Here are three articles related to Disney's hiring of convicted child molester, Victor Salva:
MOLEST VICTIM PROTESTS AT DISNEY FILM RELEASE;
By Jim Herron Zamora
The victim of a childhood sexual molestation is urging filmgoers to boycott the new Disney film "Powder," which was directed by the man who videotaped himself having oral sex with the then-12-year-old Concord boy.
The film, about a troubled teenager, is scheduled for release this Friday in 1,200 theaters nationwide. Its director, Victor Salva, confessed in 1988 to five felony counts related to having sex with a boy he directed in a low-budget film.
The molestation victim, Nathan Winters, now 20, has decided to go public with his ordeal to protest Salva's connection with the movie, which was made by a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.
Winters led a small band of protesters outside an entertainment industry screening of the movie in Los Angeles on Monday night.
"Please don't spend your money on this movie," urged leaflets handed out by the group "It would just go to line the pockets of this child molester." Friends toted signs: "Victor Salva: Writer, Director, Child Molester" and "Support the Victim, not the Victimizer."
Salva, 37, said in a statement Tuesday that he regretted his past actions.
"I paid for my mistakes dearly," he said. "Now, nearly 10 years later, I am excited about my work as a filmmaker and look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to our industry."
Nathan's mother, Rebecca Winters of Concord, called Salva's return to filmmaking "absolutely outrageous."
"I can't believe it. It just makes me sick," she said. "I'm not going to stand by. He should not be allowed to live his life as if nothing happened."
She said the family learned that Salva was directing the movie when they saw his name on TV during an advertisement for "Powder."
"We were shocked to see his name in the credits," she said.
Salva confessed to having oral sex with Nathan Winters in 1987 while directing the then sixth-grader in "Clownhouse," a film about three boys terrorized by circus clowns.
"Clownhouse" won several awards and was the first horror movie released at the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival.
Salva was sentenced to three years in state prison, serving 15 months and completing parole in 1992, according to the state Corrections Department and court records in Contra Costa County. He is a registered sex offender in Los Angeles County, according to state records.
Laws in 46 states, including California, treat sex offenders differently than other convicted criminals in that sex offenders, once released from prison, are required to register with authorities in communities where they take up residence. This is because pedophiles are driven by a psychological compulsion that has typically not been cured by therapy, according to criminologists and prosecutors.
Although Salva's prison sentence was the shortest he was eligible for, it did not come as a result of a plea bargain, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Jack Waddell, who headed Contra Costa County's sexual assault prosecution unit at the time.
Winters, who also acted for Salva in the 1986 short film "Something in the Basement," told his mother during the making of "Clownhouse" that Salva had forced sex on him.
When police raided Salva's house, they found two homemade pornographic tapes, one showing Salva having oral sex with Winters.
In April 1988, Salva pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious conduct, one count of oral copulation with a person under 14 and three counts of procuring a child for pornography. At his sentencing hearing, a prosecutor said Salva appeared to seek jobs where he could work with children. Salva has written children's books and in 1985 worked at the Crawford Village Child Care Center in Concord.
Rated PG-13, the $ 10 million "Powder" is Salva's first mainstream Hollywood movie. The film was made for Caravan Pictures, a production company wholly owned by Disney.
Movie industry sources said that Salva was not under contract with Caravan or Disney for any movies beyond "Powder."
Salva's work with Caravan could prove embarrassing for Disney, whose theme parks, animated characters and popular cartoon videos have cemented its reputation for wholesome family fun for more than six decades.
Disney declined comment to The Examiner. Disney spokesman John Dreyer told the Associated Press, "What's the point, other than you want to make headlines?"
But Dreyer confirmed that Disney's corporate office was not aware of Salva's criminal record.
The producer of "Powder" defended his embattled director.
"He paid for his crime, he paid his debt to society," said Roger Birnbaum, head of Caravan Pictures who also recently produced "Dead Presidents" and "The Big Green." "What happened eight years ago has nothing to do with this movie."
Birnbaum said he was tipped about Salva's conviction halfway through filming "Powder" and confronted him. Told only the basics, Birnbaum elected to neither dismiss Salva nor inform the entire cast and crew. Instead, Birnbaum said, "Key production people were told to keep an eye out for anything, just in case." Nothing improper was observed, Birnbaum said.
"Powder" stars Mary Steenburgen and Jeff Goldblum as the teachers of a boy with telekinetic powers and pure white skin, which repels his peers.
The actor who plays the teenage Powder, Sean Patrick Flanery, is 29, and Birnbaum told the Los Angeles Times that no minors were on the set during filming of the movie.
Experts in child abuse fear that Salva's role as a director of a teen-oriented film could put him in a position where he could use his power as a lever to abuse other minors.
"The frustrating part for law enforcement is that you have a convicted molester who is able to be around children and to be in a position of authority," Officer Joe Kreins of the Concord Police Department said. "It would be very easy for him to abuse his power and authority in that position."
A 1988 state Justice Department study found that almost half of all sex offenders are re-arrested; nearly 20 percent of sex offenders commit another sex crime. Convicted sex offenders are more than nine times as likely to commit another sex offense than a person convicted for a non-sex offense, statistics show.
"People do commit offenses and get out and get on with their lives," Waddell said. But "pedophiles and child molesters do have a tendency toward recidivism."
DUST HASN'T SETTLED ON 'POWDER';
LOS ANGELES TIMES
by Robert W. Welkos and Judy Brennan
Despite potentially damaging disclosures that its writer/director is a convicted child molester, the new Walt Disney film "Powder" placed second at the nation's box office over the weekend.
The $10-million film grossed a higher-than-expected $7.1 million despite protests from the now-20-year-old victim, who urged the public to boycott the PG-13 movie.
As controversy swirled around filmmaker Victor Salva, who pleaded guilty in 1988 to molesting a boy on the set of his low-budget picture "Clownhouse," Salva's agent said that a good showing at the box office may salvage the 37-year-old director's career.
"At least three studios are meeting with him. One has already given Victor scripts to read," said his agent, David Gersh, who declined to name the studios.
"If 'Powder' does well," Gersh added, "Victor will see work again. He is a true talent. If not . . . who's to say?"
Meanwhile, a producer of "Powder" told The Times that he had been "misled" by Salva and his handlers, and that had he known the full extent of Salva's criminal case, he likely would not have worked with him.
Producer Daniel Grodnik said Gersh and Salva's former manager, Mike Levy, left him with the impression that the victim was an older teen-ager who consented to the act and that Salva had served his full three-year sentence and was undergoing therapy.
In fact, the victim was 12 at the time Salva molested him and the director served only 15 months in prison before his parole. The agent said he was unsure whether Salva is undergoing therapy at present; Salva declined to be interviewed for this story, as did Levy, who is now an independent producer.
"I asked questions, plenty of questions based on the information at hand," Grodnik said late last week. "I felt kind of indemnified. This man had a major agent, a major manager. Even though the man had committed a crime, I was told it was an isolated incident, that it happened once and that it involved consenting parties.
"Victor always maintained that it was consensual," Grodnik added. "If I had known the full truth, I probably would not have done a movie with this man."
But Gersh said he "never presented Mr. Salva in that way" to Grodnik.
Gersh, who has represented Salva since "Clownhouse," told The Times that he never discussed the extent of Salva's past with Grodnik early on. Gersh noted that the producer confronted him last week after the controversy erupted.
"He told me . . . that he was misled about Victor's past," Gersh said. And, he added, "Victor did lose a job (in the movie business) once before because we disclosed his past. But we have never, ever, kept it from anyone."
Although he represented him at the time, the agent said that Salva did not fully describe to him the nature of his acts.
"I was working with Victor prior to his going to jail. . . . One day (Salva) called me up and said he was going to jail for a while for something he had done. That he would see me when he got out."
Gersh said he never pressed to find out all of the details.
Salva, a former child-care worker, had made amateur films in Northern California and came to the attention of famed director Francis Ford Coppola, who funded "Clownhouse." Salva met Grodnik two years ago when he approached the producer about his script "Nature of the Beast," a psychological thriller about two men on the road. That film was released on video last week by New Line Cinema.
"Powder's" moderate success came despite protests by the victim, Nathan Winters of Concord, Calif., who picketed theaters and passed out leaflets urging the public to boycott the film.
Exhibitors said that the protest, widely reported in the media, may have sparked turmoil inside Disney but didn't seem to cause a ripple effect across the country.
"In the hinterlands, (the controversy) didn't seen to make a difference," said John Krier, president of Exhibitor Relations Inc., a firm that tracks box-office results.
Krier said some exhibitors were nervous entering the weekend, not knowing how the controversy might impact attendance, but by Monday he described it as a "tempest in a teapot." He said the "movie sold itself."
The film, which stars Mary Steenburgen, Jeff Goldblum and Sean Patrick Flanery, in the title role, is about a young man with extremely pale skin who has telekinetic powers.
"Powder" is the second film Salva has directed since he was released on parole after pleading guilty to charges of lewd and lascivious conduct, oral copulation with a person under 14 and procuring a child for pornography.
While producers of "Powder" assert that no minors were used in the film, children of cast and crew members were present on the set, several crew members said in interviews. The producers acknowledged that they did not notify the parents that Salva was a convicted child molester, but sources close to the production say Caravan executive Roger Birnbaum told Salva to advise the cast of his past.
"You can look at everything in hindsight," Grodnik said. "If there is a burden of disclosure with cast and crew, it should rest with the person who committed the crime."
The producers say they were unaware of the extent of Salva's crime until midway through the production, but rumors circulated among some crew members before filming even began.
Debra Dotts, who worked second assistant camera, said she first heard the rumors during makeup testing a week before shooting started.
"I was prepping camera equipment when an assistant said, 'If you have kids, don't come to the set. I worked with him on movie a couple years ago and he was convicted of molesting a child in the movie,' " Dotts recalled.
Brian LeGrady, first assistant camera, said he heard the news from another camera assistant who had worked in the past with Salva.
LeGrady said the camera assistant told him: "You know, this guy you are going to be working with molested a kid." LeGrady said he reacted, "We'll see about that" and then wondered why Disney would even hire him.
Disney has issued a flat "no comment" on the controversy, saying neither Disney Chairman Michael Eisner nor studio chief Joe Roth will discuss the matter.
Executives at Caravan Pictures, which produced "Powder," said Salva won the directing job because they had been impressed by his original script.
Welkos is a Times staff writer; Brennan is a free-lance writer.
A QUESTION DISNEY DUCKED; SHOULD 'POWDER' HAVE BEEN DESEXED?
by Jeffrey Wells,
THERE WAS SHOCK, anger, and some compassion for the ex-convict when news broke Oct. 24 that Victor Salva, Powder's writer-director, had served time for molesting the 12-year-old male star of his 1988 feature Clownhouse. As Disney clammed up and a Powder producer claimed they hadn't learned of his record until after shooting started, others who know Salva—or know about pedophiles—wonder at the film's release with several sexually suggestive scenes intact.
David Gersh, Salva's agent, says, "There is only one thing in this film that relates to Victor's life," a deathbed scene that recalls the passing of Salva's mother in 1985. But even costar Mary Steenburgen (who says she learned of Salva's history only after a public protest by his victim, Nathan Winters, now 20, made it hot news in Variety) acknowledged before the controversy flared that in some sense Powder "is very personal for Victor...he wrote this straight from his heart."
Some therapists agree. According to Sandra Baker, executive director of the Child and Family Institute in Sacramento, Calif., child molesters think "they are more perceptive and beautiful than other people. They feel misunderstood." Salva's having made Powder a pale, hairless, sensitive outcast fits "what pedophiles can relate to," she adds. "They want their victims to be hairless usually. They don't want adult sex characteristics."
L.A. family therapist Lisa Hacker notes that when a teacher (Jeff Goldblum) tells Powder that he's "never had better sex" since being touched by him, and then later strokes his bald head, the conduct is "very intimate and inappropriate."
Should the filmmakers and studio have known better? "[Most] of Victor's films are about young boys who've been abused and misunderstood," says Candice Christie, who shared a home with Salva in the mid-1980s. John Allred, who was cinematographer on two unreleased Salva films, says of Powder: "Victor's pain just oozes from this movie, as it does with every movie he's made."
Salva declines to comment, but Powder producer Daniel Grodnik says everyone felt "the issue was already out [due to 1988 press coverage in California] and didn't have any heat. Doesn't the fact that these scenes remained show that nobody thought [they] were a problem?"
Baker condemns that attitude. "By dismissing this as old news, the movie studio participated in the secrecy and the cycle of abuse," she says. "They are what I call enablers. They underestimated the seriousness of it."
Winters, who is urging a boycott, is equally emphatic about Salva. "I don't care what he does with his life," he says, "but he should never be around a child again."
Victor Salva Update - September, 2000
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