5:23pm PT by Aaron Couch
Screen Junkies Outlines Policy Changes After Sexual Abuse Claims
Defy Media, which owns Screen Junkies, fired Andy Signore on Oct. 8 after multiple women stepped forward with complaints of harassment or abuse. In a video featuring key onscreen talent Thursday, the Screen Junkies team outlined procedures for how the company planned on addressing it. Defy has also outlined its changes here in a blog post by CEO Matt Diamond.
"Andy was, for I think everyone here, not just our boss, but someone we counted as a friend," producer Dan Murrell said in the video. "We found out overnight that he was not a person that we knew or that we thought he was. It's taken a lot of time for us to process that, to ask the questions that need to be asked, and to feel comfortable coming forward and just talking to you guys."
Multiple women went to the company's HR department to speak about Signore's alleged behavior, but the claims were not publicly made known until Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, when two people made accusations on social media. One of the women, April Dawn, said HR had known for two months about the accusations against Signore before his firing.
Defy said a third party is coming in to assess the situation. Multiple sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Signore is the only one who has been fired or disciplined following the scandal so far, but the third party is said to be assessing how the HR department handled the complaints and if anyone in the department was at fault. Screen Junkies News editor-in-chief Roth Cornet said in Thursday's video there were serious questions about how Defy's HR handled the situation. She said the third party has outlined procedures "that make it safe for women to come forward, that looks at what could have been done better, what can we do in the future, and that provides, hopefully a pathway for rebuilding trust in this community."
In his blog post, Defy's CEO noted, "We are committed to becoming a best-in-class organization when it comes to employee conduct. To that end, we are working with external HR consultants to review how we handle harassment claims and related issues and to identify areas where we can improve. Our goal is to create a safe work environment, and this will involve fostering a culture where issues can be reported confidently, and employees don’t abuse their positions."
Some of the women who accused Signore of harassment were fans of Screen Junkies. On Thursday, Defy said it is creating a code of conduct for how its employees interacted with fans.
Signore had in many ways been the face of the YouTube channel and was known as the creator of the popular series Honest Trailers, which skewered movies such as The Dark Knight and Blade Runner. The series has racked up more than 1 billion views since launching in 2012 and earned two primetime Emmy nominations, making Signore well-known in the online film community. His firing and the allegations against him raised questions about how the channel would move past it, and if it even could.
Screen Junkies employees were not required to work the week following Signore's firing. After that, its team had daily meetings to figure out how to move forward. On Thursday, writer Spencer Gilbert said that Honest Trailers would return, but that Screen Junkies was figuring out what would happen with the rest of its programming. One of its key programs had been Movie Fights, in which contestants argued about various topics in the movie sphere. Though on Thursday the team did not specify which aspects of its programming would change, it signaled it might tone down the argumentative nature it had become known for.
"There were some things we did that invited divisiveness and invited argument, and that's not what we want. So we're even looking at ourselves and saying what can we do better to make this not a place for disagreement, but a place for sincere discussion and conversation," said Murrell on Thursday.
Dawn, the Screen Junkies fan who accused Signore of sexual abuse and who was among the women who went to Defy HR to complain about him, tweeted after the video was released, "Very sincere & I'm happy that the SJ crew is dedicated to using the channel for positive geek culture, I'm excited for what's next."
Signore's firing came as the issue of sexual harassment has roiled the genre film community. Ain't It Cool News founder Harry Knowles took a leave of absence in September after multiple women went public with stories of sexual assault. Former Birth.Movies.Death editor-in-chief Devin Faraci exited last October after he was accused of sexual assault, and in Los Angeles, the independent film venue Cinefamily suspended its activities in August after executives resigned following sexual abuse allegations.