A 2004 conviction for child sexual abuse didn’t stop actor Brian Peck from continuing to work in Hollywood on projects geared toward children, including a popular Disney Channel series.
Mr. Peck, who served 16 months in prison for engaging in sex acts with a Nickelodeon child star, worked on Disney’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” in 2006-07 and had an uncredited role in the 2009 children’s movie “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Surprised? Gabe Hoffman isn’t. The co-producer of “An Open Secret,” the 2015 documentary on pedophilia in Hollywood, argued that the industry has failed to root out child predators operating in the shadows and hasn’t even barred known offenders.
“It’s very simple. At the end of the day, Hollywood either wants to have convicted pedophiles totally out of the industry or not,” said Mr. Hoffman. “And if you want them out of the industry, it’s pretty straightforward. You do a background check on every single person on your set.”
With the issue of sexual harassment getting top billing in Hollywood in the wake of accusations against director Harvey Weinstein, Mr. Hoffman said the time is ripe for the industry’s heavy hitters to turn their attention to stopping child predators — but he is not holding his breath.
“We haven’t heard anything from Hollywood, the big studios, about reforms to protect children,” said Mr. Hoffman. “At one point, shouldn’t we be asking, ‘What are these guys doing about it?'”
This week brought more revelations as the Agency for the Performing Arts released agent Tyler Grasham a few days after former actor and filmmaker Blaise Godbe said on Facebook that Mr. Grasham “fed me alcohol while I was underage and sexually assaulted me.”
Mr. Godbe later told The Wrap that the assault took place in 2007 when he was 17 or 18.
Two of Mr. Grasham’s clients — 14-year-old Finn Wolfhard, star of the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” and 18-year-old Cameron Boyce of Disney’s “The Descendants” — reportedly reacted by firing the agent.
Meanwhile, former child star Corey Feldman launched a $10 million crowdfunding drive Wednesday to make a documentary aimed at exposing “a pedophile ring that I’ve been aware of since I was a child.”
Mr. Feldman, who starred in movies including “Stand By Me” and “The Goonies,” has long maintained that he and fellow actor Corey Haim, who died in 2010, were abused in the 1980s by powerful men still active within the industry, although he has never named them.
“Right off the bat, I can name six names, one of them who is still very powerful today, and a story that leads all the way up to a studio. It connects pedophilia to one of the major studios,” Mr. Feldman said in a video. “I’m very afraid to do this. It’s not easy.”
One thing in Mr. Feldman’s favor is timing. Two weeks ago, Mr. Hoffman and co-producer Matt Valentinas released “An Open Secret” on Vimeo free of charge. The film has since notched more than 2 million views.
“It takes a while to make a documentary film, and it’s obviously very difficult, but I’m sure it’s a lot less difficult than when we did it,” Mr. Hoffman said. “The environment’s different. People are more willing to go on the record. We made a great film, and there’s opportunity for more great films to be made exposing more Hollywood pedophiles.”
He wished Mr. Feldman “the best of luck. There’s definitely more out there than what’s in our film.”
Mr. Peck isn’t the only convicted child predator working in Hollywood. Still involved in the industry is director and screenwriter Victor Salva, who was convicted in 1988 of having sex with and videotaping a 12-year-old boy whom he had cast in his 1989 movie “Clownhouse.”
After serving 15 months, Mr. Salva returned to Hollywood in 1995 to make “Powder,” followed by “Rites of Passage,” and “Jeepers Creepers.” As recently as this year, he worked as screenwriter of the 2017 sequel “Jeepers Creepers III,” according to IMDb.
Mr. Salva later described it as “a dark time in my confused young life, but also a time when I took responsibility for my own arrested development and the ramifications of growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family.”
Mr. Peck, meanwhile, declined to comment when confronted in 2016 by the [U.K.] Daily Mail. The Disney Channel did not immediately return a request for comment.
While Mr. Peck and Mr. Salva were able to find a home in the film industry, the same can’t be said of “An Open Secret.”
The film, helmed by Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg, had a $1 million-plus budget and received a glowing 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it struggled to find a distributor and appeared in only about 20 theaters before dropping out of sight.
Even the film festivals wouldn’t touch it. Three festivals — in London, Los Angeles and Toronto — initially agreed to screen “An Open Secret” before reversing their decisions, Mr. Hoffman said.
“The festivals are so easy to get into — you can be three kids out of film school with $10,000, and you make a short film, and they’ll put you in a corner somewhere,” Mr. Hoffman said. “The only thing that makes sense is that the higher-ups got wind a couple of weeks later and disinvited us.”
He said he never received an explanation, but his theory is that “obviously they got pressure from their powerful Hollywood friends who didn’t want the story out there. The story doesn’t make their industry look very good, does it?”
The filmmakers were never sued, but they did remove references to a lawsuit filed and then withdrawn against four male industry figures by former child actor Michael Egan, who appears in the film.
Egan’s attorneys settled a counterclaim for an undisclosed sum and sent letters of apology to two of the four men. Egan was sentenced in December 2015 on unrelated charges stemming from investment fraud.
Egan is shown in the documentary talking about naked hot-tub parties hosted in the late 1990s by the Digital Entertainment Network. DEN founder Marc Collins-Rector pleaded guilty in 2004 to transporting minors across state lines for sex and fled to the United Kingdom in 2006.
“Fourteen, 15 years later, Mike felt he had memories from some other specific people and it turned out that those specific memories were not true, and he withdrew that case,” Mr. Hoffman said. “That’s separate from what’s in the film itself.”
Anne Henry, a co-founder of BizParentz, said the recent focus on sexual harassment, including the #MeToo campaign, has been beneficial because it has “led to an increased willingness for people to believe the victims.”
“That’s a great thing because part of the solution to the problem, whether the victims are men, women or children, is that people start from the default place of believing the victim,” she said in an email. “That will eventually increase the number of reports and prosecutions.”
Her group was behind the push for the California Child Performer Protection Act, passed in 2012, which requires those working with minors, including managers and photographers, to obtain permits and FBI fingerprint checks.
BizParentz also provides information and resources for parents of children working in Hollywood on recognizing and keeping youngsters safe from pedophiles, predators and child pornographers.
“Pedophiles are IN and THRIVE in our world. Show business is a perfect fit!” says the information sheet.
Ms. Henry said she also has seen parents become more vigilant since her group began in 2005, which is important because “the people we are hearing about now are not new to the industry.”
“They have been around a long, long time. And they have gotten away with it for a long, long time, she said. “There is a lot more work to do, for sure.”
• Doug Ernst contributed to this report.
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