Berg began work on the project two years ago, interviewing former child actors who had been sexually abused by directors, managers, and producers. The boys — most of whom are now grown men — name several Hollywood power players as members of an informal group of men who preyed on children as young as eight years old. Michael Egan is one of those interview subjects, and it's his participation that may stymie the film's release.
In April 2014, Egan filed a lawsuit against X-Men director Bryan Singer, alleging that Singer had sexually abused him when he was a teenager. Though other minors had made similar allegations against the director, Egan's high-profile case incited a media outcry. But, the story soon disintegrated when a number of his statements (regarding time and location of the abuse — not the abuse itself) proved to be erroneous. Egan voluntarily dropped his suit, and the public lost interest.
Whether Egan made deliberately incorrect statements or simply mixed up the details, he became the face of false accusations, damaging the integrity of Berg's documentary. Still, the director refused to remove his interviews from the film. His statements line up with what other subjects reported, and she believes he provides important details, regardless of what happened in the courts.
Aside from Egan's testimony, An Open Secret accuses many previously unnamed men of abusing children, including actor Brian Peck. Anne Henry, who cofounded an organization for parents of children in show business and served as a parental advisor to the SAG Young Performers Committee, claims in the film that while he was working at Nickelodeon, Peck "befriended a pretty major child actor, who filed charges against him. Peck pleaded guilty. The victim was anonymous so he was able to continue to work." Because the case was handled so quietly, Peck (now a registered sex offender) was also able to continue working.
The evidence presented in Berg's documentary is damning and verifiable. Some interview subjects recorded phone conversations confronting their abusers, whose responses vary from apologetic to obstinate. "I never would have done it if you hadn’t expressed interest," says manager Marty Weiss to Evan H., the man he allegedly assaulted as a child. Evan replies, "I was 12."
Despite these revelations, Berg admits her documentary may never be commercially released. It's not just a case of Egan's participation muddying the waters, but the fact that this film attacks its own industry. She suspects many distributors won't touch it for fear of offending the powerful men accused.
"Maybe we will get distribution but it is not very likely," she said in an interview after the screening. "But, people will talk about it."