An Open Secret: Matt Valentinas


by Joanna Orland

From director Amy Berg, An Open Secret is a filmic exposé on sexual abuse that is allowed to happen to children within the Hollywood system.  The film’s purpose is not only to raise awareness of the issue, but to provoke industry change.  As the film makes its London debut at this year’s Raindance Film Festival, we spoke with producer Matt Valentinas about An Open Secret:


How did the idea to make An Open Secret into a documentary come about, and how did Amy Berg get involved?

We wanted to do a film that could help the victims of sexual abuse which is why the profits from this film will go to the Courage To Act Foundation to help victims of sexual abuse in Hollywood. I lived in LA for years and heard many of the whispers about this occurring. When Corey Feldman was discussing in 2011 it prompted us to contact him to see if he may work with us to name names and dig deeper. When he said yes, our next step was getting a director. Having seen the great work Amy did on a similar topic in Deliver Us From Evil, she was at the top of our list. We first agreed we’d dedicate a certain amount to research and whether or not we could find enough new information for a feature length documentary. When the evidence came back in we knew we had to ensure this film got made.


How did you choose your interview subjects, and how comfortable were they in telling their stories?

We chose Hollywood because we knew this was so common, and because of the appeal and awareness that Hollywood can bring to an international audience. We also knew we could research and shoot most of the movie based around the one central area of Los Angeles. As for the subjects in the film, it took weeks and months of speaking with them and gaining their trust. Ultimately, it’s their courage and fortitude that made this film possible. And it’s our obligation to ensure that their willingness to share their experiences in such a public manner is given an audience worthy of their sacrifice.


Why did you focus on male stories of abuse without including a female perspective?

We spoke to many females. And we reached out to many who are still working in the industry today. The only reason there are no females in this film is because none of them were willing to come forward. I think we all know this is happening to females as well. The fact that we do not have any females speaks more to how terrified they are to come forward and how damaging it is for the careers of those who do speak up about this issue.


Why did you focus on Hollywood specific abuse, as sadly child abuse happens everywhere?

Because this happens in Hollywood just like any small town everywhere else in the world, except it’s far more exaggerated given the money and celebrity involved. And the even greater vulnerability of those who want to work in Hollywood. Hollywood is one of the few industries, if not the only industry, where children can work with adults in such a capacity. We chose Hollywood because we knew this was so common, and because of the appeal and awareness that Hollywood can bring to an international audience. We also knew we could research and shoot most of the movie based around the one central area of Los Angeles. And ultimately we know that that Hollywood celebrity could also serve to bring this issue to a greater worldwide audience. Imagine if a famous star comes out and says, I too was abused. Imagine what a positive and far reach effect that will have. That’s why we chose Hollywood.


How did you uncover a ring of abuse, as an extension to individual cases?

Through connections of people who work in the industry. It’s six degrees of pedophiles.


What have been some positive outcomes of making this film?

Working with the subjects. Seeing them experience some more inner peace by sharing their pain. And also knowing it’s not a question if this issue will come to light, but rather when. It’s just a matter of time at this point.


What are you hoping people will get from watching this film?

If they are a victim, we hope it encourages them to speak to others for help, and to report it so that their perpetrators are prosecuted. If they are in the industry, we hope that people in a position to make a difference can promote positive changes to reduce and prevent future occurrences of this from happening again. And for people to donate to the Courage To Act Foundation so that organizations who help those in need and raise awareness on this issue can benefit.


What advice can you give to someone who is a victim of child abuse, but feeling scared to reach out for help?

You are not alone. There is no reason to be ashamed. The people who do these things are the one who need to be scared. Remaining silent empowers those who victimized you. Take your life back. Speak out to family, friends, and professionals. Be courageous. Report it. Life gets better.


What advice can you give to parents of children in Hollywood in order to try and prevent them from being victimized?

Trust no one. Ask your children questions constantly. If you think something might be wrong…it is. Never leave them alone, Always be vigilant. Like our tagline says. Be courageous. Report it. Life gets better.


What are some of the difficulties you’ve had releasing this film due to its sensitive nature?

The fear of the industry to truly embrace the topic. We see how long it took the industry to deal with Bill Cosby.  If the Cosby Show was still on TV and number one in the ratings right now, I guarantee you the industry would be defending Cosby left and right. We see how long it’s taking sexual abuse against women to slowly become more unacceptable. Whether it’s in the office, in the NFL, in the military, or on college campuses. But with children it’s taking even longer unfortunately. Whether it’s the catholic church scandal, Penn State, the BBC Jimmy Savile scandal and now Hollywood. Hollywood can be a very hypocritical place. It likes to point a camera at every issue except its own. We need some real corporate champions to raise the standards of protection for children in the industry. And more importantly to police and enforce those protections.


Have you had any interference from Hollywood in the making and/or distributing of this film?

The short answer is yes. But it’s never anything concrete or quotable, but it’s always been a similar pattern of initial support followed by some mitigating factor as to why they won’t support the film. There’s implications but never affirmation. There’s been aggressive indifference and utter apathy from inside the industry on this subject matter.


You’ve mentioned disappointment in Amy Berg not standing by to promote this film – Why has Amy not been involved in the promotion of this film?

Amy informed us her professional schedule was too full with other obligations. Naturally, for a documentary of this nature the director is the most marketable element. But the reality is that this topic needs a champion far bigger than any director. It needs a very famous celebrity who has experienced this trauma. If this film can lead to a current celebrity coming forward, that will be the game changer this topic needs. It will happen.

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