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A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A documentary about the 2010 murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen could be coming to TV next year.
Ryan Katzenbach, an ad exec who has directed a trio of self-distributed docs on the 1974 Amityville killings, tells THR he’s working on 6:38: The Death of Ronni Chasen, a reference to the time between Chasen’s last cell-phone call and the response by the Beverly Hills police. Chasen was shot to death in her Mercedes-Benz while driving home on Sunset Boulevard from the premiere of the film Burlesque.
Katzenbach believes the Beverly Hills Police Department’s account of the killing is incomplete and says Chasen’s life might have been threatened before the shooting, based on his talks with “many of Chasen’s friends and associates, eyewitnesses at the murder scene and those who know Chasen’s alleged killer, Harold Martin Smith,” who killed himself before he could be captured by police.
Katzenbach declined to reveal the names of any of the friends who are cooperating with him. Chasen’s former business partner tells THR he is not participating. Katzenbach says he has several other close friends who will go on camera. However, he says it is premature to give out their names because he is still researching the project.
One of Chasen’s very closest friends, Vivian Mayer, on Wednesday said she has been contacted by Katzenbach and declined to participate. She said other close friends of Chasen that she knows have also told her they will not participate.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Mayer said: “This filmmaker has contacted just about everyone, and many of them in turn have contacted me. They said that, as a true friend, and in honor of Ronni, they have no interest in participating in a documentary that will, most likely, be about appealing to people’s morbid curiosity. The police solved the case and, I for one, based on the solid evidence they provided me, was satisfied. That said, everyone is entitled to their beliefs and thoughts, and even those who may not be satisfied, if they were true friend’s of Ronni’s, I would imagine (Ronni) would not want to be a part of the documentary as they know she would disapprove of a filmmaker whose credits include, Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders, doing a documentary about her.”
Chasen was a veteran press agent specializing in representing producers and film composers. Her death in such a violent and mysterious fashion has intrigued Hollywood.
“Numerous questions remain unanswered: Was the gun that supposedly killed Chasen and Martin stolen from a police officer?” Katzenbach asks. “Was BHPD working leads to locate a witness to the shooting? Did Smith receive a payoff for the ‘hit?’ Why was Chasen’s most updated will never revealed during probate? Was Chasen actually working on a new will and trust at the time of her death? And more importantly, why was no one, including any member of the police, able to locate Chasen’s extensive notes, said to exist in her preparations to revise her latest will?”
The $250,000-budgeted doc is funded by private investors and Katzenbach, who intends to research the case for the rest of this year and film re-enactment scenes next summer. Katzenbach intends to shoot the documentary in “film noir” style, he says.
The goal is to have the documentary — probably running two hours in length — ready to show in time for the fourth anniversary of Chasen’s death, in November 2014.
Katzenbach says several cable networks are interested in the project but he declines to name them. He said if he can’t sell it to a cable network, he intends to make the documentary anyway and take it out on the festival circuit.
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