment or discrimination?
First and foremost, I would listen. Once the person felt safe and heard, I would make clear it’s not their fault and that such behavior is, unfortunately, common in our industry. Then, I would help them find the appropriate reporting mechanism and provide them with additional support throughout the process. I would let them know about TIME’S UP as a resource and community of support.
What are some positive changes you’ve seen take place, since the #MeToo movement gained traction and TIME’S UP was launched to combat workplace sexual misconduct and harassment in the entertainment industry?
TIME’S UP provided a lens for women to examine their workplace circumstances and to understand the professional ripple effects of inequity. They also provided community and authority to empower women to speak up. TIME’S UP lets us know we’re not alone – there’s a group to support, aid and reinforce necessary change.
What do you think is still missing in the entertainment industry regarding representation, equity, safety and accountability?
25% of the US adult population has a visible or invisible Disability, but we’re less than 1% of the characters on the screen. We’re also missing from offices, crews and sets. It starts with #AddtheA. We’re calling on Hollywood organizations to add disability, visible and invisible, to their company’s definition of DEI. Make it DEIA for Accessibility. As in recent years with other underrepresented groups, the industry needs to hold itself accountable with respect to hiring disabled people.
What further changes do you hope to see in your profession in the future?
My dream is for 2021 to be a landmark year for disability inclusion in Hollywood. Now is the time to employ disabled people, to tell authentic stories and to ignite change for the 1.3 billion disabled people around the world. In addition to #AddtheA, we’re asking for:
1. Aim for 1IN4. Employ Disabled people in all levels of corporate, creative, production and vendor positions.
2. Amplify 1IN4. Talent representatives, work with and advocate for Disabled artists.
3. Count 1IN4. Track and disclose annual percentages of Disabled people hired and represented by your company and working on your productions.
4. Include 1IN4. Require an Accessibility Coordinator for every production.
5. Portray 1IN4. Create content featuring authentic and intersectional storylines about Disability by and with Disabled people. Nothing about us, without us.