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David Schwimmer fronts hard-hitting new sexual harassment short film series

Bobby Cannavale stars in one of the shorts as a photographer persuading a young model to perform sexual acts.

Former Friends star David Schwimmer is fronting a new campaign aimed at fighting sexual harassment.

He will appear in one of director Sigal Avin's short #ThatsHarassment films, which highlight the problem, and he admits he felt compelled to get involved as harassment has plagued all the women in his family.

"Every woman in my family, in my life, has been harassed, except my daughter, thank God, who’s only six," he tells Cosmopolitan.com. "My mom was one of four women in a class of 400 lawyers when she was going to law school. And then she was a young woman lawyer in California, in the 70s and the 80s and the 90s. Countless stories of harassment.

"I sent her the link to the films and only after she watched them did she say, 'Did I ever tell you about the time I was harassed by my doctor?'

"I was like, 'No'. Then she told me my sister (she) was harassed by her doctor when she was a young woman, and I didn’t know this either.

"The whole purpose of this (campaign) is to encourage people and to give them the courage to speak out if they’re a victim themselves of harassment, or if they witness or are aware of sexual harassment. The reality (is that) this kind of harassment takes place in the workplace, in a professional environment. And that means it’s about power. The problem is that people don’t step forward or say something if they’re witnessing it because of fear of retaliation."

The film series also features shorts starring Cynthia Nixon as a patient who is sexually harassed by a doctor, and Bobby Cannavale, who plays a seedy photographer pressuring a young model, played by Anna Van Patten, to masturbate on set.

"That scene is something all of us in the entertainment industry can somehow relate to, and the reason I think that’s one of my favourite scenes is because of all the witnesses in the room and how complicit everyone is," Schwimmer says.

"That’s really the biggest statement you can make about the business we’re in... A parallel can be drawn to what happened with, say, Bill Cosby. That’s a much different level, but it’s the same idea. There’s so many people who knew what was going on and just remained silent."

Israeli-American director Sigal wrote and directed the five short films depicting instances of sexual harassment by men on women and they were released in Israel last year (16). All were based on real-life stories, including one from Avin, who was harassed by "a very famous star" when she was starting out as a playwright nearly two decades ago.

In January (17) , Avin approached her friend David Schwimmer about adapting the films for distribution in the U.S.

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