Apt Pupil: An Ode to Power

Sad Post-Christmas Tidings to All,

“If any animal must be treated inhumanely to perform, then that animal should not be used.” Rule B.

Rule 5: “At the trainer’s discretion all non-essential personnel…with the exception of the American Humane Association…may be removed from the set during animal stunts, action or whenever wild or exotic animals are performing.”

Rule 6: “Cast and Crew shall not be allowed to pet, fondle or play with animals off-camera if the trainer or handler believes it is not in the best interest of the animal.”

Arachnids: Nothing can be done to an insect that will cause permanent harm, or permanently alter it’s physical characteristics or behavior.” Page 7.

“Guidelines for the Protection of All Animals in Film,” American Humane Association, August, 1994

The Industry pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect the feathered, furred, finned and four-footed actors…but for our children, nothing is paid but lip service.

These are the facts: Six minors were “intimidated” (the exact words of the Assistant DA, Susan Powers) into getting naked on a working set and were filmed in the nude. No parents were present on the ‘Closed Set’ and the Studio Teacher did not protest. Still photographs were taken of these minors, but not just for ‘continuity.’ Photos of minors urinating exist. The film exists. These minors were working in the nude in the company of adults and were, for nearly four hours, absent any oversight or protection from any quarter.

There is no “SAG Policy” on naked minors because the act itself is illegal. There is no “Labor Permit” for such activity because solicitation for the act itself is illegal. There is no “Consent Form” for Parents to sign because the permission itself is illegal. There is no “Labor Waiver” because no Authority is empowered to waive “minimal standards in Law or Regulation…at any time or under any circumstances.” (Labor Department publication on Child Labor in the Entertainment Industry, October 1994). For those of you incapable of reading the entirety of the Criminal Code, Sections 311 inclusive, allow me to point out the pertinent sentiments of Section 311.2…down at the bottom…which you may have missed. I shall paraphrase:

It is not necessary to prove obscenity, or commercial content…intent or usage…to prove a violation of these statutes.

Adults may not solicit, coerce nor pay for minors performing in the nude. There is abundant Law prohibiting naked minors in the company of adults…for any purpose, however benign…or perverse.

No Minor may grant such permission for himself because they do not possess the legal standing to allow said permission.

Adults protect children. That is a core value of any civilized Society. Basic biology demands we protect our future which is manifest in our children. There are purposes to which children may not be set.

Only the most corrupt interpretation of existing Law and the First Amendment protection for the freedoms of artistic expression could be stretched to sanction the use of professional children to act out the fantasies of commercial artists. And the Supreme Court has thus ruled in the Traci Lords decision.

Knowing adults may not employ minors in the pursuit of their fantasies. The act of hiring Studio Teachers tells us the production company knew minors were in place on the set of “Apt Pupil,” teachers charged by the State to “protect the health, safety and morals of the minors in their charge.”

The same fourteen year old boy, Brad Renfro, who was present in the now-infamous “shower scene” filmed last April (partially clothed I should add) was last year filmed simulating oral sex with an adult woman in Ohio…a scene not used in “Telling Lies in America” but filmed nonetheless. Master Renfro’s published comments on this oral copulation scene are instructive. “That was the oldest woman I’ve ever been to bed with.”

Fourteen.

Fourteen is the age of the youngest minor on the shower scene set of “Apt Pupil” who thankfully had the wit and the courage to refuse the order to step out of his ‘dancer’s belt.’

Six minors were falsely told that they would be in a shower scene wearing “Speedos,” a scanty but acceptable covering worn by our Olympic swimmers. Six minors were instead given ‘dancer’s belts’ which professional dancers refer to as “slips,” or “honey pots,” or “holsters,” and which, when wet, hide nothing. Dancer’s belts are flesh colored and affixed with narrow bands of elastic mimicking (in style but not in substance) a jock strap…an athletic appliance which, to my certain knowledge, has never been considered an acceptable covering for published photography of minor aged children.

But even the Dancer’s Belt was too much for the film crew engaged in filming the shower scene. Over an hour into the filming of the scene (approximately 10:15 AM, April 2nd, 1997) the demand was made for even the minors to strip naked.

It was at this exact point that criminal demands were made…and realized. >From this point forward the Labor Code violations became criminal acts. It took months for the DLSE investigative unit to come to this conclusion. It took more months for the SAFE (Sexual Abuse Federal Enforcement) task force to arrive at its conclusion that eight adults participated in this criminal enterprise directed toward six minors in the report forwarded to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office…where the normal command chain was co-opted by Higher Authority…

…and the decision not to prosecute was made (on December 15th, ’97…eight months and thirteen days after the event).

It is an amazement to me what lies below the threshold of action by those whose public utterances are filled with high-minded platitudes regarding their commitment to protect and nurture children…but who, in private, act to cover-up the plain wrong-doing of alleged professionals pursuing the all-mighty entertainment dollar.

Bryan Singer was the director on the set – the one in charge of and responsible for the scenes being shot. Aides and assistants to this man carried out his orders on the set, from the Assistant Director to the Costumers to the Studio Teachers. Six young boys came under the gaze of the camera lens he directed. Raw footage and the ‘out-takes’…are already circulating and have been seen at “private screenings” here in Los Angeles. It is just a matter of time before photographs and actual video tape of this incident will find their way onto the Internet, and from there into the homes of pedophiles all around the world. The Defense is currently attempting to quash depositions of witnesses to this reality.

The “shower scene” has been re-shot using performers over the age of 18, except for the star of this film, Brad Renfro who again was present among naked men…a marginal yet defensible use of a child working in the creative world…so when “Apt Pupil” is released it, like “Telling Lies In America” filmed last year in Ohio, will pass the “smell test” for much of an American audience unaware of the gross miscarriage of juvenile justice involved in this sordid conjunction of Hollywood influence and an immoral bureaucracy. Safe in its isolation the Hollywood community will decry the growing insensitivity to violence of America’s youth, its conscienceless predilection for numbing sexual abuse both given and received, and its absence of anything approaching morality…even as that same Hollywood community welcomes back Roman Polanski (who, after all, only drugged, raped and sodomized a fourteen year old girl), and attempts to bring the “new Lolita” to American movie screens featuring a fourteen year old girl from Malibu in bed with Jeremy Irons.

The lessons to be learned from the breathtaking chain of failures up and down the Hollywood food chain are not to be lost on the children of this country. They are pretty smart, just like you were at age fourteen. They “get it.” They understand what we really think about children. Perhaps the advise of our erstwhile Head of Production Services at SAG, Robert Todd (now with Paramount Pictures’ Labor Relations) is the best summation of the status of kids in show business yet uttered…advice offered, by the way, at 1:00 PM on the afternoon of April 2nd, 1997 when an irate parent duly notified…in the approved “timely manner”…the correct Guild department of the events taking place on a movie set in the County of Los Angeles.

This advice, I should mention, was given to Gary Thornton, a sworn officer of the Sheriff’s Department who just happened to be the father of one of the boys involved in the shower scene of “Apt Pupil” and who was present at the high school where the “incident” took place.

“You are in a great position, so far as I can see, if they filmed your kid naked. You can injunct the film and pretty much negotiate for anything you want.”

So sayeth Hollywood. So sayeth Labor. So sayeth the District Attorney.

What the hell. It’s just a bunch of kids. Sony Tri-Star keeps it’s Certificate of Eligibility to Employ Minors. Both Studio Teachers keep their credentials. No one will be prosecuted and no administrative action will be taken. SAG will continue to collect fees and dues from children it purports to represent.

What the hell. It didn’t happen to your kids, did it?

So, today marks the One Year Anniversary of Jon Benet Ramsey’s murder. We all remember those chilling videos of her in the beauty pageants, don’t we? A $5 Billion Dollar business, these pageants…involving 300,000 children world-wide. One year has passed and not a single law has passed to control the pageant world whose reality America finally had to witness. But beauty pageants are part of the Entertainment Industry…and we all know that children in the Entertainment Industry are exempt from Federal Child Labor Laws (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938). Now, of course, we know that kids in Entertainment are exempt from criminal statutes, too.

Remarkable. Shameful. Sad.