Drafthouse Caught in Firestorm as Devin Faraci Breaks Silence
"Circumstance have arisen that leave me unemployed and back in the news," says the accused blogger, as exiting Fantastic Fest programmer Todd Brown tells THR: "There are a lot of conversations among producers about whether they want to attend."
It has been less than 48 hours since Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League ignited a firestorm by announcing that, just 11 months after a woman came forward to accuse blogger Devin Faraci of sexual assault, the writer had been quietly rehired by the company as a copywriter.
On Wednesday evening, League, who has hired a crisis-management firm to deal with the backlash, issued a second statement in which he said Faraci had "offered his resignation" and that he had accepted it. League also announced "a series of small group discussions" for the company to process what happened.
The exact timing of Faraci's reinstatement remains unclear, but one former Drafthouse employee, a longtime programmer who quit last March, told The Hollywood Reporter that Faraci's name was appearing on internal emails as soon as one month after the controversy.
THR has also learned that Faraci was photographed at a Drafthouse event that took place in February 2017, just four months after the sex-assault allegations surfaced. In them, Faraci is shown sporting an "all-access" credential available only to high-level Drafthouse employees.
Faraci, meanwhile, made his first public remarks on the controversy in an open letter published on Medium. Faraci appears to have then quickly deleted the remarks, but screenshots were captured and posted to Twitter.
In the statement, he says he has no recollection of the sex-assault incident but acknowledges having been a "blackout drinker" that therefore had "only one choice: believe the woman making the claim and accept personal responsibility."
"Over the course of my life I have hurt people," says Faraci. "While this experience was not the first time I had people telling me how awful I was (I had made a career of it,) it was the first time I truly faced how much I needed to change."
Faraci goes on to say he has discovered "a new spirituality" through the help of a 12-step program, and has "spent the last eleven months lying low and focusing on my recovery. … A few months into my recovery I was given the chance to do low-level copywriting as a way to keep my rent paid as I continued the journey. Now circumstance have arisen that leave me unemployed and back in the news."
Read the full statement here:
OH I MOST CERTAINLY CAN. pic.twitter.com/iGPdZ39a0h— siân (@sharnacious) September 14, 2017
Caught in the middle of this public-relations mess is Todd Brown, a longtime programmer at Fantastic Fest, the Drafthouse-owned genre festival where Faraci moderated panels and generally held a high profile.
Brown, 44, publicly parted ways with the company on Wednesday after a decade helping to build and promote the festival; the move was one of protest over the way he feels the Faraci situation has been wildly mishandled by League.
In a strongly worded statement posted to Facebook, Brown writes, "Anyone who has ever suggested that Fantastic Fest and the Drafthouse is just the geek friendly equivalent of the classic Old Boys Club, you have just been proven correct. We have just seen that Club in action. There it is, the Club utterly ignoring the victim while it creates a protective ring around the perpetrator. Telling every woman who has ever been harassed or assaulted that the predatory males around them will be protected if they are a part of the Club."
Speaking by phone today from Toronto, Brown opened up to THR about his decision.
Your statement was compelling. How long did it take you to write that?
The whole day, basically. I was very conflicted internally and the morning was a mess of stuff. I had little fragments. When I sat down to write it I felt like most of it was wrong and I had to write it three or four times. Hopefully the way it reads is that it’s about me not them. I don’t have an agenda, I’m not grinding an ax, I’m not calling for a boycott. I don’t want to see heads roll among people who have been friends and co-workers for the better part of a decade. I had to make a personal decision about whom I want to work with in life. That is what I was trying to get across.
Tell me about your history with the festival and Drafthouse.
The festival started up in 2005 shortly after I started my website, which at the time was Twitch Film and is now ScreenAnarchy. I was covering a lot of this weird independent and international film. The first year of the festival, Tim reached out to me a couple of times just trying to get in touch with various films I had written about. You could tell: Tim is a really charismatic and smart guy, which is part of what makes this so confusing.
Getting through the first year of the fest, you could see the germ of something was there. I reached out and said, “Look, if you want some help I’d love to join the group.” I joined officially in year two. I said, “Give me a travel budget and I’ll go to the markets and scout stuff out for you and bring interesting things back.” And that’s how it ran for years: A handshake deal with people I really liked.
The large majority of the time I was there, the core program team was myself, Tim, Kristen Bell [no relation to the Veronica Mars actress] and Rodney Perkins. We haggled amongst ourselves with the general understanding that if you could get three of us to say yes to your movie, you’re in. Things have shifted around since. I was the last of the originals. Tim has not been hands-on at the festival for the past three years or so, since he launched his various businesses. I don’t want to get into Kristen too much, but she got sidelined last year and I have strong feelings about that — because Kristen is amazing.
What was Devin Faraci’s involvement over the years?
No official involvement in the festival at all. But he was a member of the family. It began when he wrote for CHUD and would be at the festival covering. Devin is a big personality. You know when he’s in the room. You don’t have to look far to find people who have found him very abrasive. He definitely has the capacity to be cruel to people. I never had those issues and always got on with him really well. Even through this, honestly. Devin and I were messaging back and forth yesterday about everything. It certainly was civil. Most of it was more than civil.
What did you discuss?
I don’t know how much detail I want to go into with that. Basically I wanted him to know that however these things went, I care about him and I want him to be healthy and I legitimately think he’s been working hard on things and I don’t have an ax to grind where he is concerned.
So you reached out to him and he was receptive.
Have you reached out to Tim?
Tim and I yesterday had an exchange on the festival Slack group and a couple of texts back and forth. We had a chance to talk for about 20 minutes today. It was difficult and emotional. Not in an aggressive way at all, but on both sides in a really sad and disappointed way. It was a lot of Tim repeating — I’m not sure how much of this I can say. He’s working with a crisis team right now, so I don’t want to speak on his behalf. But he agreed with what I had to say. He felt bad about it and about putting me in that situation. He felt like he fucked up pretty bad. There’s nine years of friendship there that we’re hoping will survive. I hope people are not reading this as a me-versus-him thing. I don’t want it to be that and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to become that. Something really significant just ended. Who knows what Fantastic Fest will be. But this was 10 years of my identity.
Did he make any effort to lure you back?
No. He knew better. Other people have asked. He has not. He knows he has to get his own house in order.
How do you feel about the fact that Tim was doing this quietly, or trying to protect Devin?
I understand the urge to protect. They have a long history. And I agree with the urge to protect. You take care of people. I just think there are dozens of better ways it could have been done.
Did you see the email circulating from the woman saying she reached out to Tim about Faraci’s alleged sexual harassment? In which he asks her to keep the information between them and closes it with a "cheers"?
What is your reaction to that?
Did you discuss that with him?
No, I don’t think that would have been productive.
You suggested Fantastic Fest has changed now. How do you think it will be different this year, because it’s coming up, and going forward?
I don’t think it’s for me to answer that. I don’t know. This was a deeply personal position for me and about me. It puts me in a really awkward position professionally because my company has films set to screen at the festival, including a world premiere. So the beginning of my day yesterday was calling those people to let them know this was what I was about to do. I know there are a lot of conversations among producers about whether they want to attend and in many cases whether they want to screen their films. I don’t have a position on that.
Are you going to attend?
No I’m not.
And you were planning to.
Yes. Yes I was.
In your statement you mention this is proof of a boys’ club culture at Fantastic Fest. I’m wondering if you had ever gotten that sense in any of your years working there before this happened — in terms of women being made to feel uncomfortable, invisible or less than their male counterparts?
It’s always been very male-dominated. In the past couple years that’s become more the case. I don’t think it’s malicious. I just think in this case — in the absolute best-case-scenario — it was enormous blindness to the issues. And an inexcusable blindness.
Were there ever internal debates about the content of the films screened at Fantastic Fest?
All the time. We hash that stuff out constantly because we do play a lot of extreme content. We work it pretty hard in terms of that stuff, and if we don’t feel something is defensible we don’t show it. Well, it’s not “we” anymore.
You referenced former festival director Kristen Bell having left. Are there other women still working there that have a voice?
Not enough. On the program team there’s one. I was thinking about this this morning: When we got started, Tim and his wife Karrie were very much a duo. I think because Tim was so much more charismatic and upfront, a lot of the fixation was on “Tim League the creator” and “Tim League the personality.” But I’m realizing looking back how much of it was Karrie, as well. When she became pregnant she stepped away to become a mother, and good for her. But I don’t think anyone appreciated how significant the void was that that left. That influence was never replaced.