The ad line for An Open Secret, the new documentary about the sexual abuse of child actors, is “The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See.” After talking to the film’s producers, it’s easy to see why. Executive producer Gabe Hoffman wouldn’t name names, but said, “We went to everybody and anybody at all the biggest companies and got turndowns everywhere.”
Exec producer Matthew Valentinas told Deadline: “There was major interest in this film at Cannes last year. They’d say, ‘We love it. Don’t show it to anyone else.’ The chief creatives would love it, but then someone on the business side would step in, and all of a sudden there was no longer interest.” In many cases, he said, the decision to reject the film came from the very highest levels of some of the biggest companies.
Both men said they believe Hollywood has snubbed the film because it paints the industry in a very bad light. The movie, Hoffman said, makes it clear “that Hollywood is not adequately policing itself.”
The film presents testimony from numerous young men who said they had been molested when they were young boys trying to make it in the movie business. Some of their molesters ended up going to jail, only to return to work again in the industry. Brian Peck, one of the sex offenders featured in the film, had been an actor and dialogue coach on numerous kids TV shows before being arrested in 2003 for having sex with one of the boys he was coaching. He was convicted of oral copulation with a minor and lewd or lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years of age. After completing his prison sentence, he returned to Hollywood, where he once again is an actor and dialogue coach.
“Hollywood needs to get convicted pedophiles out of the industry,” Valentinas said. “Hollywood is a small, insular town, and while 99% of the people haven’t done anything like this, a majority may know somebody who has.” And in a town built on relationships, he said, speaking out “is not worth jeopardizing business relationships. That’s why it’s called An Open Secret.”
Director Amy Berg’s film even had a hard time getting seen on the film festival circuit before landing a slot at the DOC NYC festival in November. According to the producers, organizers of film fests in Los Angeles, Toronto and London turned the film down. “We were making plans to premiere at all of them,” Valentinas said.
“We’ve got an Oscar-nominated director, a fully funded, full-budget documentary, and yet we got rejected by the LA, Toronto and London film festivals,” Hoffman said. “People with $100,000 projects have no problem getting in there. We have all the standard liability insurance and all the bells and whistles any film should have. And there was clearly public interest in the story.”
Too much public interest, apparently, for the Toronto festival.
The topic of child molestation in Hollywood made headlines a year ago when former child actor Michael Egan accused several industry execs of molesting him when he was a kid, only to withdraw the charges.
According to Valentinas, the organizers of the Toronto festival last year “said it’s been seen too much in the newspapers. It’s not worthy of a film. People are too familiar with the topic.” In London, he said, organizers told the producers that British tabloid law prevented them from showing it, while in Los Angeles, organizers simply said, “We’re not going to show it.”
“Festivals are supposed to be places that speak truth to power,” Valentinas said. “That’s why we’re so grateful to DOC NYC.”
The film finally landed a distribution deal, getting picked up by Rocky Mountain Pictures and Vesuvio Entertainment for a 20-city U.S. theatrical release beginning June 5. Before that, though, it will be shown to overseas buyers on May 19 at an invitation-only screening at the Cannes film market.
And now that the film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews – and not been the subject of any lawsuits – Valentinas said he’s hopeful that the theatrical exposure will lead buyers in other major platforms that turned the film down to reconsider so that it can receive a wider audience in ancillary markets.