A plan for a series of movies on Lifetime portraying one of the deadliest high school shootings in United States history has sparked outrage and an online petition to keep it off the air.
"I counseled many young people who could not sleep for months unless they lay between their parents with all the lights on in the house after [the Columbine shootings], wrote Angela Massey from Orlando, FL.
"My 2 nephews were at Columbine and... went to 9 funerals in 48 hours," wrote Carole Carlson-bursch from Duluth, MN, "...even though they are adults now, the scars are deep and eternal."
It is these types of memories that those from community of Littleton, Colorado to Canada to the United Kingdom are asking, pleading, in an online petition for Lifetime TV not to resurrect about April 20, 1999 — the day Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, walked into Columbine High School, and shot to death 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves and wounding more than 20 others — by developing Dave Cullen's best selling book "Columbine" into a miniseries.
No green light yet
"Lifetime has not officially announced anything. We have not green-lit it yet. We don't really comment on things that are in development," network spokesman and Vice President of Corporate Communications Les Eisner told 9News.
"In development" is an early stage in the process for TV/film, Cullen explains on his website. “Lifetime is actively engaged but the project has not yet been green lit.”
Dave Cullen author of "Columbine"
Cullen, who has been in discussion with creative teams since the publication of his award winning book three years ago and discussing/working with this team for close to two, has every confidence that this gifted team "will do a great job," he writes on Facebook.
This production team has produced several Oscar-winning/nominated films. "An American Crime" and "United States of Tara" acclaimed indie writer-director Tommy O'Haver will adapt the script for the screen, which will be produced by Michael DeLuca ("Moneyball" and "The Social Network"), and "Mildred Pierce" producers Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler (Boys Don't Cry),BoingBoing reported.
'Say 'No' to Columbine Movie'
Knowing the powerhouse team behind the project didn't stop Columbine survivor Michael Berry from creating the, "Say 'No' to Columbine Movie" petition posted on the web site SignOn.org. It had 5,872 signatures, more than half way to their goal of 7500 signatures, as of Sunday morning, April 1. The petition reads in part:
Say "No" to Columbine Movie
By Michael Berry
To be delivered to: Lifetime Network
We ask for basic human respect be shown to a community that does not want to be exploited over a sensitive, and persistently prodded event...
...There is no mention of any proceeds being directed at programs that address school violence. There has been no indication that people were actually consulted from the community...
How the network has gone about making this movie is questionable, which begs the question, "How tasteful is this movie going to be? Will it be historically accurate or just a gore-fest?" "How distorted are they going to make the film to sell ad space?" 'I just feel sick over it'
Among petition signers are Columbine survivors like Anne Marie Hochhalter who live with their injuries daily — emotionally and physically.
Two bullets fired by Eric Harris's TEC-9 semi-automatic weapon hit Hochhalter while she was outside enjoying the weather eating lunch, writes US News and World Report. One bullet pierced her chest; the other, her spinal cord. She survived and lives today as a paraplegic.
"This is a terrible idea for a movie," wrote Anne Marie Hochhalter writes on the petition. "I was injured at Columbine, and Dave Cullen's book is inaccurate and sensationalized. Please don't let this movie be made; it brings back all the pain I experienced and is insensitive to all of us in the Columbine community."
screengrab/usnewsandworldreport via YouTube
A Survivor's Story: 10 Years After Columbine
Anne Marie Hochhalter speaking in an interview with US News and World Report.
As Alan Prendergast wrote in SF Weekly, although Hochhalter figured in several passages in Cullen's book; she was never interviewed by Cullen; his accounts of her family's ordeal, complete with quotes, come from various news articles.
"It felt kind of violating, to be honest," Hochhalter says of the experience of reading Cullen's book. "He got the part about how I was injured completely wrong. I couldn't bear to read the whole thing."
In the book, "Columbine," in the chapter 'Female Down', Cullen wrote, "Eric amused himself heartily at the top of the stairs, shooting, laughing, and hurling pipe bombs."
He spotted a junior named Anne Marie Hochhalter getting up from the curb to make a run for it. Eric hit her with a 9mm round.
She kept running, and he hit her again. This time she went down. A friend picked her up, dragged her to the building, and got her out of Eric's sight. Then he let go of her and ran. He ducked behind a car in the senior lot, and a pipe bomb exploded where Anne Marie had first collapsed.
In "A Survivor's Story: 10 Years After Columbine," by US News and World report which states, the " following article is based on an interview with Anne Marie Hochhalter," her injury is described differently:
Before she could get up to run away, Hochhalter felt a stinging in her back. As she turned to identify the cause, she realized that she couldn't feel anything from her chest down.
"I sat there banging my legs trying to make them work, but they wouldn't," Hochhalter says. "Then I thought maybe they had shot me with a tranquillizer, but I never expected I had been hit with a bullet and paralyzed permanently."
She also describes the second shot the following way:
One of her friends realized she had not followed when they fled. He came back to drag her away, but while he was doing so, Hochhalter was hit a second time. This time the bullet passed through her lungs, diaphragm, and liver. Her spine injury prevented her from feeling the pain of the bullet traveling into and out of her body. But she couldn't breathe. Her friend was unable to drag her all the way to safety without putting himself in danger, so he settled on a spot near the wall of the school and out of the line of fire.
"The fact that this movie is in the works, based on what he wrote — I just feel sick over it,” said Hochhalter to SF Weekly.
Healthcare professionals also added their voice to the petition.
“I am a psychologist who was involved in responding to this traumatic event . I am quite concerned about this production possibly being exploitive and insensitive,” wrote Dr. Justin Schulz.
“Until it is clear that this production is made and broadcast in a way that is respectful to the victims and community and can provide viewers with an accurate understanding of such terrible events, I will actively oppose it and must ask you to halt this production,” he said.
Cullen, who is well aware of the petition, understands the anger and told 9News he is open to meeting with the group behind the petition before the mini-series comes out.
Stage play in development
A dramatic stage play is also in development according to Cullen's site. It is also being created by an Oscar-winning playwright, and a producer who has won multiple Best Picture Oscars.
The playwright is Scott Burns,Cullen writes. He's directed several films and written more. Most recently, he wrote Contagion. This his first play. He really wanted to do it.
The play, which has been in development for nearly 2 years, Cullen writes, has a very different, and narrower focus than the miniseries. It is tentatively called "The Library," and it's just one slice of the book: about the two girls at the heart of the "she said yes" myth, and how that impacted many lives in unexpected ways.
Lifetime Networks says there is no estimate on when they make a decision about going ahead with the series, 9News reported.