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Hollywood’s Underage Sexual Abuse Problem: 5 Shocking Injustices From ‘An Open Secret’

Amy Berg 2015's documentary had a quiet release, but it's racked up an estimated 1 million new viewers online since the Weinstein scandal broke.

“An Open Secret”

An Open Secret” sounds like the perfect title for a brand-new documentary addressing the entertainment industry’s sexual harassment and assault epidemic, which in recent weeks has uncoupled Harvey Weinstein, Roy Price, and Andy Signore from their companies (and caused James TobackPresident George H.W. Bush, Oliver Stone, Ben Affleck, and Mark Halperin to confront their own allegations). However, the documentary — which focuses on the abuse male managers, agents, and publicists inflict on young, male clients — premiered at DOC NYC in November 2014 and had a small release the following June (IndieWire awarded it an A-).

Despite its current 93 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, director Amy Berg — who’d previously investigated sexual abuse in “Prophet’s Prey” and “Deliver Us from Evil,” for which she earned a 2007 Best Feature Documentary Oscar nomination — was unable to find a distributor. “An Open Secret” producer Gabe Hoffman claims the film was even accepted, then rejected, from three different film festivals. He recently made the documentary available for free on Vimeo, marketing it as “the film Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.”

It’s terribly relevant: days ago, APA lost “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard as a client when social media accusations surfaced against his agent, Tyler Grasham, who was then terminated.

Here are five sobering takeaways.

Pedophiles will pay hundreds of dollars on eBay for child actors’ headshots

Mother of child actors and co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation Anne Henry explains how she and her fellow concerned parents worked backward through eBay’s purchase data to identify the most prolific buyers and sellers. To their dismay, they found that friends of youth talent manager Marty Weiss were auctioning their children’s photos to convicted sex offenders (the film includes audio of Weiss confessing to giving clients blow jobs). Bob Villard — who acted as a publicist for minors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire — would also upload his own candid snapshots of young actors, without consulting their parents. One of Villard’s former underage victims recalled spending a weekend at his home, where he was served beers and persuaded to pose shirtless and submit to inappropriate touching. Henry said that Villard’s photo trademark was having “the children are looking up at the camera as they would be looking up at the predator in an abuse situation.”

From the film, Evan Henzi, attends the world premiere of "An Open Secret" during DOC NYC at the SVA Theater, in New YorkNY Premiere of "An Open Secret", New York, USA

Evan Henzi appears in “An Open Secret.” He claims he was assaulted by Marty Weiss, who still manages his cousin.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“Pedophile ring” DEN was founded by an abuser, his former victim, and a well-known child actor

Brock Pierce, a frequent Villard subject who appeared in “The Mighty Ducks” films, was introduced to Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley by “The Usual Suspects” director Bryan Singer. Collins-Rector and Shackley met in a chatroom, began dating, and moved in together when Shackley was 15 and Collins-Rector was 31. After starting an internet service provider, they recruited Pierce to form the Digital Entertainment Network, a 1998 precursor to modern streaming platforms. DEN provided original content starring child actors. Prior to the company’s planned $75 million IPO, the trio was hit with sexual abuse allegations and a lawsuit filed by a New Jersey who’d worked for Collins-Rector. With an investigation underway, they fled the U.S.; Interpol arrested them in Spain in 2002. Collins-Rector spent 18 months imprisoned prior to extradition, then plead guilty to nine counts of child sexual abuse. He was soon released, and after registering as a convicted sex offender, he ran away to London.

DEN’s early investors included a blockbuster director and a DreamWorks SKG co-founder

In “An Open Secret,” journalist John Connolly says Singer — who has continued directing for the “X-Men” franchise — and David Geffen were among DEN’s original backers, contributing a respective $50,000 and $250,000. As Henry notes in the film, Singer cast former Nickelodeon and Disney Channel actor Brian Peck in the first two “X-Men” films — released in 2000 and 2003 — and Peck’s chat with Singer served as the former’s director’s commentary.

According to documents published by The Daily Mail in summer 2015, Peck became a convicted sex offender in 2004, serving 16 months of jail time. Singer himself was later sued by a teenage extra from his 1998 film “Apt Pupil,” who alleged that the director wanted him and other minors to film a shower scene. That lawsuit was dismissed, as were two additional cases brought against him in 2014.

DEN executives threw drug-fueled sleepovers for young boys at their mansion

At Collins-Rector and Shackley’s palatial Encino estate, a mandatory skinny-dipping was enforced for anyone who wanted go in the hot tub after dusk. Young actors who attended parties remember troves of prescription drugs and alcohol, plus Collins-Rector’s gun collection. One man recalled when, as a minor, Collins-Rector threatened his career if he did not sleep in his bed. Although the actor refused and camped out on the couch, he nonetheless awoke in Collins-Rector’s bed, convinced that a laced drink had led to abuse.

Director Amy Berg attends the world premiere of "An Open Secret" during DOC NYC at the SVA Theater, in New YorkNY Premiere of "An Open Secret", New York, USA

“An Open Secret” director Amy Berg.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After appearing in “An Open Secret,” a SAG-AFTRA committee member resigned over his own behavior

Former child actor Michael Harrah was in his 70s and a Screen Actors Guild’s Young Performers Committee member (and it’s co-founder and former chairman) when he sat for an interview with Berg. At first, he is positioned in the film as a wise elder providing cautionary tales, until it is revealed that he too hosts sleepovers with the young clients he manages. At the documentary’s end, an alleged victim of Harrah’s calls him on speakerphone to confront him about groping and sharing a bed; Harrah responds by defending Villard and others — “I’m not sure how horrible they really are.” Days after taping his “Open Secret” testimonial, Harrah resigned. According to Deadline, SAG-AFTRA threatened to sue Berg if she did not omit references to the Young Performers Committee. She declined, only editing her footage further to secure a PG-13 rating.

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