Guest Column: Protect child actors with anti-predator bill

Alexandra Pittman

The Hollywood community has always been more well-known for its drug and alcohol abuse, hard-partying celebrities and shady business than for the classic movies that also come out of the town. But one of the main issues within the movie biz today is one that is rarely brought to light: pedophilia.

Child actor abuse and molestation has long been a prevalent issue within the entertainment industry, but until recently, when actor Corey Feldman came forward with his own horror stories of his childhood career, pedophilia cases have not garnered the attention they most certainly deserve. Because of Feldman’s revelations, newspapers are now discussing child actor exploitation cases from the early 2000s, several of which did not gain this mass-media spotlight until just recently.

Take Nickelodeon production assistant Jason Michael Handy’s arrest for child pornography and molestation in 2003, or child manager Bob Villard’s arrests for child pornography in 2001 and 2005, for example. Still worse is the 2005 court case involving Ezel Ethan Channel, a registered sex offender, who managed to become a production assistant at Nickelodeon in 2003, where he was found guilty of child molestation two years later. The recent death of actor Corey Haim, a good friend of Feldman’s, was also attributed to his inability to cope with his own childhood abuse from the industry.

This industry seems to be getting worse and worse where child actors are concerned, and it is because of this that California has put forth new legislation — a bill requiring anyone “providing services (including photography, career counseling and web design) or representing children as publicists or managers” to submit and pay for a sex offender screening, according to Fox News. This bill sets a new standard for those working alongside minors within the entertainment industry, and I see no harm that could come from it.

Why complain about the small expense and the little time it will take to complete fingerprinting when it could prevent another one of these cases from happening? If they have nothing to hide, this bill really shouldn’t be such an issue for these big-time media moguls. I’m not saying that every child actor is in danger of being exploited or abused at every given second of every given day, but it seems to me the worst this bill can provide is more paperwork.

But I’m betting the potential court cases that could ensue otherwise will provide even more paperwork, with an extra taste of jail time.

The dangers of pedophilia are not far and few between, as I have had my own taste of the shady side of this business. My brother and I were extras in the movie “Who’s Your Caddy,” and one of the main actors within the film was Jeffrey Jones, a well-known registered sex offender. There was one day on set where my mom almost stopped us from going to work because she discovered we would be shooting several scenes that day near Jones, and she wasn’t the only mother complaining to producers either.

At the time, the only fear I had was that of a 13-year-old not being able to skip school and get paid. Looking back, I realize how rampant this problem really is for child actors. Not to say that anything might have happened to me or my brother, but the possibility itself was always lurking in the corner, and that shouldn’t be something that children have to worry about at such an early age.

This bill is a needed addition to the process through which our entertainment industry operates, and more protection for child actors is exactly what it needs.

Central Florida Future, U. Central Florida via UWIRE.