Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Controversy Over The Lifetime Movie Seems To Be Stirring Some Needed Changes

Posted by Peter Quennell

[Above The President and CEO of the A&E network and Lifetime TV Abbe Raven]

Our various previous posts on this controversial movie can be seen here.

This movie became so controversial so fast because Meredith’s mother Arlene spoke up sharply to the free-lance reporter Nick Pisa (one of the most energetic reporters on the case from Perugia who we often quote from here) about the convicted killer Amanda Knox being idolised like this, while her daughter Meredith, the real victim, was the one long overdue some compassion.

There is still no reporting of reaching-out to Meredith’s family in London. Such arrogant callousness toward the family of a victim who died cruelly and needlessly in immense pain would have caused a firestorm if that victim’s family had been living here in the United States.

But Lifetime and the production team do seem to have come so far as to have realized now that this is not a black and white case, at least not in the way that they were originally thinking. And that the original TV movie concept might do them at least as much harm as good.

The lawyers for Amanda Knox in Perugia are still being quoted in the Italian media as disliking the timing of this film. If it causes Raffaele Sollecito and his own legal team to finally separate (we believe the relationship is now dangling by a single thread) and he hangs Amanda Knox out to dry, she and her legal team would have headaches like nothing they so far imagined.

The Italian authorities - including the Italian equivalent of the FBI in Rome - are clearly very tired of being ignorantly mischaracterized for what the Massei Report shows (in face of an unmistakable crime scene rearrangement and a lot of blown smoke) to have been a very strong case that would have ended in “guilty” in almost any courtroom in the world.

Lifetime have accordingly renamed the movie Tangled rather than The Amanda Knox Story. And there are suggestions that the movie will now depict how the three killers got in over their heads, rather than how two of them were framed in the middle of a blissful love affair.

Lifetime TV say the film is selling well around the world and could be broadcast on the Lifetime channel in the US as soon as next March. It will be shot in Rome and, presumably, in Seattle where Amanda Knox grew up.

Director Robert Dornhelm (image at bottom) in interviews here and here still sounds like he swallowed the “railroaded and framed” kool-aid, and he sounds quite ignorant of Massei. But he says he will not “weave his point of view” into the film’s final result.

Writer Wendy Battles does not seem to have given any interviews, but she works in a fragile occupation as a freelance, and there are many ready to take her place if she slips here. Her filmography is exclusively of the cliffhanger who-dunnit kind of TV series, and character development and love stories don’t seem to figure in it prominently if at all.

The actress Hayden Panettiere, a former child actress,  is now known mostly for one recurring TV role, that of a bubbly and rather ditsy cheerleader in ABC’s long-running and now-concluded Heroes series. Actresses who become prominent so young (she was in her teens for most of the series) seem to have a real problem keeping their life and career on the tracks. There are other actresses with real acting skills and very bright mentalities (Kristen Stewart, Emma Stone, and Anna Kendrick) who’ll leave her in the dust if she gets this one wrong.

The Lifetime channel would seem to be a strange vehicle for this movie if it is intended to have any more clout in the US than the passively-received Oprah Winfrey show - which has twice the audience, by the way. Lifetime is watched mostly by women without college education, and as it often seems anti-men (it is quite rare for a woman to be the villain) it attracts not many male viewers at all.

There is no sign that Lifetime TV has been gaining in audience share lately, and its immediate parent the A&E network is not the respected powerhouse network it once was. Hostility toward Lifetime grew considerably last year, when its anti-man bias caused it to depart wildly from known facts. 

If you are inclined to provide Lifetime with helpful advice to get the movie right, emails are usually not nearly as effective as written letters. The Lifetime headquarters where decisions on this movie are made is located a block or so west of Times Square in Manhattan.

    Lifetime Television, 111 8 Av @W 16th St New York, NY 10001 212-641-3300

The officers of the company are as follows. The President and CEO of A&E and Lifetime is Abbe Raven (image below), the CFO is James Wesley, and the Chief Marketing Officer is Bob Bibb. In the Lifetime operation Neil Schubert is the Senior VP of Publicity, Julie Stern is the VP of Production, and Sandy Varo is the VP of Reality Programming.

Lifetime and A&E are owned 50% by Hearst Corporation (which also owns the Seattle PI) and 50% by the Disney Corporation (which 100% owns the ABC network). The Seattle PI hosts Candace Dempsey’s blog.

It also carries Rome-based reporter Andrea Vogt’s sharp, accurate and incisive reporting on the case. Good source if the team want to get all the facts correct.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/05/10 at 05:04 PM in Various hypothesesMovies on case


Here are Hayden Panettiere’s contact details -in a zipcode area made famous by a TV series:

William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment
Brian DePersia, agent
9601 Wilshire Blvd
3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/05/10 at 08:03 PM | #

This is the contact address for the writer Wendy Battles who we believe lives and mainly works in New York. Same zipcode - same company - as La Panettiere. 

William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment
Paul Haas, Agent
9601 Wilshire Blvd
3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/05/10 at 10:18 PM | #


I’ve just mailed a letter to Abbe Raven, President of Lifetime, thanks to Peter who compiled much info in his post. The letter is one page and urges Lifetime to focus on Meredith and not be taken in by the spirit of a charm that seems to underpin Foxy.

Steve Moore debacle: his “id driven attempt to rebalance”. If he left the FBI at his own request, stress induced, maybe he set himself up to be fired to balance the books emotionally. Pepperdine doesn’t sound like his cup of tea, not action man. Odd that a guy hired to ensure the safety of college kids, would defend their killers.

Some Jekyll and Hyde going on here, a mirror of Foxy and Raf’s muddle.

Posted by Hopeful on 10/05/10 at 10:37 PM | #

In 2006 the movie, Karla was released.

This movie was based on the true crimes of Canadians Karla Holmolka and her husband Paul Bernardo who were convicted of raping and murdering two teenage girls.

At the time, Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty called for a boycott of the movie and said, ” It’s an unfortunate development for people to choose to capitalize on a terrible and horrific tragedy”.

In 1994 filmmaker, Peter Simpson bought the rights to the book, Invisible Darkness written by Stephen Williams. Simpson later had to abandon the movie project due to public outcry.

Despite the true crime events having occurred in Canada, nobody in the Canadian film industry wanted to become involved with this movie project.

As a consequence, the movie was filmed entirely in the US with an all American cast and crew.

The movie Karla includes the following words in it’s rating: ” BRUTAL TORTURE, RAPE, MURDER”

Posted by True North on 10/06/10 at 05:33 AM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

I think this film should be abandoned.  No-one should profit from this or any murder.  The obvious pain this idea is causing Meredith’s family should be enough to make anyone with a heart stop and think again.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 10/07/10 at 01:45 PM | #

@ Innai - I completely agree with you. I find the whole idea of this movie pretty disgusting. An innocent young woman, Meredith Kercher, a sister, daughter and friend was brutally murdered and her family and friends are in pain, how can this be used as a moneymaking scheme in this way?

Are people so disconnected? Has reality and fiction blurred into one for some of the US public? (I’m not trying to make a value judgement here, but I think there is really a cultural difference in this respect between the UK/ Europe and the USA, I can’t imagine this happening in the UK and I don’t understand why anyone would think Meredith’s murder is ‘entertainment’.)

Posted by lilly on 10/07/10 at 04:57 PM | #

entertainment it is not, but why are we all here?? the glib answer would be we want justice for meredith…and that is true enough, although i never knew meredith. what brought me to this case was the fact that i too had studied in perugia and then i was fascinated by whatever psychology could allow a seemingly normal american girl to participate (and it seems now even more than that) in such a horrific murder of a roommate…the sideshow that her parents and supporters have provided make it all the more compelling.

as for the movie…the least they could do was actually read the reports and get the facts in evidence. in that respect, this movie could actually serve to deal with a lot of the misinformation that has been spread by the ignorant media.

Posted by mojo on 10/07/10 at 06:20 PM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

I am sure there are various reasons people participate on this site - however no-one here is going to get paid nor further their career by participating.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 10/07/10 at 06:28 PM | #

@ mojo - it’s a movie, someone’s fictional account and not a documentary. I think it’s a terrible idea that movies, which are not factual but works of imagination - fiction - should be used to “clear up misinformation”. How can they? “Based on a true story” is not the same as “the truth”. It’s a dangerous world when people can’t see the difference between fantasy and reality. (Knox can’t.)

Posted by lilly on 10/07/10 at 09:25 PM | #

TJMK isn’t and never was intended merely as an interesting alternative read of a complex case that for many readers such as those in Seattle is halfway around the world.

It really is Team Meredith with a vengeance, a campaign drawing upon a smart, kind and caring web-based community to bring public perceptions to the tipping point where all but a lonely looney few accept that justice for Meredith really has been done here and that the case is legitimately closed.

Then hopefully some very overdue peace may descend upon Meredith’s family and her many friends.

It is also furthering what we occasionally have called the Meredith Effect which is gradually but surely making a difference at several different places around the world. Here is one example of the Meredith Effect and there are various others now emerging.

If Lifetime wants to do something USEFUL for the lives of many girls and women, it should be bringing out the qualities of Meredith - a super-achiever who might have risen through the international agencies to be one of the more important women in the world. Her’s is a very empowering story until it was cut short, and dissipated very widely, it would be a very good progressor of the Meredith Effect.

If Lifetime has a genuine mission to empower women then Meredith’s story [see below] is the one it should seek to tell. Lifetime should not be propagating unsuitable role models such as convicted killers with a drug addiction, even very troubled ones, in its movies. And it should not be be misleading and disturbing girls and women by wrongly making them think that the state and the police and the justice system are not their friend.


This on Meredith is from a post on the Massei Report when we put it on the site six weeks ago.

Meredith really hit the ground running in Perugia. She had dreamed of it for a long time. She bonded immediately with her two nice Italian flaltmates, who were both working in town, and soon with the neighbors downstairs. Within days she had an “instant crowd’ of the girls from Leeds and other UK universities. She liked the house, liked the clubs, liked walking Perugia, liked the culture and the fun festivals in Perugia. Her first encounters with her new boyfriend downstairs, an Italian musician, were said to be shy and sweet.

And she was focussed and already working her tail off. She had won a well-funded Erasmus grant and although she wanted to work a little, she had no worries about money. She arrived with an excellent command of Italian after two years of hard study at the European Studies school in Leeds, and at the Università per Stranieri she was clearly going to excel. She was also studying politics and economics at the main university, which was very close, and she seemed set to go very far - her eyes were already on the powerful international bodies in Brussels.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/07/10 at 09:42 PM | #

According to several articles, there will be another movie about the murder and the trial and and Michael Winterbottom and British actor Colin Firth are collaborating —Firth is an actor and is also supposedly helping with the writing.  In a couple of interviews he has even mentioned that he questions the evidence and the fairness of the trial.  Perhaps the cultural difference between the UK and US that lilly alluded to is narrowing on this subject.

Here is one of the articles:

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 10/08/10 at 03:55 AM | #

Hi Mo. Actually we have made several mentions of this other movie in the past two weeks and we have a comprehensive post on it coming up.

Our latest information is different from what you state here, that Colin Firth questions the evidence and fairness of the trial.

We need to make allowances for the Massei Effect and the effect of these posts here on the other film. That is a lot of reading to be done, and for that reason nobody hits the ground running on this case.

There is now a slight possibility that this film might not even be made. Massei does kinda take away the suspense and sensationalism and second guessing and sliming of officialdom which is sometimes the sole basis for the promotion of such films.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/08/10 at 04:32 AM | #

Like the others I sincerely hope that no films are made about this case, especially because of the pain caused to Meredith’s family, and also it stands on principle that no film should be made of any case til all the appeals are completed.  If the films are made prior to the appeals process reaching completion they serve as propaganda, slanted to one side or the other.

The article I referred to is actually the third one that I read where the writer claimed that Colin Firth questioned the evidence and fairness of the trial and that upset me.  I find it particularly egregious when celebrities and public figures spout off and influence others if they haven’t apprised themselves of all the facts.  I have always liked Colin Firth as an actor but would hate to see him join the ranks of Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, misled by and spreading propaganda.

Posted by Mo-in-Mass.,USA on 10/08/10 at 01:35 PM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

It would be disappointing if Mr. Firth was questioning the evidence and fairness of the trial - the reports I have seen have also mentioned his wife is Italian and he spends a lot of time in Italy, one would hope then that he speaks a little Italian and understands the country somewhat.  Hopefully he will have accessed the Italian reporting on Meredith’s case (which was pretty good - tended to be unbiased, factual and without sensation) and will at least be aware of the Massei Report and will hopefully read it.

The reports I have seen suggest that Mr. Firth’s film will be looking at the media coverage of the case and trial - maybe it will be looking at the way the case was being reported in the US as compared to the reporting in Italy. 

I still don’t want to see a film made of any of the events surrounding Meredith’s murder.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 10/08/10 at 05:15 PM | #

i agree with you Mo about spreading propaganda…but they also have a wide audience base and have a chance to get the facts…especially in a case that has gone to trial. i don’t live in the US, but when i speak with friends about this case most of them seem to think amanda was stitched up. a movie that concentrates on meredith, the other roommates and how this case has unfolded COULD put a lot of the misconceptions to rest. if this movie goes ahead, it will be on US tv. those of us overseas may get a chance to see it, but one thing is sure, we can’t judge it till it’s out there.

lilly, you’re right it’s a movie and not a documentary, but there’s no reason that it has to be fiction where actual facts can be verified. we have all followed this case—but most people have not—other than a headline here or there, and if you compare this to other cases such as holloway or ramsey there’s not been much coverage. where do you stop, no press, no tv, no books, no media at all?

Posted by mojo on 10/08/10 at 05:56 PM | #

By Storm Roberts (Innai)

With regards to your last paragraph Mojo, personally I think it is inappropriate to profit from other people’s tragedies.

I think fair and factual news coverage (be it the DTP, internet or televisual) is important, beyond that I get uncomfortable. 

I disagree with, and not just in this case, chat shows, televisually I would put the boundary at things like the Porta a Porta programme (see Cesare Beccaria’s posts starting here http://www.truejustice.org/ee/index.php?/tjmk/comments/how_each_of_the_three_subtly_but_surely_pushed_the_other_two_closer_to/#comments ).

Books I am less happy with, because they are published with the intention of making profit (publishers are businesses after all!), films etc are unnecessary and are again, made for profit.  I feel the film business is worse than the publishing of books because there frequently is the intrusion of ‘artistic licence’ which can be very distorting, and like it or not, most people consider films to be a form of entertainment.

As I say, that’s my personal opinion.

Posted by Nolongeramember on 10/08/10 at 08:24 PM | #
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