Brave New Films’ Robert Greenwald, the documentarian behind such films as the Koch Brothers Exposed and Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, is now exposing the money behind the National Rifle Association in a new film that lays bare the growing amount of power the lobbying group has been able to wield via politicians over the years. “What we do in the film is make clear that the gun companies and manufacturers are profiting, and the 2nd Amendment is serving the greed,” Greenwald told Deadline.
Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA is on its way to becoming one of the most widely distributed documentaries as the filmmakers are relentlessly screening across the country through a grassroots effort that involves the faith community, teachers, medical centers, libraries, homes, community centers, with unions, and elected officials.
“By Labor Day,” Greenwald says proudly, “we will have screened the film in more than 1,000 different venues.” They are also negotiating to bring the film out even wider with a yet unnamed distributor.
This comes only one day after a student took a gun to UCLA and killed his professor William Klug (a 39- year-old father of two small children) and himself. There is a bill right now to create a California Firearm Violence Research Center to research firearm-related violence (SB 1006); the bill passed the CA Senate that is now waiting on an Assembly vote. The NRA has opposed any kind of bill involving firearm violence research.
Making a Killing notes that Congress has prevented studies to collect data on how to reduce gun violence and have encouraged a bill to allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses nationwide. At the same time, the film exposes the high salaries of the NRA executives, such as executive director Wayne LaPierre (about $900K/year) and how the money from the NRA then funnels to politicians who then vote in favor of what the gun manufacturers want.
“Gun violence is now so common an occurrence that we as a nation are somewhat inured to its horror,” said filmmaker Bill Benenson. “Put simply, the NRA is an institutional cancer on our way of life and this film is dedicated to making Americans aware of that clear and present danger.”
Making a Killing’s budget was cobbled together with 1/3 from foundations, 1/3 from small donors and 1/3 from private donors such as exec producers Bill and Laurie Benenson who also brought the films Beasts of No Nation from Cary Joji Fukunaga and MAK, Kissing the Ground from Sundance Audience Award winning filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell to the screen. All of Benenson’s investments speak to the issues about which he and his wife are most passionate about: gun violence, conservation, and exploitation of the disenfranchised.
The film, which has gone grassroots in its marketing by holding screenings among various gun violence prevention groups (such as Colorado Ceasefire in conjunction with the Denver Film Society or in Los Angeles thru the highly effective Women Against Gun Violence), has been offering up the film for free to any group — gun violence prevention or pro-gun group — who would like to show it to their organization or host a screening in their community or home.
It’s a break from the traditional model that Greenwald’s Brave New Films has implemented in the past. This time around, the production company is releasing the full-length film all over the country while at the same time using the power of social media by creating original short films and offering about 20 short clips from the film to be shared online. They even created study guides for teachers.
One original short film reveals that school shootings have tripled since 1980 and uses as an example a 12-year-old in Nevada who killed a teacher and a student before taking his own life.
In another original short, they interview a number of doctors in the U.S., now gagged from talking to their patients about gun safety in the home; they cannot, by law, discuss guns but can still talk about putting a fence around swimming pools to prevent drownings. (If doctors talk about guns with their patients and someone reports them, they could lose their medical license).
“We want to reach as many people as possible with this film so everyone knows what is actually happening in this country,” Greenwald explains. “A lot of this, people just aren’t aware of.” The goal is to have the film reach one million people to lift the curtain on how the NRA is profiting for those it represents by marketing fear to a society in order to sell more guns.
Making a Killing was a year and 10 months in the making — about as long as it took to make the expose on Walmart and its labor practices.
Making a Killing intersperses stories of gun violence victims including that of suicides (which accounts for 2/3rds of deaths in the U.S. every year), domestic violence, accidental shootings, gun trafficking in Chicago, and mass shootings so the audience can understand the varying kind of crimes involving guns and the wide impact on victims, survivors, families and friends. One of the stories they tell is that of Kate Ranta whose estranged husband burst into their home and started shooting her in front of their four-year-old son.
Another one of the families whose story they tell is the family and girlfriend of 18-year-old A.J. Boik, murdered (along with my cousin Micayla and 10 others) in the Aurora Theater shooting during the midnight screening of Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises at the Cinemark Century 16 on July 20, 2012. One of those interviewed in the film is A.J. Boik’s uncle Dave Hoover who is a police officer (a good guy with a gun) with 30 years of law enforcement experience under his belt.
“Why I participated in this effort is the personal nature and the great loss of A.J. and 11 others in that theater in addition to the aftermath and carnage that is created in our communities daily by gun violence,” said Hoover. “No other family should have to go through the pain and anguish that we’ve gone through. Nobody should. To me, it seems irresponsible not be involved because we are all part of the human race. People don’t understand that when that bullet leaves a gun, the results after that happening, it just doesn’t just end there. They are going to carry both an emotional and financial burden. A gun is a tool but it is designed to take life and it has to be treated with reverence and responsibility — personal responsibility — that you are trained to know how to use it, are prepared to use it and that also means to be financially prepared to use it, and that they are safely stored so a child doesn’t get shot in the chest.”
“We are dying inside. Something’s got to be done. This is happening too much … every day,” laments Eva Shiels in the film. Shiels is the sister of Sandy Aponte and aunt of 13-year-old Eddie Zee Holmes who was killed unintentionally when his 13-year-old friend picked up a shotgun which was not locked up by the parents, pointed it and shot his friend in the chest.
Added Benenson: “Gun violence is the scourge of our time in America.” Today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day.