Tag Archives: Chicago

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.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

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.

Here’s the First Look at the New Feature “Path of Egress”

pathofegressby Legendary Lew

Trance Productions presents a new locally-made Chicago crime thriller from director Vincent Baran. Path of Egress features a large cast and, having seen some working clips of the film, looks very sharp indeed. (Full disclosure: I appear in the film briefly and am friends with leads Tyler Pistorius and Paskal Pawlicki).

From the youtube site:
A story about three close friends; Ray, a mover for a mob boss named Bub, Udjenzo, one of Bub’s best hitmen, and Leigh, Ray’s childhood friend who attempts to prove himself by providing information about the perfect heist, so perfect, that it convinces Ray to bring it to his boss. Bub, a man who never gets his hands dirty, decides to oversee the job himself. Consequently, Ray is pulled in by the FBI who make him question his friendship with Leigh.

Keep on the lookout for its appearance in film festivals this year. We will keep you updated.

 

Chicago Cubs End the Punchlines and Change Comedy

cubsby Legendary Lew

The curse was broken last night. The Chicago Cubs won its first World Series since 1908.

What the ’16 Cubs did also is forever break the age old tradition of portraying the team as perennial losers. To me, this was the most notable effect of the win. Comedy writers can no longer lazily rely on a Cubs joke to portray losers nor to portray a Cubs World Series win as an Earth-shattering future event.

Indiewire reminds us of the numerous Cubs references in TV and film.

However, I give my salute to the Cubs by showing what could arguably be their lowest point. 1983 Cubs manager Lee Elia went on a profane tear after a brutal loss to the Dodgers in a game. AP reporter Les Grobstein was the only reporter with a recorder on when Elia went off.

The infamous rant became one of the most noted in sports history, inspiring a producer (rumored to be Mike Bisbee) to come up with a great Cubs promo parody (NSFW):

Elia’s rant was the first thing I thought about when the Cubs won last night. Here was a guy defending a team at the lowest point, when he felt the city was not even supporting them. He even noted that two of his players were being harassed after the loss. Sure, he did insult fans, but under the pressure, could you blame him?

He was later fired, but I salute the guy who stood by his team even when they were the perennial losers, the joke of the sports world.

I hope Lee Elia’s enjoying the win and that he gets the credit he deserves for standing by his team.

Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex and host of the podcast “Mediatrocities.” You can support the current Go Fund Me campaign for updated equipment at: www.gofundme.com/HelpTUGM

Mediatrocities #24: Director Andrew Friend on His New Documentary “Schoolidarity”

schoolidarity-poster-4webby Legendary Lew

Over the last few years, teachers unions in Madison, WI and Chicago, IL have been under attack from political forces with a privatization drive. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker fought for a right-to-work law, which union claim would undermine the power of collective bargaining guaranteed by law. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel showed a consistent disdain for the Chicago Teachers Union from the moment he took office.

Documentary filmmaker Andrew Friend, an unapologetic supporter of teacher unions, created a new documentary recounting the struggles in Madison and Chicago over the last few years.

The film Schoolidarity is a reminder of what can be accomplished with collective action and what it means to be in a struggle for the long haul.

I interviewed Andrew via Skype for the latest installment of Mediatrocities. Give a listen and please comment and/or share with others!

Profiles Theatre Brings the Curtain Down Permanently

~ by Ty Pi and Legendary Lew

Closed

Yesterday morning, we had published an article focusing on a group of activists in the Chicago theatre community taking action against Profiles Theatre, where decades of abuse had allegedly taken place. Later in the evening, the Chicago Tribune reported that Profiles is closing down, effective immediately.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this development. The closure–a result of pressure exerted through social media and direct action–has the beginnings of a movement.

As of today, Bill Cosby’s criminal case is ongoing. Abuse in Hollywood is ongoing. Abuse in the music industry is ongoing. God forbid, there are other theatre houses engaging in abuse and sexual assault in Chicago or anywhere else.

The Chicago theatre community, along with organizations such as Not In Our House, said to Profiles, “enough is enough.” The activists featured in the video below show that anyone can make an effective peaceful demonstration with a strong message. Profiles had to either drop Darrell W. Cox and Joe Jahraus or shut its doors.

And so, Profiles has decided to shut its doors. We support this decision.

However, the struggle does not end there. The fight for positive changes in the entertainment world continues. Physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation have no place in creating art that examines the human condition.