Imagine that one of Hollywood's top documentary filmmakers is hired to make a film about child sex abuse in Hollywood. Imagine that the film premiered at a major U.S. film festival to a packed audience with little advance notice. Imagine that it earned rave reviews from critics.
Now imagine that the director refused media interviews and to even attend the premiere.
The director claimed that she was simply “too busy” for five months and declined requests from CNN, Fox News, Entertainment Tonight, Rolling Stone Magazine, and dozens of other national platforms.
Consider how rare it is for an independently distributed film to garner such extensive media interest and this seems even more unbelievable.
Imagine that the director lives in the Los Angeles area, is in town during the premiere and still refused to appear?
Suppose the film received widespread critical acclaim, earned a 93 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet the director still refuses to promote it.
Then again, consider the town the director works it and the movie we made, maybe it isn't so strange after all.
Three years ago, following the death of Corey Haim, I became interested in creating a film about the epidemic of child sex abuse in Hollywood. We named it "An Open Secret." Esponda Productions was formed for the sole purpose of producing the film. From day one, we pledged to donate any profits earned to support victims of child sex abuse and lobby for badly needed changes to our legal system to better protect our children from pedophiles. The money would go through the Courage to Act Foundation, which I established for this purpose.
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We looked for the best of the best in our search for a director. We wanted to make a bold film that could help those in need and raise awareness about child sex abuse.
We approached Amy Berg with the idea. Documentary filmmaking has begun to take an important role in investigative journalism and who better understands that than Ms. Berg, the director of the groundbreaking, Academy Award-nominated documentary "Deliver Us From Evil," which exposed the defrocked Catholic priest Oliver O'Grady's child abuse scandal and subsequent cover-ups.
Our project is an important film, at an important time, during which our world is just beginning to come to grips with the true extent of child sex abuse.
"An Open Secret" clearly demonstrates the reality that no community – no matter how exclusive it may be – is completely safe from infiltration by pedophiles who prey upon our youth. "An Open Secret" identifies and proposes specific, readily achievable steps, which can be taken to combat this scourge. Examples include mandatory minimum sentences for convicted pedophiles and treating Hollywood sets with the same protections for children as our schools so convicted sex offenders cannot work in the same building with children.
As the director of this film, one would expect Ms. Berg to continue to fight for our society’s most vulnerable as "An Open Secret" approached the marketplace. Instead, she abandoned the film, refused all media requests, and skipped the premiere. Ms. Berg’s actions are akin to a battleship’s captain taking the vessel out to sea and then firing its weapons on the ship itself!
Ms. Berg apparently has plenty of time on her schedule for other projects, such as a screening of another of her films, "Prophet’s Prey," at the ArcLight Hollywood on July 28.
Ms. Berg’s failure to support "An Open Secret" represents an unjustified breach of trust that the film’s participants placed in her hands. She especially violated the trust of the survivors of child sex abuse, who bravely stepped forward to tell their stories on camera, without faces blurred, without voices changed, and without monetary compensation.
"An Open Secret" overcame many obstacles to get to the screen. Every major Hollywood distribution company refused to work with us. The largest Hollywood actors union, Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, instructed its lawyers to pelt us with threatening letters in an attempt to force us to remove the accurate title and identification of a then-current member of the SAG Young Performers Committee, Michael Harrah. Harrah was exposed when he admitted to inappropriate past behavior with a minor while serving as his manager. Harrah co-founded the SAG-AFTRA Young Performers Committee in 1975 and served as its chair from 2001 to 2003.
One of Hollywood's most powerful attorneys, Michael Donaldson, accused us of defaming his client, Randal Kleiser, the director of "Grease," "The Blue Lagoon," and "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid," over one second in a trailer.
The Motion Picture Association of America severely restricted our potential audience with a R-rating for “some descriptions of sexual abuse,” when nearly every description used bland language such as “doing it." Finally, the formerly fearless director who was happy to go head-to-head with the Catholic Church, lost her courage to the point of breaching her contractual obligations to promote "An Open Secret."
The question is why?
In the United Kingdom after former BBC star Jimmy Savile was exposed as a pedophile, the “Savile Effect” rocked the country. Two years after Savile's shocking crimes against children became public, the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics reported that total reports of total sexual offenses rose 22 percent, despite a drop in overall crime by 11 percent.
The statistical proof is absolutely unquestionable. Discussion of high-profile child sex abuse cases encourages current victims to find the courage to escape ongoing abusive situations, and seek justice against previously unreported crimes.
"An Open Secret" is a film about survivors of this scourge upon humanity. We hope our film will encourage others to come forward. Our call to action for the film is writ large: Be courageous. Report abuse. Life gets better.
We serve this cause, even though our director may not. No matter how difficult it may be, we are not going to stop.
At the end of the day, we are confident that viewers will agree with us and the overwhelming majority of prominent film critics who have reviewed the film: This is a film that needs to be seen and that we must take steps to stop pedophiles from harming our children, both in Hollywood and across America.
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