TORONTO — A Canadian filmmaker who released a 2011 documentary on Harvey Weinstein is now working on a new big-screen project that would tackle the allegations of sexual harassment and assault levelled against the fallen movie mogul and others.
Montreal-born Barry Avrich says he wants to look at the accusations that he didn't know about when he wrote, directed and produced "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project."
He also wants to examine Hollywood culture and look at sexual misconduct outside of the entertainment industry.
"At the end of the day, I feel that I made a film about a man that I found incredibly passionate, fascinating and intriguing — and I didn't get the whole story and I feel cheated," Avrich said in an interview.
"I knew there was a dark side. I didn't know there was that dark side, and I feel that it's important to tell the whole story. It's an incomplete story for me, an incomplete narrative."
Avrich said he wants to make the new documentary quickly, "long before" the next Toronto International Film Festival in September.
He's already started filming and is set to travel to New York, Los Angeles and London.
Avrich said he worries that the plethora of headlines surrounding sexual misconduct allegations "desensitizes the situation." A film would help preserve such stories and "perpetuate the momentum so that this doesn't become a movement du jour."
"I just think we live in the decade of distraction now where stories that are posted in social media — and there are so many headlines — the accusers, the victims become, at some point, wallpaper, and I don't want that to happen," said Avrich, whose other films include "The Last Mogul," about legendary agent Lew Wasserman, and "Filthy Gorgeous," about Penthouse founder Bob Guccione.
Avrich said he's already spoken with some victims and has taken out an ad in Hollywood trade magazines asking more to come forward to be interviewed for his new doc.
"What I'm saying to them is that a social media posting on your experience is not enough. Why? Because it fades and evaporates instantly after somebody has read it," he said.
"Film lasts forever, and I think the only way we're going to get change is if these stories are immortalized."
Avrich said he also wants such stories to serve as a possible deterrent and "a warning for the next generation of artists going into this industry, of what they need to know."
"I'm not looking for victims to come on camera and tell me bathrobe stories. We've all heard them," Avrich said.
"I'm interested in what they've learned, what their advice is in protecting artists going forward, what else they think they can do in terms of changing the culture, do they believe the cultural change?"
Avrich said he'll probably ask Weinstein to be interviewed for this film, but doubts it would happen.
"Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project" addresses the producer's notorious reputation as a hot-headed micro-manager, but it doesn't mention any sexual misconduct allegations, which came to light in October.
Avrich said he had no relationship with Weinstein prior to making the doc, and the producer went at him "very aggressively" with "all kinds of promises, payoffs in terms of other film deals" to try to put an end to the film.
Avrich assured Weinstein he would make a "balanced film" about his life, he said, but nobody within the mogul's stable of artists would speak with him.
"Had I known those things, I absolutely would have been there," said Avrich of the torrent of allegations that have been made.
"But at the same time, I can honestly tell you that I know I would have had doors slammed in my face."
Two weeks before the Weinstein story broke, the film studio he founded bought the rights to Avrich's upcoming documentary on Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz. Avrich said they've since given the film back to him.
IFC, meanwhile, owns the rights to "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project." Avrich said IFC insisted on edits to the doc, including softening the characterization of Weinstein as a bully.
Avrich said he felt he had a moral obligation to make changes to the documentary when the Weinstein allegations emerged and asked IFC if he could buy back the rights and re-do the ending.
He said he wrote to Jonathan Sehring, co-president of IFC Films and Sundance Selects, who told him that they don't sell films back to filmmakers and that they were "going to take the high road."
IFC did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Wednesday.
"At the end of the day, there are certain things I could do, but I said to myself, as the whole story started to expand beyond Harvey, headline after headline after headline ... I said, 'This is a bigger story and I need to look at Hollywood as the entire culture and see whether or not things will ever change,'" Avrich said.
"Where did it start, where is it going to end? I need to get different perspectives on it and I think it's important to make that kind of film."
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press