I have been meaning to write about An Open Secret for a long time. But it’s such a hard subject and a very powerful documentary that I wasn’t sure that I could do the film (and the victims) any justice.
However, with the recent announcement that Bohemian Rhapsody has been nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I knew it was way past time to write about a documentary that I encourage people to seek out. How does Bohemian Rhapsody have any connection to An Open Secret, you may be asking? Well, the film’s director Bryan Singer, was close friends to a man featured in the documentary.
This man is Brian Peck. An actor and acting coach who worked for Nickelodeon and the X-Men franchise, was convicted of two counts of lewd acts with a child. He is now working in the industry again.
Singer’s name is mentioned in the documentary, as he also reportedly attended certain house parties where young boys were reportedly drugged, and abused. The house parties were organised by Marc Collins-Rector, subsequently convicted of child sexual abuse, who co-owned and operated Digital Entertainment Network. DEN produced brief online videos during the early days of the Internet, and was noted for wild parties featuring under-aged boys at Collins-Rector’s house.
Despite many young men bravely coming forward to tell their stories of Singer’s disgusting, and criminal behaviour, he still remained on board to direct the remake of Red Sonja. God knows why, (perhaps it’s because of the simple reason that Singer’s films The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Superman Returns, four of the X-Men movies, have earned more than $3 billion at the box office?).
Despite these allegations being apparently well known in Hollywood (hence the documentary’s title), Bohemian Rhapsody’s star Rami Malek made the following comment: “I didn’t know much about Bryan. I think that the allegations and things were, believe it or not, honestly something I was not aware of, and that is what it is.”
Unlike Malek (who really should have done some background research into his director), you are excused if you haven’t heard of An Open Secret. It’s a film that takes a mirror and holds it up to Hollywood’s ugly side. Therefore, people would be very reluctant to bring any more attention to the abuse, the shady deals and the scandals.
The film was released in 2015, but there was no theatrical release to speak of, no television deal, no video-on-demand distribution. Despite being directed by an Oscar-nominated director, Amy Berg, (who directed Deliver us from Evil, another hard-hitting documentary about abuse in the Catholic Church), An Open Secret almost disappeared without a trace.
“We got zero Hollywood offers to distribute the film. Not even one. Literally no offers for any price whatsoever,” said Gabe Hoffman, (a Florida-based hedge fund manager who financed the film), discussed in an interview with The Guardian in 2017. Hoffman took a bold decision, and released the film for free on the video-sharing website Vimeo in November 2017 after reports about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults set off a chain-reaction in Hollywood. With the likes of Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., T.J. Miller and Morgan Spurlock being accused of a range of sexual abuse and harassment.
Still, An Open Secret hasn’t had the attention it deserves. Berg and her team should be praised for managing to obtain the evidence of a paedophile ring in Hollywood – managers, agents, publicists and directors – that preyed on young boys and teenagers seeking entry to the industry.
Aside from the case studies of Brian Peck and the accusations made against Singer, the documentary features interviews with Evan Henzi. He was 11 years old when his manager, Martin Weiss, started assaulting him. Weiss pleaded no contest in 2012 to two counts of child molestation, and was sentenced to a year in jail and five years’ probation. He was freed immediately due to time served. “I shared my story in An Open Secret so other victims who have been molested for years just like me can heal,” Henzi stated in the interview with The Guardian.
On July 30, 2015, Deadline Hollywood reported that the movie producers had accused Amy Berg of not supporting the documentary. Producers Gabe Hoffman and Matthew Valentinas filed an arbitration against its director, Amy Berg, for allegedly delivering the movie late and incomplete, and failing to promote it.
Still, despite bombing at the box office, the producer’s decision to release the film on Vimeo did pay off. It went viral, and free viewing was then extended for a longer period due to the interest shown in the film. With over 3 million viewings garnered on various social media platforms in the first two weeks.
It’s hard to describe my experience of watching this documentary. It leaves you shocked and haunted by the abuse that is described. These are the stories that we know about, but one suspects that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
In one scene, we see Corey Feldman reveals information about a Hollywood pedophile ring in an appearance on The View. “You’re damaging an entire industry,” Barbara Walters gasps. No, Mrs Walters, these predators are damaging the industry, and more importantly they are damaging many innocent lives.