EXCLUSIVE: A&E IndieFilms, the feature production arm of the A&E Network, has partnered with Asylum Entertainment to make the feature documentary Happy Valley. It’s about the drama that rocked the Penn State University community after it was learned school officials covered up allegations that former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky allegedy abused a youth in the showers of the school locker room. The docu will be produced by Passion Pictures’ John Battsek, whose One Day In September won the Oscar, and director Amir Bar-Lev. They teamed previously with A&E IndieFilms on My Kid Could Paint That and the superb sports-themed expose The Tillman Story. Asylum produced The Kennedys. Bob DeBitetto, David McKillop and Molly Thompson will be exec producers for A&E IndieFilms. Asylum principals Jonathan Koch and Steve Michaels will produce with Battsek.
Koch, who is Asylum Entertainment’s president, served his youth as a camp counselor for The Second Mile, the nonprofit organization for underprivileged kids that was founded by Sandusky. Penn State, one of the most storied and stable college football programs in the nation, was rocked to the core in November when a grand jury indicted Sandusky for alleged sex crimes against young boys, some he came in contact with through The Second Mile.
The key charge was that a Penn State assistant coach, then a graduate assistant, witnessed Sandusky molesting a 10-year-old boy in 2002. He did not stop the act, nor did he call the police. Even more shockingly, school higher-ups, including legendary coach Joe Paterno, were told the following day. They did nothing, enabling ex-coach Sandusky to continue bringing children to the campus for years. Sandusky has denied the charges. An administrative house-cleaning followed amidst public outrage that the behavior was allowed to continue, including the dismissal of Paterno during the football season. After 46 years of coaching the team and amassing the most wins for a Division I college football program, Paterno was ousted, his legacy in shambles, and he died soon after.
Earlier today, a judge in Harrisburg, Pa., ruled that Sandusky’s trial will not be delayed and that his day in court will come early next month. Sandusky, Paterno’s former defensive coordinator, will be tried on 52 criminal counts of alleged abuse of 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
“When you are raised in Happy Valley, you feel as though nothing like this could ever happen there,” Koch said. “This project has such gravity, importance and significant personal meaning to me, and I am honored that this extraordinary team of filmmakers has joined me to tell the story.”