Ann and Phelim Media are about a week into their fundraising efforts to put a TV movie together on the crimes of Kermit Gosnell. With 39 days to go, Ann and Phelim Media — named for the Irish husband-and-wife filmmakers who founded it, Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer – have already hit the marker of “the 4th most funded movie project in Indiegogo’s history.” But with over $300,000 raised, their goal is $2.1 million. If they don’t reach it, “under Indiegogo rules all the funds are returned to the contributors.”
McElhinney talked with National Review Online this week about the project.
KJL: When did you first hear about Kermit Gosnell?
Ann McElhinney: We were in Pennsylvania promoting FrackNation, our most recent film, when we heard about the Gosnell trial. We attended the trial and were shocked to discover the courtroom was like the abandoned Mary Celeste, in the benches reserved for journalists there was no one from the national media. What we heard in the trial was shockingly gruesome — it made for great journalism — but there was no one there to cover it.
KJL: Why is it so important to do a TV movie on Gosnell and his crimes? He’s in jail. It could be said that the story is over. What do you anticipate highlighting?
MCELHINNEY: It’s important for many reasons. For one: Because Gosnell’s crimes are historically significant, he killed more people than all the serial killers in U.S. history combined and yet he is not known by most people. So setting the record straight is always worthwhile.
During his killing spree lots of people in authority knew something terrible was going on at his clinic, there were even whistleblowers — a classic character in the movies — but all were ignored by the numerous state departments whose job it was to protect people. More than that, the Department of Health in Pennsylvania did not cross the threshold to inspect the clinic for over 17 years. After having worked most recently on a film about fracking and talking to people in Pa., it looks like health concerns by government offices seems to not be a uniform value. Oil and Gas companies working in Pennsylvania have every state agency monitoring their every move, apparently because “health concerns” are so important. They might try telling that to the Department of Health in Pennsylvania. There were dead women regularly coming out of Gosnell’s clinic — there were whistleblowers detailing the murders of babies, but the regulatory authorities did nothing. As was detailed in the Grand Jury report — nail salons across the street were inspected more regularly and with more ferocity than Gosnell’s clinic that was killing women and sending woman after woman to the emergency room.
This is a story that must be told. No one has been prosecuted for this negligence.
It is also worth pointing out that the children he murdered who were born alive and who according to neonatologists fought for their lives and died in excruciating pain, are the same age as babies that are routinely killed in the womb in legal abortions. Perhaps that is worth noting too.
There is no end to the stories that this film will highlight.
Of course the all but total censorship of the story by national media and the total ignoring of the story by Hollywood is another part of the story.
KJL: From a business point of view does spending time on this make sense? Would people watch something so horrific? How do you do it in such a way that people will want to watch?
MCELHINNEY: Americans have an insatiable appetite for crime dramas. Switch on the TV and you’ll find Law & Order, Criminal Minds, Dexter, and True Detective — the list just goes on and on. Then there is a whole slew of channels: Investigation Discovery — I Survived and Who the Bleep Did I Marry? — which just recreate crimes and have huge audiences. They have huge female audiences interestingly. So we are actually offering a movie that people really want to see.
KJL: Are there questions you have about Kermit Gosnell that you are hoping to find answers to by working on this project?
MCELHINNEY: I have many, many questions. How did so many people work beside him and not stop him? What motivated him? How did the prosecutor deal with the biggest case of her career — prosecuting America’s biggest serial killer? How did the police feel, going to the clinic for a simple search to find evidence of illegal prescribing of prescription drugs and instead finding a house of horrors with the bodies of dead babies stored in shoe boxes and empty cat food cans and in refrigerators. He even cut the feet and hands of babies and stored them in the kitchen — he was a serial killer and these were his trophies. What was that like?
KJL: What does Jodie Arias have to do with Gosnell?
MCELHINNEY: Jodi Arias killed one person and she is a household name in the United States and throughout the world. She was convicted of that one murder around the same time as Gosnell. The media gave us daily updates on her trial and they were almost silent on Gosnell, America’s biggest serial killer.
And Hollywood has already made a film about her that has been broadcasted on TV many times. There are zero films about Gosnell.
KJL: Will an audience get to know the women harmed at Gosnell’s hands?
MCELHINNEY: The screenwriter will have a lot of decisions to make about how best to tell this story. I would not want to anticipate his/her decisions, but it would be hard to tell the story without finding out more about the women.
KJL: What do you make of crowd funding and going about making movies that way?
MCELHINNEY: We love crowd funding. It’s the best. We don’t have to sit around hoping someone will make the films we want, we can make them ourselves. Hollywood can’t stop this film being made. It’s the people speaking, we hope tens of thousands of people contribute — it’s taking a stand for truth.
But it’s only a great system if it lives up to the advertising. We had a really rude wake-up call with Kickstarter, which we abandoned because it was censoring our message.
KJL: What has the feedback been like on your efforts to make a Gosnell movie?
MCELHINNEY: Overwhelmingly positive this week.
KJL: How did you determine how much you’re seeking to raise? How far along are you in terms of knowing you have access to what you need and can pull it off if your fundraising efforts are successful?
MCELHINNEY: We wanted enough to make a quality film. We also wanted to ask for the largest amount ever on crowdfunding for a movie. This Gosnell project is a chance and a challenge for the American people to send a clear message about the kind of stories they want covered on their TV sets.
KJL: Do you have actors willing to be a part of a Gosnell movie? Writers?
MCELHINNEY: Writers and actors have approached us but for right now we are very focused in fundraising
KJL: Is this anything like anything you’ve done before? In terms of not just production but the topic?
MCELHINNEY: All our work highlights stories the mainstream would rather ignore. This is another one of those, and an important one.
KJL: Is it important for women and humanity that this movie get made?
MCELHINNEY: Yes this is an important story. Terrible things happened in Gosnell’s clinic and lots of people knew, and yet his actions were ignored by those in authority who had the public trust. Humanity is lessened when this type of action is condoned at the highest levels, this is what good journalism is supposed to be about.
And women do love crime stories.
KJL: Why are you and your husband and team the right people to do this?
MCELHINNEY: If not us, who? A lot of time has passed and no one else even attempted to make a dramatic movie about this story. We are also the right people we because we love to tell neglected important stories.