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An independent filmmaker says he will tackle the gruesome and controversial case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor serving life in prison after multiple convictions on first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
Gosnell’s crimes allegedly occurred over the course of decades. A grand jury said he kept severed feet of late-term fetuses in display jars; killed newborns with scissors to the backs of their necks; kept fetal remains in refrigerators next to employee lunches; joked about killing viable fetuses; and kept his patients bleeding and writhing in pain for hours. Anti-abortion advocates charged that mainstream media ignored the trial and its grisly details.
The filmmaker, Phelim McAleer, says he will explore not only Gosnell’s actions — he calls Gosnell “America’s biggest serial killer” — but also what he says is the bureaucratic and media inattention that allowed them to continue until his arrest in 2011.
McAleer’s project is to be produced by his Hat Tip Productions as a television movie that he will pitch to various cable TV channels. He’s attempting to raise $2.1 million at IndieGoGo for its financing. If he is successful, his would be the biggest crowdfunding film or TV campaign ever at IndieGoGo.
McAleer is a crowdfunding veteran, having previously raised $212,265 for his movie FrackNation, a documentary that accuses another documentary, Gasland, of numerous factual errors. He surpassed his goal of $150,000 for that film, which was backed by 3,305 Kickstarter contributors, and the movie aired in January on Mark Cuban‘s AXS TV.
McAleer was set to use Kickstarter again for Gosnell, but the firm wanted several changes to the text of the fundraising pitch and, in the end, attached a disclaimer to the project’s letter of acceptance warning that if anything “objectionable” were added the project would be removed. McAleer sent a sternly worded letter to Kickstarter accusing it of “censorship” and moved the campaign for Gosnell to IndieGoGo. Kickstarter says the disclaimer is standard procedure.
Unlike FrackNation and other movies McAleer has produced, the Gosnell movie will be a scripted drama, and he’ll base it largely on grand jury testimony and documentation from Gosnell’s trial, which major media outlets covered sporadically. Columnists at Time magazine, Fox News, ABC News, the Washington Post, The Atlantic and elsewhere suggested that bias against the anti-abortion movement caused liberal journalists to ignore the story. A column for the The Daily Beast by Megan McArdle, for example, carried the headline, “Why I Didn’t Write About Gosnell’s Trial – And Why I Should Have,” and included a photo of the press gallery in the courtroom with every seat empty.
“Many in the media are uncomfortable with any story that reflects badly on abortion,” McAleer says.
McAleer says Hollywood, too, is biased against the story, pointing out that there have been multiple movies made about serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Zodiac Killer.
“The Jodi Arias trial ended at the same time as Gosnell and a film was on TV within nine months. The L.A.-based serial killer the Grim Sleeper has just had a movie on Lifetime and he has not been convicted yet,” McAleer says. “You’re more likely to find Hollywood executives at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood than trawling the media for stories such as Kermit Gosnell.”
McAleer says he may still option a book about Gosnell, but the grand jury report is easily a compelling enough account for a TV movie.
The 280-page report includes graphic photos and descriptions of botched abortions, many conducted in the third trimester of pregnancy, and alleges hundreds of killings. It also includes details of Gosnell’s bizarre business practices, including charging several different prices for anesthesia depending on how much pain a patient was willing to endure, and how white women were afforded a cleaner waiting room and medical equipment than were women of color.
“It’s a graphic story,” says McAleer. “Gosnell is a fascinating monster; a hoarder, mad man and megalomaniac. He’s a black man who is racist against blacks and Hispanics. He’s a real-life Hannibal Lecter. It’s an omission that Hollywood is ignoring the biggest serial killer in American history, and we’re going to fill that gap.”
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