Chicago Film Community Members Launch an Initiative to Stop Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Local Productions

by Legendary Lew

A group of local Chicago media executives have come forth with an initiative to combat sexual harassment and abuse in local media. Among the

Called Chicago Media Standards, the statement challenges all industry professionals and institutions to take steps needed for a “ground-level shift” that would affect the entire business. What I really like about the statement is the acknowledgment that simply outing wrongdoers isn’t enough:

We have recently witnessed a seismic shift in acknowledging these issues (sexism, misogyny, discrimination), as an avalanche of allegations against power-brokers has revealed a system built on abuse. Unfortunately, none of the alleged conduct is unusual or even surprising. Many of us in the Chicago film industry are well aware of such conduct happening right here on our own sets, in our production offices, at our festivals, and in our schools.

We are better than this. We cannot allow this toxic culture to exist any longer, and we ask our peers to take a collective stand against the entrenched sexism and misogyny of our industry. This requires far more than just “calling out” or publicly shaming a few individuals for their distasteful conduct. We need to implement a ground-level shift in how we understand and deal with sexual harassment and discrimination of all kinds against all members of our community.

Change of this magnitude must happen both at an individual level and at an institutional level. Each of us must look inwards at what we can do personally, and outwards at what we can do through our organizations. And we must work together as a committed network of industry leaders to forge the way forward.”

The Underground Multiplex welcomes the letter and joins IFP Chicago, Full Spectrum Features, Open TV, Film Fatales, Zaxie, Black Apple Media, Stage 18 Chicago, and Percolator Films in the call for action to end the abuses.

The full statement can be read below. You can join their conversation at the Facebook page for Chicago Media Standards.

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BREAKING: Roy Moore Taps Milo Yiannopoulos for Campaign

Roy Moore

Milo Yiannopoulos

by Ida Dunnett

Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican candidate for senate, has asked controversial “alt-right” celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos to campaign for him statewide. This comes just after a fifth woman came forward to accuse the embattled candidate of sexual assault.

“I don’t generally tap into young people,” Moore explained, “but I think this is a good opportunity to take advantage of what Milo has to offer my campaign.”

Yiannopoulos, who is openly gay, recently resigned from his senior editor position at Breitbart News after a video surfaced where he defended sexual relationships between 13 year-olds and adult men and women. Breitbart News, in contrast, has continued to support Moore.

Moore has also condemned homosexuality as a “crime against nature” and compared it to bestiality.

For his part, Yiannopoulos finds his involvement as a positive development.

“I think Roy Moore could be great influence on young people.” he said in a statement. “For teenagers, there’s no doubt Moore would be the perfect fit.”

When asked about the potential conflicts of having Yiannopoulos speaking on behalf of his campaign, Moore defended the decision.

“Milo knows he is sinful, which is something I wish all homosexuals would understand.” Moore stated. “He has the potential of bringing very young people into the campaign. The witch hunt against me by some Republicans are from the very old. Guys who’ve been there forever. I want them younger, much younger. I want them young.”

Moore is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault from women who claimed the abuses occurred when some of them were as young as fourteen years old. The candidate has denied the charges against him.

Should he win the election, Moore has promised a position for the provocateur.

“The first job he’ll have is to give the Senate office a makeover.”

TUGM Removes Posts Regarding Former CIFCC Co-Director Don Shanahan’s Alleged Sexual Harassment After Shanahan Suggests Legal Retaliation

 

by Legendary Lew

I was contacted by Don Shanahan regarding the posts that The Underground Multiplex posted last month regarding the then Co-Director of Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and his connection with a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Horizon Science Academy Southwest. That lawsuit, still listed here as a public record, alleged that Concept Schools ignored teacher Lori Hill’s complaints against Mr. Shanahan for his alleged actions.

Under request from Mr. Shanahan, I’ve posted the following from his legal counsel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following is the conversation between myself and Mr. Shanahan regarding the two posts written about the past allegations while he, at the time, he was in the process of resigning his Co-Directorship of CIFCC.

Mr. Shanahan had contacted me earlier and requested I post statements that he gave to me directly through Facebook messenger. Every single one of those requests I’ve granted him. I have the previous conversations as proof if I ever need to produce those.

To this day, I have received absolutely no contact from any member or anyone connected with CIFCC about any “assault” against the organization’s  “character.” This is, I feel, in part because I never connected Mr. Shanahan’s alleged actions to his then current status at CIFCC.  The posts made that point clear.

 

 

 

 

Mike McNamara, Exec Director of The Midwest Independent Film Festival, Resigns

Mike McNamara

by Legendary Lew

Mike McNamara, Executive Director of The Midwest Independent Film Festival (MIFF), resigned today, less than a week before the organization’s upcoming fest in Chicago.

We reported here that MIFF had been at the center of sexual harassment allegations first expressed in a Facebook post by filmmaker Felix Piñeiro on October 22nd.

A few days ago, I had received an email with a statement signed by the festival regarding its investigation into this matter.

It’s important to note here that the post from MIFF, which is in its entirety below, does not mention those allegations.

I also want to note that, although I have personally heard from numerous sources implicating Mr. McNamara as the perpetrator, The Underground Multiplex has, as of yet, received no certifiable evidence tying Mr. McNamara to such allegations.

This is why we cannot and will not state unequivocally that he is directly connected to the sexual harassment charges.

That determination will have to be made by those more qualified to make any claims.

Today Mike McNamara stepped down as Executive Director of The Midwest Independent Film Festival. We wish him luck in his personal and professional endeavors. Effective immediately, The Midwest Independent Film Festival co-founder Mike Kwielford will serve as Interim Executive Director through the end of the 2017 season while we begin a formal search for a permanent successor.

“The Midwest Independent Film Festival’s mission has always been to celebrate and strengthen the Midwest filmmaking community,” Kwielford says. “Our patrons, supporters, and filmmakers can expect this mission to continue as we further grow the nation’s only film festival solely dedicated to the Midwest filmmaker.”

Since its inception in 2005, The Midwest Independent Film Festival has presented nearly 1,000 regionally produced independent full length and short films and served as a springboard for countless filmmakers and film industry professionals. We look forward to continuing this rich tradition under Mike Kwielford’s leadership.

You can view the original statement, posted on MIFF’s Facebook page, here.

 

 

The Midwest Independent Film Festival Response

MIFF

~ by Ty Pi and Legendary Lew

Last night, we received a response regarding sexual harassment allegations from someone claiming they represent MIFF. Here is what this person wrote:

Late last week, through your website, we became aware of alleged inappropriate behavior by an individual associated with The Midwest Independent Film Festival. Thank you for bringing the allegations to our attention. We are writing to inform you of the actions we’re taking and the steps we’ll continue to take to insure The Midwest Independent Film Festival remains a respected part of Chicago’s film and creative communities. We encourage you to share them in their entirety with your readers.

We have initiated an internal investigation into the matter. Should it be warranted based on the outcome, appropriate actions will be taken.

Moving forward, The Midwest Independent Film Festival is implementing processes and procedures to insure all staff and volunteers are fully aware of the Festival’s expectations and zero-tolerance policy toward inappropriate behavior. This includes implementing a reporting structure to encourage and enable members of the MIFF community to report their concerns so that MIFF, to the extent that it is within MIFF’s abilities, can address and correct inappropriate conduct and actions.

We take these allegations seriously and are grateful you brought them to our attention. 

The Midwest Independent Film Festival

The letter certainly seems to lay out a plausible course of correction for preventing further harassment. It would be nice to know if the above letter sent to us is, in fact, official and who specifically sent it to us.

It’s Long Past Time to Boycott Hollywood

by Legendary Lew
I don’t care if Hollywood rots.
 
We’ve already seen sexual harassment and abuse allegations pour out into the media and we’re supposed to be shocked–SHOCKED, I SAY–that all of these transgressions have occurred.
 
Please wake up.
 
The term “casting couch” was coined over 100 years ago and guess what? It still means the same today as it did back then.
 
Weinstein, Price, Spacey, Affleck, Woody Allen, Gibson, Singer…do you think we are anywhere near the end of the list?
 
Not even close. Why? Because this problem is systemic. Just as The Catholic Church adopted a method of hiding sexual predators away from outside interference, Hollywood has the system of career damage and legal liabilities to protect against accusations.
 
What’s frankly more amazing are the excuses I’m reading and hearing.
 
So far in recent days, there have been the following pathetic retorts to sexual harassment and abuse charges:
 
* “You’re damaging an entire industry!” (Barbara Walters to Corey Feldman on his pedophile accusations)
 
* He’s 93 years old and his hand slips down (G.H.W. Bush)
 
* I was drunk/am recovering substance abuser (multiple times)
 
* I’m coming to terms with my gayness
 
* It was many years ago
 
* Some of/all the women are liars
 
* They were in this industry and should have known what they were getting into
 
* She dressed inappropriately
 
You get the idea. I’m not even going to continue listing any more, because there are as many excuses as there are abusers.
 
Does this mean that everyone in the film industry is an abuser or an enabler? No.
 
What it does mean is that there are no effective systems in place keeping horrible people from entering positions of stature. Once those persons make money for the Hollywood studio system, they get protected. As long as everyone is fat and happy, as during the golden days of the The Weinstein Company, almost everybody shuts their traps–even those fighting against other forms of discrimination.
 
This scenario will happen again and again unless we, as consumers of movie product (because, honestly, that’s how the studios see us) take action.
 
Do you view WalMart, McDonalds, Amazon, Nestle, BP or other corporations with moral apprehension? Do you boycott them?
 
Do you view what’s happening right now in Hollywood with the same level of disgust?
 
If so, then it’s long past time to boycott them.
 
But Lew, does this mean I should stop watching Oscar-winning or Emmy-winning works from the likes of Woody Allen, Mel Gibson, Casey Affleck, Weinstein Studios, Kevin Spacey?
 
Yes. FUCKING YES.
 
Stop protecting these people because they’ve created “great art.” Music producer Phil Spector created some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard. Does that mean I want him, a convicted killer, to get out of prison and produce another record?
 
Hell no! His days are done. There are other great producers out there who aren’t criminals. Give them a chance.
 
Same with Hollywood. Who knows how many great talents were chased out of that town, because they saw or experienced first hand the exploitation that goes on.
 
If you want that to change, YOU have to be the change. Tear it down.
#BoycottHollywood

Rumblings in the Chicago Film Community Over The Midwest Independent Film Festival Story

by Legendary Lew

It’s been a few days since this blog posted the story of a possible impending sexual harassment scandal involving The Midwest Independent Film Festival.  From what I’m hearing via my contacts, many phone calls are being made. Responses apparently are ranging from no surprise to shock and surprise. If you are wondering whether people are paying attention to this or just shrugging it off, believe me, this issue is definitely dead center of the Chicago film community’s radar right now.

To those just learning about the scandal, filmmaker Felix Piñeiro posted about allegations of sexual harassment connected to someone involved in a monthly Tuesday independent film fest. The logical connection is The Midwest Independent Film Festival.

There’s a tendency by some to wish that resolutions to this problem occur at lightning speed.  Personally, I think the matter of ejecting whoever is committing these terrible acts against women could be resolved almost immediately.

I’m not posting about this as some sort of thrill. This is a very serious matter of people who have to endure shame, guilt and humiliation while trying to get careers off the ground in a job field they love. I, myself, was touched inappropriately by a woman who was my boss many years ago.  It sucks. Big time.

I have a media contact person who’s very interested in this issue. Anyone with further information regarding the charges can contact me at my email: lewojeda@gmail.com