Three crusading filmmakers intent on doing stories that no one else will touch have moved on from a truth-telling documentary about natural-gas extraction to a planned TV movie about the man they’ve dubbed “America’s worst serial killer.” By the looks of it, plenty of people want the movie to be made.
Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magda Segieda have taken to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to engage the public to support their new movie about abortionist Kermit Gosnell. And the audience they claim will fund a film about a well-to-do abortionist, who ended the lives of perhaps thousands of babies over a 30-year period, has already donated more than $149,800 to the just-launched effort. It is worth noting also that by far the greatest number of donors are giving $25 each; the very definition of a grassroots effort to be sure.
"Americans are fascinated by crime and serial killers and so is Hollywood … It’s a great story and a story that needs to be told," McAleer explained in an interview. But focusing on Gosnell seems strange, at first. After all, Gosnell isn’t who comes to mind when we typically think of a serial killer. There are certainly many examples of movies about Ted Bundy (4), the Zodiac killer (5), and Jeffrey Dahmer (at least 2), so the genre is well-covered territory. What puts Gosnell in this category?
“He killed the same way all the time. He kept trophies. They found his kitchen cupboards had jars and jars of babies' hands and feet. He kept killing. It was like a ritual and he expressed joy from it. … [Gosnell is] a fantastic character. [He’s] part Hanibal Lecter and part Jack Kevorkian,” McAleer said.
The 280-page grand jury report, which will serve as the movie’s source material, bears out McAleer’s point. “This case is about a doctor who killed babies ... What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns…[Gosnell’s clinic] was a baby charnel house,” the report states.
The movie will be based on these and other trial transcripts. “It will be based on what happened and how America's most prolific serial killer was allowed to go undetected for over 30 years,” explained Segieda.
Ann McElhinney argues that the lack of any film about Gosnell was a gap in the market which they and the American people, using IndieGoGo, are going to fill. And filling that gap is as much about showing up the media’s and Hollywood’s limited attention to the story. “Hollywood and the mainstream media have been very reluctant to cover this serial killer but we think it's time Gosnell's story was told,” said McElhinney.
What makes the funding mechanism most interesting is how asking for money to make a movie proves the filmmakers’ case that the subject matter is compelling to lots of people. As McAleer explains, the creators of the Veronica Mars TV series never expected the type of response they got when they took to Kickstarter to fund a movie based on the cancelled show. In that case, Kristen Bell and company were asking for $2 million and they got $5.7 instead. “Asking for $2.1 million [for Gosnell] will pay for a Lifetime-style movie,” says McAleer. “We’re going to have more than 100,000 people [who] will give the money….That’s a ready built audience to go to a network or cable channel,” McAleer believes. “[Crowdfunding] creates a business pressure and moral pressure to carry the film” and we’ve proven it because the audience “paid for it,” declares McAleer. The campaign continues through midnight on May 12, 2014.
Abby W. Schachter is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and writes regularly for Acculturated.com