Apt Pupil

When things go Very Wrong

The allegations coming out of the “Apt Pupil” set are disturbing, to say the least. The plaintiffs are claiming that they were separated from their parents, coerced (by threats of dismissal and promises of future work) into completely undressing, and filmed with full frontal nudity – which is a violation of California penal code 311.4. In addition, a still photographer was present on the set snapping pictures, and many of the negatives have disappeared. The defendants are not challenging that it happened, but are claiming that in doing this, they were doing nothing wrong.

It was initially claimed that the this was approved by the Labor Department. This is untrue. All that was approved was an emergency work permit for 14 yr. old Devon St. Alban.

It is the claim that there is nothing wrong that disturbs us the most. Let’s examine the facts a little closer.

The children were separated from their parents

It is required that parents stay within “sight and sound” of their children at all times. This is something that responsible producers, directors – AND STUDIO TEACHERS (more on this later) – take quite seriously. It is known and acknowledged that it is not always possible for a parent to be physically present with the child. Such circumstances include shooting quarters that are too small or difficult to handle numbers of people. When this occurs, responsible producers set up video monitors and sound systems so that the parent is aware of what is happening at all times.

This did not happen on the Apt Pupil set. The parents were told they could not be present and no alternate arrangements were made. A question must immediately come to the mind of any reasonable person: Why would the producers not want the parents to see what was happening? What were they afraid of? Could it possibly be that they were reasonably certain that they couldn’t get the children to do this if their parents knew it was happening?

Possible coercion of children

This is an allegation that is in dispute. Without prejudging the events here, we only ask that you consider reality. We have working children – dependent upon people such as the director and producer – for future work. They are separated from their parents and have no place to go for advice. It is alleged that they were threatened with dismissal if they didn’t comply.

No reasonable person can deny that the adults present represented authority figures to the children. With the absence of their parents, this takes on additional importance. Coercion? You decide.

A Minor Consideration has talked to the plaintiff’s attorneys and several adults present on the set. There are allegations of screaming matches, intimidating threats concerning future employment, and it is to be remembered that 14 year old Brad Renfro was present, partially clothed, during all of this.

Where was the Studio Teacher?

This is of extreme importance. Keep in mind that the set had not one, but two teachers for the set. No one can pretend that they didn’t know minors were present.

The Studio Teacher is the state welfare worker. There are only two possibilities: either they were present or not. If they were present, then they were clearly part of this fiasco. If they were not present, then they were derelict in their duties. In either case, this is shameful!

Why hasn’t IATSE spoken to this issue?

As in the Twilight Zone tragedy, more than 100 adults … the unionized working crew … stood by and did nothing to protect the children! Are jobs so precious that a crew can turn its back on a child?

The question now must be asked: how much is the public willing to permit to secure “entertainment”? Is it really willing to allow children to be treated in this fashion for the sake of a film?

Please, let the studio (Columbia / Tri-Star / Sony) know how you feel. Contact the authorities of the State of California and demand that they fulfill their duty to protect children. It’s time events such as this are stopped.

Let the studio know what you think: Columbia/Tri-Star/Sony

It is imperative that the Los Angeles District Attorney handle this as the serious case that it is.Please, take time to contact Mr. Garcetti to let him know the public is watching:

Gil Garcetti
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
210 W. Temple St. Rm. 18000
Los Angeles, CA. 90012
Phone (213) 974-3512

email: lada@co.la.ca.us

Events such as this demonstrate one more time that the protective link has been broken.