An open letter to Tim League, founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest, Birth.Movies.Death., NEON, and Mondo

“Alamo Reflections” by Andy / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dear Tim,

This whole thing is a mess, and for that, I am sorry.

I’ve never met you personally, but I’ve always been a big fan of the work you’ve done with Alamo Drafthouse and the ventures that have sprung from it. I’ve attended numerous events at my closest Drafthouse (about an hour from my home). Last year, I attended MondoCon in Austin for the first time. I own several of the films released by Drafthouse Films, and I’ve purchased untold amounts of posters, vinyl records, and other items from Mondo. I love film and I love what you do. I’ve extolled the virtues of your work to just about anyone who would listen that loves movies as much as I do.

But this may be it for me.

Last year, when Devin Faraci left his post at Birth.Movies.Death., the public perception was that he would no longer be employed by Alamo or any of its affiliated companies, which is what the situation warranted.

Mr. Faraci has a well-documented history of victimizing people both personally and online. He is a good writer, but his personality and demeanor left much to be desired. When the sexual assault(s) came to light, he publicly apologized to at least one person whom he victimized. I had hoped for their sakes that all involved could heal and move on. I had hoped that it would serve as a lesson for him to learn from his many mistakes and better himself as a person. I’m not one for starting a lynch mob, but the amount of public attention to the issue seemed appropriate for someone who had publicly humiliated so many people in the past.

That was a year ago, and I hoped the last that anyone would hear of it.

Then came your public letter where you admitted that you had chosen to re-employ Mr. Faraci in a low-level editorial job. This was a big mistake. As I said in my comment on the post, the compassion you have for someone you obviously care about is laudable, but that doesn’t make the decision right.

While it’s difficult to know your intentions, in my estimation, this letter only came about after people started noticing Mr. Faraci’s byline in the Fantastic Fest program, which suggests that if it had gone unnoticed, no public statement would have been made.

Then came the news that, according to at least one former Drafthouse employee, Mr. Faraci was never actually let go. His duties merely shifted, and he was working for your companies within mere weeks of “stepping down” from Birth.Movies.Death.

After that, the news that another victim of Mr. Faraci’s had come forward, and when asked about that incident, you said:

No, I do not know anything about this.

As we would later find out, this statement was either a convenient moment of forgetfulness, or, more likely, an outright lie. This other victim shared the email that you sent to her in response to that incident:

Last night, after days of being bashed in the press and in the court of public opinion, you announced that Mr. Faraci had permanently severed ties with your company.

In many ways, this is too little, too late.

It was certainly the right decision, but it was also the only decision you had left. Many people, myself included, stated very plainly that their continued patronage of your companies would be predicated on Mr. Faraci’s removal, while others still have announced that they will be spending their money elsewhere. Regardless of whether you felt this was the right moral decision, this was a decision you had to make to prevent further damage to your businesses.

The truth is: your compassion is far more narrow than it needs to be. First and foremost, you should have compassion, respect, and empathy for the people that he victimized.

Sexual assault (rather than simply the “misconduct” that you referred to in your letter) has far reaching consequences for the victims that do not just wash away. In both your open letter and the follow-up announcing Mr. Faraci’s departure, you expressed nothing with respect to his victims or the victims of sexual assault as a whole. This is a particularly tone deaf response when dealing with such an issue, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding.

Further, before worrying about Mr. Faraci or his livelihood, turn your concern to that of the many employees that work for Alamo Drafthouse, NEON, Fantastic Fest, Birth.Movies.Death., and Mondo. I know some of these people, and they are good people who don’t deserve to have to bear the brunt of the reaction from a decision that they had nothing to do with.

Further still, what about your female employees? Did you consider that re-employing Mr. Faraci would, at best, bother them and make them feel unsafe in their workplace, and at worst, be opened up to potential victimization? Whether Mr. Faraci worked from home as you said or not, knowing that he continued to be employed after such a public sexual assault scandal sends the message that this sort of behavior can be tolerated in your organization. It tells them that it’s okay to sexually assault people as long as you’re friends with the owner. It also enables anyone else who might consider that sort of behavior to feel empowered to carry it out. It’s unconscionable.

I’ve read that you have daughters. How would you feel if their employer had taken the same action with respect to someone that had been accused of assaulting them?

In less than a week, your actions and those of one now-former employee, have done great damage to an otherwise progressive and awesome organization that myself and many, many others have supported wholeheartedly over the past several years.

A great deal of work needs to be done on the part of your organization to address these issues and ensure that this “good old boy bro culture” is put to bed for good. You need to earn back the trust of the public so that we can not only feel good about going to the Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest, etc., but more importantly, so that people can feel safe while they’re doing it.

Full transparency and accountability is what’s called for here, and nothing less. An actual apology to the victims and to the public, and wholehearted contrition are required.

To that end, I believe that you need to publicly address the following questions:

  1. When, exactly, after the news that Mr. Faraci had stepped down from Birth.Movies.Death., was he re-hired to work for Alamo Drafthouse?
  2. Was Mr. Faraci ever actually removed from company payroll?
  3. Did you consult with any other employees of Alamo Drafthouse or its sister organizations before rehiring him?
  4. Why did you claim to not know anything about the second reported assault?
  5. Does the Alamo Drafthouse and its subsidiary companies have a sexual harrassment policy, and if so, what is it?
  6. Going forward, how will you ensure that your employees and the people who attend your events can feel safe?

Speaking for myself, it’s going to be a long time before I will trust you again. I truly hope that you are able to learn from this experience and use it to make better decisions in the future. Your friends, employees, and the public will be thankful.

Chris Lanphear