Why hold business meetings in hotel rooms anyway?


Following the spate of news stories about sexual assault that have taken place in hotel rooms, the Screen Actors Guild has called for an end to holding meetings in hotel rooms.

The Screen Actors Guild has called for an end to private meetings in “high-risk locations” in the wake of a string of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood.

Sag-Aftra, the labor union for actors in film and television, has issued a guideline calling on producers and executives to avoid arranging meetings in hotel rooms or private residences. The document notes that “misconduct … often occurs outside of the formal workplace setting”.

In the unlikely event that the meeting cannot take place in a more open setting, the document suggests that a “support peer” be present.

I am surprised that meetings need to take place in hotel rooms at all, unless you have very good reasons to think that you are being targeted for spying by someone. Hotels have lobbies, coffee shops, and restaurants that have plenty of spaces to talk to people privately. I have attended a huge number of conferences and meetings that have been held in hotels and on occasion have had to meet with another person or a small group of people. It never crossed my mind to invite them to my hotel room, nor have I ever been invited to someone else’s. My world of academic meetings is different from the film industry but I cannot imagine that it is that different.

Private discussions are not that hard to have in public spaces unless one is a loud talker or are being specifically targeted for eavesdropping by professionals. How likely is that? Sure people can see who you are meeting with but unless something nefarious is going on, that is hardly significant.

Comments

  1. kestrel says

    Mano, I am not certain that WOMEN have this same experience as you do. As a woman, I’ve been told that “we have to have this conversation in my room” etc. It’s possible that I’m the only one? Except that other women have said they had a similar experience… but in any event, I think it’s possible that all this may have passed you over, due to your gender. Just an idea. I could sure be wrong.

  2. Mano Singham says

    kestrel,

    That is a possibility. The physics meetings I attended had high male majorities while the education meetings had high female-majorities. But as you suggest, it might not be the gender balance as a whole but the gender of an individual that is relevant.

  3. screechymonkey says

    When I was a law student, it was quite common for law firms to interview candidates in hotel rooms. I’m assuming that’s still the case today in some places. The number of firms and interviews simply dwarfed the number of available spaces on-campus (or business offices available off-campus), plus some firms wanted to have reception areas with catering, so hotels were a logical choice.

    I never heard of any inappropriate conduct, which of course could simply be that nobody told me about it. Practical considerations probably deterred it more than anything else: the next candidate is going to be knocking on the door in 15 minutes, interviews were often done by junior lawyers who even back then would probably be risking their careers if they got their firm blacklisted by a school, etc.

    But I agree that in the Hollywood casting situations, there just isn’t much of an excuse for doing it this way. They don’t have the same crunch where most of their interviewing for a year takes place in a few weeks. And between the producers, the casting agent, or the talent agent, somebody’s got to have an office or conference room available.

  4. says

    kestrel@#1:
    As a woman, I’ve been told that “we have to have this conversation in my room” etc.

    No red flags there at all, nuh uh.

    Let me just say – nobody has ever told me that they need to meet me in their room. Most hotels have conference rooms that are surprisingly affordable, though I have been in a couple start-ups where organizational meetings were held in a hotel suite (where the bedroom door could be closed and everyone met in the living room) – it turns out that’s no cheaper than getting a conference room but it’s a hack that lets the CEO stay in a suite, see?

  5. sonofrojblake says

    Private discussions are not that hard to have in public spaces unless one is a loud talker or are being specifically targeted for eavesdropping by professionals

    You’ve given the two answers I would posit right there.

    First, consider that movie makers are, by definition, discussing out loud ideas that are potentially worth not thousands, not millions, but actual Billions of dollars. Furthermore, these ideas can’t be patented, and if they get out it can ruin the chance to make a great deal of money. Even further, for as long as Disney doesn’t own the entire movie industry (i.e. for about the next three years), there is fierce competition between studios, and they absolutely will be targeting each other for some eavesdropping if possible. You think it’s a coincidence that Deep Impact and Armageddon came out in the same year? So truly public spaces for discussing this stuff are understandably out.

    Second, consider that the people you’re talking about are by definition the high-powered people in the studio – directors, producers and Bod help us executive producers. They are not, of course, all foghorn-voiced arseholes who’ve not been told “shh” since they were 9 years old – but it’s a useful generalisation. So expecting them to moderate the volume of the voice they love so much to hear simply isn’t going to work.

    This is not to defend any shady activity they may get up to in hotel rooms, but I can perfectly well see why a bar or even a conference room (bugging devices!) would not be an acceptable place to discuss the script of MiracleMan 2, but a randomly selected suite in the hotel would be.

  6. screechymonkey says

    I think you could also add that some of the actors (and sometimes the producers, too) are recognizable faces. And while guests at a posh hotel in NY or LA are probably less likely than patrons at an average Starbucks to interrupt and ask for autographs, handshakes, or selfies, it probably still happens more than you’d like if you’re trying to conduct business. So I can see why public spaces wouldn’t be an option there. But of course, that still leaves open all sorts of private spaces that aren’t hotel rooms.

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