Hollywood’s former “Feed the Dragon” Fenton: What China says, we do

Recently, France 2’s “Complément d’enquête” program aired a documentary on the expansion of China’s official influence in France and Europe. Hollywood producer Chris Fenton, who appeared in the documentary and contributed to the presentation of the current state of the issue, was subsequently interviewed by us. Fenton is the author of his personal memoir published last year, “Feeding the Chinese Dragon, Inside Hollywood, the NBA and the Trillion Dollar Problem Facing Corporate America” and host of the Feeding the Dragon Podcast.

Hello Mr. Fenton, it’s great to have you here for this interview, not only because you are an experienced American producer working with the Chinese film and entertainment market, but also because you are one of the few industry insiders so far to speak openly about the two sides of the coin when it comes to Hollywood’s entry into the Chinese market. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you first became involved in Hollywood’s expansion into the Chinese film market, what was the motivation for American companies to do so, and what role did you play personally?

Fenton: I have worked in different areas of cultural and business exchange between the US and China for almost 20 years. I started out in the production services field, helping U.S. companies navigate filming in China, starting with the basics and specifics of the activities. After the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Central Development and Reform Commission (CDRC) expressed their desire to bring Chinese local and Chinese language films to world standards and make China the world’s largest film market, and they were quick to work on this. Commercial cooperation between the U.S. and China also grew rapidly. If we look at the early 2000s, the box office revenue in China was less than $100 million a year. And if we look at the most recent figures before the outbreak of the new crown, the Chinese film market grossed nearly $10 billion in 2019.

If we take the example of the Chinese New Year period this year again, the Chinese movie market revenue reached $1.7 billion in the past week, just one week. So we’re seeing tremendous growth in the Chinese film market, and I’m basically involved in trying to develop the Chinese market as part of that effort. It started out small, but it’s clearly going to grow to become the largest film market in the world. The process of that development included the interchange of different types of production processes, the technical exchange of industry people behind the scenes, the adoption of Chinese elements into the different components of the scripting effort, including placement on film locations, characterization, etc., and the various different content censorship issues. All of this was done in an effort to appease the Chinese Communist Party so that we could access their huge and growing middle and upper class consumer market.

RFE: What are some of the well-known China-related projects you have worked on and can you give us a concrete example of your thinking as an American producer working on a film project in China, and what is your interaction with the Chinese authorities like?

Fenton: In terms of relationships with the Chinese sector, I’m an American citizen living in Los Angeles and I’ve been involved in creating partnerships, negotiating cooperation agreements, and helping my colleagues in the Hollywood ecosystem to come up with ideas to make their content more relevant and sellable to Chinese consumers. At the same Time, I had to help establish a way to get Chinese Communist Party approval for these Hollywood productions to reach the huge Chinese consumer market. Although I spent a lot of time on flights between Beijing and Los Angeles, I didn’t actually live in Beijing. But I am firmly rooted in the United States to help you understand all the work that needs to be done in this process as described above. In my memoir, “Feeding the Chinese Dragon, Inside Hollywood, the NBA, and the Trillion Dollar Problem Facing Corporate America,” I describe in detail some of the large-scale projects I’ve worked on previously.

The reason I wrote the book was to portray the program in a way that was open, applied and usable. So that any reader interested in China, Hollywood, or the NBA could understand the process in a fun, entertaining, and engaging book. At the same time I want readers to understand how we arrived at this challenging time in U.S.-China relations today, an encounter that Europe is experiencing as well. I mention in detail in the book the big projects I’ve worked on most notably, including films from Marvel and disney, such as Iron Man 3 starring Robert Downey Jr. and the Science Fiction film Looper starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt. The original plot of “Looper”, a movie about the future, was originally scheduled to take place in France 40 years from now, and Bruce Willis’ character would be married to a French woman. The change we made was to move the movie to China 40 years later, where Bruce Willis also marries a Chinese woman.

RFE: In your previous interviews, you have detailed how this works in practice in order for foreign film projects to be exported to the Chinese market, or to be shot in China; as an American producer, you have to cater to the needs and wishes of the Chinese authorities? You mentioned the example of the movie “Looper”, what were the attempts in “Iron Man 3”?

Fenton: What’s interesting about the approval process is that in the framework of DMG Entertainment Media Group, where I used to work, Chinese officials were on the ground communicating themselves in Chinese about whether to allow a film to enter their market. But my job was to listen to feedback from my Chinese colleagues who made commitments to the CCP to gain access to the market. I then identify what elements need to be included in these films and talk with Hollywood producers, directors, and studios to try to match those needs. In the Iron Man 3 movie, we wanted to figure out how to execute a storyline in a way that the excitement of the technological developments in China in 2012 could be combined with the content of the movie. One of the decrees given by the Chinese Communist Party was that they wanted to be the global center of technological development and innovation, so we wanted to somehow combine that message with the movie at that time. In my book, I introduced one of those ideas, which was to write a Chinese boy into the plot and have him save the Life of the main character, Tony Stark. Part of the inspiration for this idea came from the experiences of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Although China was still led by Hu Jintao at the time, we knew that Xi Jinping would be the next leader. Xi himself had spent a lot of time in the United States, where he had boarded with an American Family in the heart of the country in the bedroom of that family’s children. So the idea was to implant the son of a Communist Party member into the plot by placing him in the American heartland where Tony Stark crashed and offering help to the latter thus bringing him back to life. In the end, this idea was not presented in the movie, and instead we put a Chinese doctor character named Wu into the movie. He is the only doctor who researches the right medical technology to save Tony Stark’s life, and Dr. Wu saves the latter’s life at the end of the play.

Faq: In your experience, what difficulties do American films encounter when entering the Chinese market?

Fenton: The biggest problem for me personally is that China has a huge film market and we were asked to censor parts of the film in exchange for access to the Chinese market. They didn’t want films that depicted drug use, some time travel, zombies, or religious mapping. They don’t want movies that cast Chinese citizens as villains or mention bad things that happen in the Chinese market. They don’t want their consumers to consume similar movies by censoring them. But the problem is that over time, the encroachment of these censorships has broken through the borders of China to the point where China is now determining what the rest of the world can watch in the movies that Hollywood produces for a global audience. For example, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has spoken repeatedly about the problems with the latest Paramount Pictures film, “The Greatest Showman 2. In the original cut of the film, one of the leather jackets worn by Tom Cruise had the flags of Taiwan and Japan on it. The Chinese Communist Party demanded that these flags be removed.

The studio replied: “Well, we will remove those flags from the film in the Chinese release. The important thing to note here is that doing so may seem unethical and something we shouldn’t do. But in practice, that’s how Hollywood does it. Not only do we cater to the censorship requirements of the Chinese market, but we also censor, edit or remove content for markets such as Japan, Korea and the Middle East. It’s a common practice. What is totally unacceptable and not common practice is for China to tell us that when a movie is released, you can’t just remove the flags in our market, but you have to remove them in other countries as well. The rest of the world can’t see a movie where Tom Cruise is wearing a leather jacket with the flags of Taiwan and Japan on it. And that’s exactly the problem, and I think the biggest problem with this process. China is trying to force feed their narrative to the rest of the world with content produced through Hollywood, a bastion of creative freedom.

RFE: You use the term Chinese Communist Party when referring to Chinese officials, deliberately distinguishing it from terms like China or the Chinese government, why do you make this distinction?

Fenton: I make this distinction because I have many friends, colleagues and former colleagues who love China very much. I believe that China’s brilliant Culture is the longest lasting culture of any country today. Remember that she has an unbroken history of 5,000 years and there are wonderful people there. In fact, there are more than 1.38 billion non-communists in China, and I hope to produce movies and TV shows for them, and create opportunities to bring sports to them. Because they love the quality of ambition that democracies have, they love the freedom of creation and the freedom of expression. I also think we need to continue the cultural and commercial exchange between the two superpowers, because it is the only glue that can prevent war between the two countries. The European countries understand this. But what we cannot allow is for the Chinese Communist Party to force us to do things outside of China that we simply should not do out of concern that there will be retaliation or punishment in the huge Chinese market. That, in turn, is a trend that we need to stop immediately.

RFE: When you were still involved in producing films related to the Chinese market, did you ever get to a point where you thought it was a forced practice of self-censorship and questioned the motives and cost-benefit of such decisions by U.S. based entertainment companies?

Fenton: Unfortunately, and one of the most poignant aspects of my personal story, I had played the role of one of the co-conspirators in causing this problem for 20 years. My dear wife had pointed out several times during the making of Iron Man 3 that I was perhaps participating in feeding the dragon or throwing Food at the beast to the point where we would lose control of it. I responded at the time in a gently passing way. I had not previously meditated on the work we were engaged in until the huge controversy that erupted in the NBA in October 2019. Morey, the most popular Houston Rockets general manager in China, publicly supported, via Twitter, the pro-democracy demonstrations then underway in Hong Kong. I then realized its going to result in punishment and retaliation against the NBA in China, but what I didn’t anticipate was the NBA’s failure to support Morey and his right to free speech.

I didn’t expect stars such as James to voluntarily distance themselves from Murray, and I was even more completely stunned by the extremely angry reaction to the crickets or virtual silencing of the NBA over this story from members of Congress, journalists, commentators and the general public in the United States over the fact that we weren’t protecting Murray’s right to free speech. It was at that moment that I realized: My God, what the NBA is doing in kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party in exchange for freedom from retaliation for its interests in the Chinese market is exactly what I have been engaged in uninterruptedly for the past 20 years. That’s why I then decided to write a memoir about that experience, which includes how we got to where we are today. I also talk in the book in a very open and conversational way about where we want to go in terms of our relationship with China, another superpower, which is extremely complex and very much needed, or will hopefully go forward.

RFE: Does the ability to release a Hollywood film in the Chinese market at the moment have a serious impact on its financial revenue and success?

Fenton: Yes, 100% it does and unfortunately. If you look at the market development of all the developed markets, especially the democratic allies, including the United States, most of these countries are not growing too significantly economically, and a lot of the reason for that is because they are already developed countries. Maybe these countries can grow by 2% or 3%, but the real economic development is in the developing countries or in China, a developed country. China now has 800 million people who have moved out of poverty and into the middle class, and they will be followed by another 400 million people who will soon be moving out of poverty and into expandable incomes. All of our companies and industries are so dependent on China for growth that every time a company mentions expansion into China and the revenue and profit estimates it will generate in its quarterly revenue report, its stock price goes up. In this case, if there is news that China will punish or retaliate against a company, the company’s share price will also fall. For companies in the Western Union countries, China is a symbol of their health, profitability and growth. The problem with this phenomenon is that the Chinese Communist Party knows that it therefore has all the leverage.

In your memoir “Feeding the Chinese Dragon,” you describe the change of heart that led to your decision to speak out about this issue to the American public. Were you aware of the potential consequences of doing so, which some would say would be “suicide” for your career as a producer? And what was the reaction of the American public at large?

Fenton: As I mentioned once in the book, I am a supporter of the Democratic Party. But the message I hope to convey with this book is completely nonpartisan, aimed at both Republican and Democratic audiences. And frankly, its aimed not only at Americans, but also at the populations of Western allies. I am convinced that we cannot agree with the Chinese on the three pillars of the five forces of diplomatic power that I set out in the book, as Fenton sees them. We can’t agree with them on human rights, on politics, on national security. But what the two sides can agree on is cultural and trade exchanges, two pillars that can also prevent the U.S. and China from entering a hot or cold war. So I think the message is that we need to move these two pillars forward, but we also need to respond to the injustice, the imbalance and the erosion that the Chinese Communist Party is inflicting on other countries in terms of gaining access to China. I think we can do that, to take the example of the U.S.-European economic and trade relations in the early 19th century that I mention in my book. Europe had advanced economies at that time, and they had also gone through the process of the industrial revolution, which the United States had not yet done.

And in order to catch up with what was happening in Europe, the United States took trade protectionist measures, including imposing tariffs, creating all kinds of opportunities for technology theft, and stealing Europe’s intellectual property. We constructed the American industrial revolution at that time by standing on Europe’s shoulders and taking credit for it. When Europe saw that the United States had developed a developed economy like theirs and was catching up with them at a rapid pace, Europe told the Americans in a forceful manner: This is the end. We will now re-establish a fair and balanced trade relationship with you, the United States, and we want to regain the money you rely on to build your economy. While Europe does not want to go to war with the United States, it still demands a fair way to access the U.S. market. Europe also demanded that the U.S. side stop many of the unfair trade practices that created this situation at the time. Europe eventually succeeded in creating this same destructive force, allowing the U.S. and Europe to reach a more level trade playing field.

History often repeats itself, and I think we are currently in the middle of this problem with China back then. China has taken advantage of us, and it’s time for the U.S. and Western allies to take action to tell the Chinese side that you are a developed country and therefore must follow the same rules and norms as we do. We want to continue trade with China, but the requirement is that it continue in a fair and balanced environment. So if this message is conveyed to the public in the right way, it is not a “suicide” of my career, but rather a push to make history right to reach a better relationship with China and make both sides benefit from it. And frankly, to give Hollywood better access to the important market of China without specifically pandering to the appetites of the Chinese Communist Party or kowtowing to it.

RFE: On the other hand, we also see that not so many Hollywood professionals are brave enough to reach out to Beijing’s tentacles of foreign influence on this issue? Other than you, we may have seen director Judd Apatow briefly discuss the topic with the Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) last year using the example of human rights in Xinjiang; South Park made a few episodes of jokes with this material. In your personal experience, is this particular brand of self-censorship being discussed within Hollywood, and what is the private feedback from the industry, and are they passively accepting this new reality, or are dissenting voices present as well?

Fenton: I can tell you that at this point in time, of all the people in all the industries that are involved in U.S.-China trade, whether it’s selling shoes or making movies, no one knows that it’s not healthy for the U.S. itself in the long run to carry on this unhealthy trade relationship. Everyone understands the problem and is talking about it, but in private. As you cite, no one or very few people are willing to talk about it publicly. What I can tell you is that more and more voices in the United States are starting to talk about this issue, and the Republicans have been outspoken about it for some time. I was also just recently interviewed on CBS This Morning, the CBS morning news program, on this issue. This is especially important because CBS is seen as a mainstream media outlet in the United States, and I have appeared on such outlets as NPR and Bloomberg before. More left-leaning media outlets are now willing to invite me to speak to them about this topic.

As this develops, I am seeing more and more people praising my outspokenness in private, who tell me I should continue, and more people increasingly willing to publicly support me and explore this issue. A consensus is forming, and corresponding awareness is rapidly rising, and people are realizing that we must address and solve this problem. However, it is difficult for anyone to proceed alone, and we cannot act as lone wolves or sacrificial lambs. Because if a single Hollywood film maker, sports star or director dares to step up, they will simply be replaced by others. To achieve this goal it must be a joint effort between the industry, the artist community, the United States and its Western allies, especially Europe. We must address this issue in a common way if it is to be viable.

China is usually a peace-loving country, and let’s say the Communist Party pushes back its curfew for it again and again. They are like a teenager who has an 11:00 curfew and pushes it to 3:00 am. We need to tell them: stop when you can, you need to follow the 11:00 curfew. The CCP will make a retreat if it can form a strong enough united front. But we have to achieve unity, and it has to be with an industry-wide effort and all the different companies. Everyone should support this motion. And frankly, that effort will probably start with the political leadership in our countries to determine how we will change the direction of this relationship as it continues.

RFE: It seems to you that in the U.S. political environment, the discussion of this issue is nonpartisan and getting more and more media attention, is that correct?

Fenton: The truth is that the discussion of this issue has not yet reached the level of partisanship that it should, and Republicans are talking about it more than Democrats are. But I also see moments of hope, and there are a lot of cross-party efforts in Congress on this issue. The House China Working Group, which released its report on the investigation last summer, was originally a bipartisan initiative, but eventually evolved into a single Republican-led effort. But then we saw the controversy over Disney’s live-action “Mulan” movie, which Disney has been silent about. After the incident, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sent a letter to Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek asking him to explain the controversy. This was quickly followed by another open letter from members of both houses of Congress and from members of both parties, also demanding an explanation from Chapek.

So we’re seeing more bipartisanship on this issue. If you think about it, the Democratic Party by definition should be showing the principled and unwavering support that it advocates on human rights issues, on freedom of speech and freedom of creativity, and on the protection of the American middle class and blue collar class, whose also the people that we have trade issues with on the Chinese side. The Democratic Party has tried to step up to the plate to protect many major issues at major levels and the China issue is one of the areas where they should enhance their efforts. The Democrats are also the party I support, and we need to unite in our efforts and work with the Republicans to get on this issue. It seems to me that the bipartisan effort is in the child stage, but it’s getting stronger every day.

RFE: One counter argument that we usually see is that many Chinese officials and even some insiders will defend this particular censorship as happening even in the U.S.: You censor in the U.S., we censor in China, so there is no difference between the two countries, what do you think about that?

Fenton: First of all, there is a real debate in the U.S. about the censorship of tech giants and social networks, who should be censoring and what should be censored and what is considered “good” and what is considered “bad” And so on. This is a domestic issue that is happening in the United States, and you could argue that there is some infringement of free speech in this controversy, and it’s even somewhat the same as in China. It’s an issue that I have personal thoughts and opinions on, but I’ll address the discussion on China. My answer to this statement that you just mentioned is: well, China is right, you censor some of the content in your own market, and we censor some of the content in our own market.

But China has no right to tell us to continue censorship outside of their markets as they see fit. That’s the biggest problem. I know that many people will criticize me for agreeing that it is acceptable to censor parts of a particular market in order to gain market access. The reason I agree to this level of censorship is because to solve these huge problems we need to move forward in a gradual, toddler-like manner, which is OK with me. But the problem that I have a huge problem with is that they are demanding that one of our films should look like when it plays in the U.S., what it should look like when it plays in France, what it should look like when it plays in Argentina, and so on. They have no such authority.

RFE: We’ve seen an emphasis on Beijing’s desire to set international standards in various areas, whether it’s telecommunications, technology such as 5G, or even at the United Nations trying to change the definition of human rights, is that true in the global film and entertainment industry as well, and how does that affect the Western context in your eyes?

Fenton: I don’t have a problem with China expressing their opinion on matters and offering to look at some particular issues from a different perspective. They have the right to give their opinion on topics like 5G, human rights, global positioning system (GPS) satellites and the Internet. But they should likewise give us the right to be so vocal. And if you take the Chinese example of whether it’s the GPS satellite positioning system from 1993, or the development of the Internet and the erection of firewalls, or the way they look at the issue of chips and 5G now, and suggest that these technologies that China has adopted should be used globally. My response to this is that we know too well what you are capable of in the area of dealing with big data, data tracking and technology, and we are not comfortable with your 5G technology breaking into our market.

They should be able to listen to us, and again both sides can express their views and ideas on their own. If there are differences, we can agree to keep our differences to ourselves. But that same problem exists now in Hollywood, which is that we do what China says. We should fight to regain the reciprocity that was lost in the bilateral relationship, to rebuild the ability to criticize, to say no, and to say that you can do what you want in your own markets, but we will assert ourselves in other markets. This is extremely important for us.

RFE: Former Attorney General William P. Barr addressed this issue extensively in his China Policy speech last July, in which he said, “But in the long run, as with other Chinese industries, the People’s Republic of China is more interested not in working with Hollywood, but in buying off and using Hollywood, and eventually replacing it with domestic films. Do you agree with his assessment, and has this become a reality in recent years, and are American companies aware of the problem?

Fenton: I’ve always been involved in the business of Hollywood, so I know the business very well. It’s fair to say that the phenomenon that’s happening in Hollywood is, in context, present in all industries that have contact with China to a greater or lesser extent. It includes the encroachment of power beyond Chinese borders; on the other hand, unfortunately, I have been one of the complicit in being caught in the wheel that we teach the Chinese to do things their own way, including the technology, processes and crafts that we help them build and develop. Hollywood has been involved in this for the last 20 years and has done an excellent job, even to the point where China can now produce films of Hollywood style, scale and quality. These films are very competitive with us in the Chinese market, making it more difficult for us to compete. Take, for example, the $1.7 billion in Chinese box office receipts during the Chinese New Year, so huge without even a single Hollywood film involved. And when I first started really getting into pushing Hollywood movies into the Chinese market, Hollywood movies at the time could account for 80 to 85 percent of a dollar’s worth of box office revenue.

That number drops to 16 percent in 2020 and 32 percent in 2019, and it’s been a downward trend. We help them train people who take away intellectual property and steal processes, as well as engage in a lot of unethical or wrongdoing. And we’ve engaged in a lot of things that are complicit in nature. We’ve helped China create one of the biggest competitors in Hollywood, and perhaps the most powerful compared to us, even beyond our ability to deal with it. And that’s because we’re involved in it ourselves, and it’s a problem across all industries. Whether it’s technology companies, social media companies, coffee sellers like Starbucks, or sporting goods sellers like Nike, all of these companies have been complicit in helping China build its own infrastructure and local industry. The latter have become our biggest competitors in these areas. That’s one of the many problems we have with China that we need to start dealing with now.

RFE: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his China policy speech at the Nixon Library last July, suggested that “if the free world doesn’t change, Communist China will certainly change us.” Do you agree with his view? What further steps do you think can be taken for U.S. companies in terms of expecting access to the huge Chinese market and maintaining American values, especially in the film and entertainment industries?

Fenton: I have a lot of respect for Pompeo, but I do think he’s much more hawkish than I am. I can say that Pompeo looks or seems to appear to want to completely decouple from China. I, on the other hand, don’t think that’s possible without a war. He seems to me to think that we are in something like a Cold War with China and perhaps supports a war with China on some specific issues. I don’t like the idea of a hot war, and I don’t want a repeat of the Cold War with China that I experienced growing up, between the United States and the former Soviet Union in the 1980s. Pompeo is more hawkish than I want to be, but he does sound the alarm on different matters where we need deliberate input to take corrective action. This, on the other hand, is something we should all be involved in. If you measure on a scale of 1 to 10 how hawkish a person is (on China), I think I would be at a 5 or 6 level, he’s a 10. There are people who are either at the 0 or 1 level who want to maintain the status quo with China and move forward in that way; (hawkish or not), we need to work with each other to figure out a way to solve these problems.

For Hollywood specifically, there are multiple issues that need to be corrected in the Chinese market. The first is the censorship issue that we talked about earlier, and the second is this particular help effort and strong ability that we’ve provided to the Chinese to help them build a very competitive industry compared to Hollywood. We need to slow that down until we stop. In addition, from a macro perspective, we need to show the principles of free trade operating between the U.S. and China. For example, they only allow 34 of our films to enter the Chinese market each year. Just as Europe ended the trade restrictions adopted by the United States in the early 19th century, we need the Chinese side to stop this quota measure. We also need to increase the share of the Chinese film market that Hollywood films can earn. On a global level, Hollywood typically gets about 50% of box office revenues, while in China we only get 25%. These are examples of issues that need to be corrected as we move forward at both the macro and micro levels. All industries, not just Hollywood, should be thinking about this and creating the levers to make this change.

RF: To borrow a term from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney, what do you think the endgame scenario should look like?

Fenton: In terms of an endgame, I can see the emergence of a huge disruptive force to the status quo, with the United States and Western allies and a number of Pacific Rim countries, including Australia and others, forming a combined leverage force to say stop. In fact do what Europe did to the United States in the 18th century, (tell the Chinese) we want to level the playing field. Over time, there are many standing and macro issues with China such as Polaris that can be dealt with. But for some of the smaller issues, we can change them incrementally in the short term. For example, the World Trade Organization (WTO) needs to treat China as a developed country, which will change many aspects of the trade interactions that exist between the two sides. Second, the SEC should no longer continue to allow Chinese companies to hide under the cover of its domestic laws, allowing them to adopt different accounting methods in the US financial markets.

This should likewise be accomplished in the capital markets of the United Kingdom, France, Singapore, etc., where all parties, whether Western allies or China, should adopt uniform accounting standards; until this requirement is achieved, no access to the capital markets of these countries should be permitted. There are many incremental steps that can be advocated in the short term in terms of policy that will also bring about quicker results and lead to the larger issues we wish to address. For example, do we want to address the human atrocities that are taking place in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region concentration camps? Of course we do, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed, both for the United States and for Western allies. But the reality is that in a step-by-step approach, we can’t even talk about this issue without retaliation or punishment within the Chinese market. Let’s get to the point where we can criticize and talk about it publicly to protect our freedom of expression and our ability to discuss and criticize this issue, and then explore ways to address it next. We’re at a point where we can’t even do that, and that’s what we need to do. After that, we can start talking about the longer-term goal, which is to solve this problem.

RFE: Do you think it’s possible for a Hollywood company to move forward on such a narrow balance beam in a global context that is not based on values?

Fenton: I think it’s 100 percent possible, but we have to all move forward together, and reaching a united front is the only way to do that. It can’t be done by a single director, producer or studio, it has to be the whole industry involved. All industries have this problem, and we must unite on it. It is also in the strength and numbers that unity gives that the ability to create leverage to change the many wrongs that currently exist.