EXCLUSIVE: Producers Edward R. Pressman and Shep Gordon have partnered with Tower director Keith Maitland for a documentary about Michael Brody Jr., a 21-year-old hippie millionaire who in 1970 promised to give away his $25M inheritance in an effort to usher in a new era of world peace. Pressman and Gordon initially developed a picture about Brody in the late 1970s. Maitland has drawn widespread acclaim for his documentary Tower, which has been shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature Oscar and is nominated by the Producers Guild. The film details the first mass school shooting in the U.S. at the University of Texas in 1966, when a sniper took a position in a clock tower and murdered 14 people and wounded 32 before he was shot down. The film became an oddly timely look back at a shocking event, at a time when such senseless acts of terrorism with guns happen on a monthly basis all over the world.
Brody, Jr. was an heir to the Jelke oleomargarine fortune and became a counterculture curiosity when he turned 21, and announced he would start giving away his fortune to anyone who needed it because he wanted peace in the world. He later said the inspiration came while he was high on drugs, and he was forced to go into hiding after he wrote a bunch of checks that bounced. He became a troubled man who was once arrested and accused of making threats on the life of President Richard Nixon and he eventually took his own life. Gordon, the subject of the Mike Myers docu Supermensch who just published his autobiography They Call Me Supermensch, has been trying to mount a narrative movie on Brody’s saga, for decades.
“In the early 1970s, the story of Michael Brody Jr. rocked the headlines,” says Gordon. “I thought it was such a compelling tale of the times that I decided to acquire the rights for a narrative feature as the first project for Alive Films. Now decades later, brilliant filmmaker Keith Maitland is tackling a documentary about the heartbreaking story of a troubled young man who’s idealistic actions ended in tragedy.”
Said Pressman: “Oftentimes in our industry projects take many years to find the right person to bring them to the screen. With his unique and powerful way of storytelling, Keith is the perfect filmmaker to bring the Michael Brody Jr. story to life,” says Pressman. “I’m thrilled to be partnering with Keith, Shep, and the rest of our team on a documentary that I’m confident will make a similar impact on audiences that Tower has.”
Said Maitland: “It’s easy to see why Ed and Shep wanted to make a film about Michael Brody Jr. — it’s an incredible, untold story,” says Maitland. “And it’s an honor to work alongside these legendary producers on a project with as much urgency as ever.”
Maitland will produce under his Go-Valley banner and reunite with Tower co-horts cinematographer/producer Sarah Wilson and Emmy-winning producer Megan Gilbride. They will produce with Melissa Robyn Glassman, the former director of development for Pressman Film before she formed Twelve21 Productions last year. Pressman and Gordon will be exec producers along with Pressman Film’s Jon Katz and Alive Films’ Carolyn Pfeiffer. They’ve already gotten a grant from the Austin Film Society.