“I think every little kid dreams about being famous and being in movies.”
The controversial documentary exposé uncovers Hollywood’s long and sordid history of exploiting its most vulnerable performers: child actors. It’s no accident, of course, that the issue of child molestation in the entertainment industry is rarely addressed openly. As one interviewee notes of an incident, “The studio didn’t want to investigate.” The footage is as horrifying as you’d imagine given the subject matter.
As we previously reported, Berg was afraid that the world premiere of “An Open Secret” at DOC NYC last November would be its last. “We get one screening,” the director said at the festival. “Maybe we’ll get distribution. It’s not very likely.” Her skepticism was due to the film’s sensitive subject.
“An Open Secret” isn’t the first time Berg has tackled the topic of sex abuse, however. She also directed the Academy Award-nominated doc “Deliver Us From Evil,” a portrait of a Catholic priest who molested and raped children.
The doc managed to secure a distribution deal, but has been mired in controversy on account of one of the doc’s main subjects, Michael Egan. Egan filed, then voluntarily dismissed, a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse against powerful director Bryan Singer, who claimed that Egan was looking for a payday. More recently, Egan was found guilty of investment fraud in North Carolina and faces up to five years in prison.
The team behind “An Open Secret” is addressing the inclusion of Egan in the film head-on. A press release announcing the world premiere of the trailer specifies that Egan filed and withdrew the lawsuit after he filmed his scenes for the doc and that the producers “vociferously defend Egan’s participation in the film.”
Executive producer Gabe Hoffman clarified, “Michael Egan’s participation in ‘An Open Secret’ is limited to descriptions of the sexual abuse he suffered at the DEN mansion at the hands of Mark Collins-Rector and the aftermath wrought upon their lives and their families. In the film, Egan does not discuss any of the allegations made in the lawsuits filed on his behalf in 2014. Those lawsuits, subsequently withdrawn, were filed well after, and completely independently from, his participation in ‘An Open Secret.’ Clearly, Egan has experienced great difficulties in his life following the sexual abuse he suffered while a teenager at DEN. We applaud Mike’s courage to appear in the film and decry any efforts to use these unrelated difficulties to undermine the film’s credibility and deflect from the issue of child sexual abuse in Hollywood portrayed in the film.” Hoffman also stresses Egan is but one of several victims interviewed for the film.
“An Open Secret” opens June 15. Meanwhile, Berg’s narrative directorial debut, “Every Secret Thing,” opens May 15.