Tribeca: 'Newtown' Director Teases Possible Parkland Documentary

John Slattery Lessons From A School Shooting - Getty - H 2018
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Kim A. Snyder and the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas spoke about a film centered around the deadly incident in Florida ahead of a panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Kim A. Snyder has already chronicled the fatal Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in her 2016 documentary Newtown, which recently won a Peabody Award, and now she might be turning her lens on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead. Since the tragic incident, a number of the Parkland survivors have become high-profile advocates for gun reform.

“We're very inspired right now with the youth movement,” Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of a Sunday panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival about her short film Notes From Dunblane: Lessons From a School Shooting. "We've been doing a new project based in Parkland with some of the students here, so our body of work is really a trajectory of five years — probably more — of really trying to put narrative on this sort of, hopefully, tipping point in our country that addresses gun violence.”

When pressed further, Snyder said that this "project" is a documentary that would likely be longer than Notes From Dunblane.

“Something like [Notes From Dunblane] really shows that it’s really a ‘to see is to believe’ type of thing,” said Parkland survivor Ryan Deitsch, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “These images that we will see in these documentaries can inspire others while also showing people that this is a problem that needs to be solved.”

Deitsch knows “plenty of student filmmakers who would really want to jump on board” Snyder’s potential Parkland documentary. Both he and Matt Deitsch, chief strategist for March for Our Lives, are optimistic about sharing the real story and, in Matt Deitsch’s words, allowing “the people who are actually affected by this to tell about the trauma and the pain.”

On the panel, Snyder remarked that they almost called the film "Unlearned Lessons From a School Shooting" because of how little the U.S. has done in response to mass shootings. To the filmmaker, "these things are not struck by lightning anymore" and the new generation of activists are "the only hope."

Snyder and Parkland survivors Ryan Deitsch and Stoneman Douglas junior Dylan Kramer, as well as Sandy Hook survivor Mary Ann Jacob, a librarian at the elementary school during the shooting, continued to praise young people, like the Parkland students, for fighting for gun reform, during the post-screening panel, moderated by actor John Slattery.

“You guys are gonna vote and you're registering friends to vote, and that is the power,” Newtown and Dunblane producer Maria Cuomo Cole said to the teenagers in the crowd.

“We're just going around the country, from community to community, educating people, helping register people to vote, and just using our platform to try and get morally just leaders in office,” Matt Deitsch explained to THR. As well as inspiring unaffected people across the country, March For Our Lives has also helped victims of gun violence.

“It's sometimes difficult for survivors to speak up,” Jacob said on the panel. “That has been the case for survivors in Sandy Hook. I think one of the gifts that they've been given by the young people from Parkland is the ability to speak up, the permission to speak up.”

After the film, a short video message from family members and teachers who were affected by the 1996 shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, played. They shared this message with the students from Stoneman Douglas on March 13, 2018, the 22nd anniversary of their tragedy and just under one month after the Parkland shooting. Their words encouraged the students to keep fighting for gun reform.

The story that serves as the subject of Dunblane, which won the best documentary short award from Tribeca, fell into Snyder's lap when she was working on Newtown and met Father Bob Weiss of Saint Rose of Lima Parish.

“This was a prequel of sorts where I came to know Father Bob, who had buried eight of those 20 children [who died in the Sandy Hook Massacre] and just felt this incredible empathy towards him in his throes of trauma and learned about how he had connected with this stranger in Dunblane who reached out to provide him solace,” Snyder told THR.