A Few Updates on Midwest Independent Film Festival Sexual Harassment Story

by Legendary Lew

Yesterday, The Underground Multiplex reported on a damning post left on Facebook by film director Felix Piñeiro accusing an important person connected with a Chicago film festival of sexual harassment. The violations could have happened to as many as 20 different women.

Based on the detailed information given by Piñeiro about the festival, it was easy to determine that the fest in question is The Midwest Independent Film Festival.

After the post was published yesterday, our stats of viewership here boosted over tenfold, which tells me that many people out there are interested.

A few people had wondered about the veracity of my post. That’s a fair question. It’s why I followed up with a screenshot of the original post (Piñeiro’s original post was not set to “public” on FB, only to friends). You can find that pasted screenshot here.

I also want to let you know that I do have media contact and there’s at least one person very interested in doing a follow-up. This could happened if anyone directly involved in the sexual harassment allegations cares to step forward regarding the information brought forward in the post.

I’m also hearing that wheels are turning in regard to this explosive report.  People in the local Chicago film industry are paying attention to this and I’m hopeful that progress will be made.

As a peripheral part of the entertainment community, I know that these sort of reports spread like wildfire and that many here in Chicago do try to look out for each other. I imagine that if I were deeply involved in the community as an actor, performer or crew, the intensity of the discussion would deepen many times over.

Keep in mind that this update has to remain relatively vague, due to legal issues.  I will continue to keep you updated as much as I can with information that can be shared.

In the meantime, if you want to help. SHARE the original post. If the allegations brought up are true, it’s up to us to help the victims feel safe enough to come forward and tell their stories.

My contact is: lewojeda@gmail.com

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Does The Midwest Independent Film Festival Have a Sexual Harassment Problem?

by Legendary Lew and Ty Pi

In an explosive Facebook post on Sunday, film director Felix Piñeiro (Cycles, I Am Not Broken) made public allegations of ongoing sexual harassment by a leading figure of the Chicago film scene.

Written with white heat, he could no longer contain himself knowing about a sexual predator targeting numerous women:

I’ve been aware of a certain someone in the Chicago film scene that has been sexually harassing (perhaps even assaulting — not exactly sure where the line is drawn) women for a while now. I was made aware of it over a year ago by one of the victims. It appears that in the end I know at least 3 of these women. He who shall remain nameless is the emcee of a particular first Tuesday “film festival” event that happens at a certain theatre that showcases independent film.

Just this week, it was brought to my attention by one of these women that a list of about 20 women with allegations has been made available and brought to this loser’s attention. When he found out about the list, he went into damage control mode and contacted this particular woman to explain that his “lack of sobriety” was to blame. This harassment continued for 5 years in this specific case.

Anyone involved in the Chicago film scene or who can do a simple Google search can figure out the film festival in question. The only Chicago film festival featuring independent films showcased on the first Tuesday every month is The Midwest Independent Film Festival (MIFF).

So now further questions must be asked:

To what extent does anyone at MIFF know these allegations exist?
Do the sponsors know there may be a very big problem brewing here? There are important corporate sponsors like Canon, United Airlines and also many Chicago film organizations connected to MIFF.
Then there’s the problem of public funding. The Illinois Arts Council helps fund the festival. Are they aware of potential public moneys given to a festival possibly harboring a predator?

We’re not journalists, nor do we pretend to be. However, it’s vitally important to start airing this discussion publicly if we want sexual harassment in the entertainment industry to stop. Local Chicago journalists have to pick up this story and investigate it.

And it’s vitally important for MEN to bring up these issues of women as targets of sexual harassment.

The entertainment industry has to clean up house. It’s our duty to help.

The following is Felix Piñeiro’s entire post as it appeared on Facebook on Oct. 22, 2017:

“Alright, I’m about to go all James Gunn right here. I agree with everything he says below for sure, but this in particular to the local scene in Chicago.

Since I’m not aware that anyone else has done this yet, I’m about to blow the lid on something I can’t hold back on anymore. It’s been eating away at me, and given the momentum of recent sexual assault allegations brought to light in Hollywood, now seems a good time as any. It’s always one of those things that’s tough to discuss because it becomes a he said/she said situation; not to mention unintended consequences in re-traumatizing victims and the unfortunate reality of a victim blaming society especially when it comes to women.

I’ve been aware of a certain someone in the Chicago film scene that has been sexually harassing (perhaps even assaulting — not exactly sure where the line is drawn) women for a while now. I was made aware of it over a year ago by one of the victims. It appears that in the end I know at least 3 of these women. He who shall remain nameless is the emcee of a particular first Tuesday “film festival” event that happens at a certain theatre that showcases independent film.

Just this week, it was brought to my attention by one of these women that a list of about 20 women with allegations has been made available and brought to this loser’s attention. When he found out about the list, he went into damage control mode and contacted this particular woman to explain that his “lack of sobriety” was to blame. This harassment continued for 5 years in this specific case. Right, because we all know that’s how this stuff happens. If only it wasn’t for this or that. That’s called gas lighting and people who use this tactic given allegations of such heinous acts are what we call sociopaths.

So you’re now sober for 18 months and that’s what made you all hands-y, huh? Ok, well explain this. I’ve been warning people about this guy ever since I heard about these allegations. Less than a month ago, on the set of my own film, one of the women working on my crew mentioned that she had worked the last film event thrown by this clown and that he, in her own words: “ …was all over me.” Really? FUCK YOU.

No tolerance for this bullshit. What angers me even more is that this hack literally has no say or power in the film scene. The whole “festival” is a circle jerk for a select group to aggrandize themselves that literally does zero for the artists. Not to mention the whole thing is a fraud (the “selections” are rigged) and the guy is a starfucker. It’s exploitation at the end of the day. We need counter-programming that is relevant to the scene.

What bugs me further is that there is NO WAY that I was the only person outside of the victims that knew about this, which leads me to believe that in many of these scenarios there are multiple abusers protecting each other. Now, I can’t prove that part for sure, but I do believe the women I have heard from.

It seems people are way easier at doing this when the bandwagon and momentum is already heading that way. Myself included. Point is — we can do better. This film community here is too small. A list of over 20 women gives me hope in the sense that this guy’s days are over. He definitely won’t be the last as our culture glorifies certain aspects of entitlement and ownership over women in the model we live in and until we address that we may continuously end up in this vicious cycle trying to find justice as opposed to preventing such things.

I have cringed to have to make appearances at these events knowing that people I know and have worked with sponsor this now toxic event. I would suggest those involved pull their resources because it’s a sinking ship and those who deserve it shall receive their comeuppance. I recently received notice that a project I worked on is being featured at the next event. I contacted the filmmakers with all his information to let them know that I will not be attending and will be boycotting the event for these reasons. I think you should too.

I have zero fucks to give in this department. I don’t care who is connected to who. That’s not an excuse. At the end of the day, we’re human beings and how I strive to be a better human is by calling these assholes out. I don’t care if you’re my family or friend. I’m calling you out and everyone else should too.

Seeing the hashtag #metoo was eye opening for many men including myself. I’ve got a new one for ya — #nomore 

BTW, this is not the first time The Underground Multiplex has been exposing actions against sexual harassment in the entertainment community. We’ve covered activism directed against The Profiles Theatre last year, just before that venue closed. You can find out about that action here.

Spare Us Your “Shock” About Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood

Should not work in films again (Courtesy: CNN)

by Legendary Lew

So Hollywood stars like Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Kevin Smith are now weighing in with shock and dismay about the recent allegations that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed women for decades and paid off their silence.

Give me the break of my fucking life.

This is Hollywood we’re talking about. It’s an industry for which the term “casting couch” was invented.

It’s an industry which is set in the very same city as the center of the universe for porn.

It’s an industry which fuels and refeeds from the parallel industries of rumor, via National Enquirer, TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and other tabloid TV and print.

How in God’s name can you possibly say with a straight face that you heard nothing in twenty years while you are directly connected with Hollywood?

There’s already been aired allegations of this sort at least two years ago and even Ashley Judd admitted women were talking about this long before the explosive New York Times article came out.

Harvey Weinstein showed traits of being a massive jerk, but groomed his image with liberal causes. Couldn’t others put two and two together and figure out this guy is not for real about something?

Now, just as with Harry Knowles, Weinstein is hoping that his firing from the company he founded will only mean it’s a temporary thing. Hell, if Hollywood is ready to re-embrace such horrible human beings as Woody Allen and Mel Gibson why not him, right?

 

Sinema Obscura with TUGM and Vital Indie Media Tonight

by Legendary Lew

Tonight, Sinema Obscura kicks off its fall program of TV Party with a host of local talent. The Underground Multiplex will be there with Ty Pi presenting his short doc, “The Lost Marionettes of Ralph Kipniss.”

I will also be there with a live presentation episode of “Vital Indie Media,” the new webseries spotlighting indie cult movies, TV, records and other media from my collection and from other library sources. Tonight’s episode touches on one of the most outrageous ad campaigns ever and the legendary talents behind it.

Come on along and groove to great shorts by Ready Freddy Films, Soft Cage Films, Poolside Partyline, Candle Flame Films and many others!

Sinema Obscura’s TV Party
Thursday, Sept 28 at 7:30 pm
Que4 Radio
2643 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL

Here is the first episode of “Vital Indie Media”:

Media Bits #1: Gratitude is the Attitude with “Sammy”

by Legendary Lew

In a Surprise Twist, Hyatt’s Classic Video Remains Open

Bob and Beverlee Hyatt at the East Rochester “Classic Video” location now closed. (Photo by David Andreatta, courtesy Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

by Legendary Lew

Some movies have an unexpected twist at the end or a hero appears at the climax to set things on the right path.

Hyatt’s Classic Video, which originally was set to permanently close its doors last week, now has an extended life in a new location.  It’s not exactly the knight in shining armor that came charging through, but more like the people of Bedford Falls giving back to George Bailey what he’s provided for them over many years.

Bob Hyatt, the owner, just got off the phone with me, letting me know that the new location is in Pittsford at the “Old Pickle Factory” building with the same business phone number.

Apparently, they are still selling some stock, but will concentrate the business as transfers of VHS to DVD for your family memory videos (please don’t approach them with copyrighted stuff. It’s illegal and the answer is ‘no’). They will have a limited supply of rentals, I’m told, but will probably be more interested in selling you films.

Some of their VHS will eventually be part of ROC Archive, a non-profit with the goal of preserving a regional audio and video archive for the public.

Good to see Bob and Beverlee Hyatt still at it and providing a much needed service to Rochester. Best of luck in their new location!

The Debut of Vital Indie Media: TUGM’s Vlog of Unusual Movies, TV, Music, Games and other Ephemera!

by Legendary Lew

This has been a long time coming. Vital Indie Media is now a reality!

Vital Indie Media is the new vlog series (monthly, but can be more frequent with your help) concentrating on my collection of weird movies, TV shows, music, games and other strange stuff.  The debut episode features the unusual board game, The Bottom Line.

The main focus, however, will be independent and cult movies. Non-Hollywood movies have an uphill battle to gain any sort of attention. Media machines, eager to siphon as much profit as possible through manufactured big-budget exports to China, are on overdrive for your eyes and ears.

Other programs on YouTube have an interest in the latest releases from DC Comics, Hasbro, Marvel Comics and other corporate conglomerates.

Not me.

I’m in the fight to help the small voices out there.

The indie filmmakers who can barely scrape enough money to get their dream projects released.

The producers who shy away from biased festivals, some of which are downright scams.

The remaining indie video stores that remain open for cinephiles, despite the constant drive to digital.

The DVD companies that brave releasing unusual movies from all over the world, while conglomerate media studios hoard their “vaults” to release expensive burns, often with no remastering nor extras.

Vital Indie Media is my small contribution to the fight, but it’s truly vital for me. Come join me!