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.

 

 

 

 

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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

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

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.