Brady And Goliath: Gunfight on Capitol Hill
TYPE: Documentary Feature
A small group of gun violence prevention activists, headed by Jim and Sarah Brady, took on the most powerful lobbying group in America - and won!
Major political players and highprofile media of the '80s and '90s recount how the Bradys' gentle determination on Capitol Hill surmounted the well-organized, better-funded and highly influential NRA’s massive resistance to the Brady Bill.
It took nearly seven years for Jim and Sarah Brady to lead their small team to victory. In spite of being out-manned and out-spent by the National Rifle Association, the Brady Bill became law in 1993. This inspirational story shows how people from all sides of the political spectrum were able to work together for the benefit of the American people.
In March 1981, President Reagan’s newly appointed Press Secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head during an assassination attempt in front of the Washington Hilton Hotel. The shooter, John Hinckley, had purchased his pistol without having to show any proper identification. The incident would change Sarah and Jim’s lives irrevocably and lead them to become crusaders in gun violence prevention.
Working with Handgun Control, Inc., Jim and Sarah championed the Brady Bill, a modest piece of federal legislation that would create a waiting period to allow local law enforcement to conduct background checks on guns sold by registered dealers. The Brady Bill was intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. The majority of Americans supported the bill, but it faced incredible resistance from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, intimidated by the NRA’s threats and promises.
Today, Capitol Hill is mired in gridlock. Lawmakers of both parties have dug in their heels and are more likely to lob verbal assaults at one another than work together crafting and passing laws. The period during which the Brady Bill made its way through Congress was an equally challenging time, yet a few people with conviction and endurance were able to effect meaningful change within the political structure. Brady and Goliath will serve as a playbook for how concerned citizens can organize to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and create lasting change in our nation’s capitol.
With incredible access to those involved in this historic legislative battle, how the Brady Bill became law is one of Washington’s great, untold tales. As the 35th anniversary of the assassination attempt on President Reagan nears, we are creating a permanent record of the recollections of the lawmakers, activists and media personalities at the center of the bill’s tumultuous advance.
The narrative arc of a film is often about how the hero changes over the course of the story; but our heroes, Jim and Sarah Brady, became the agents of change for Congress and the American people. By their physical presence, their sincerity and their steadfast determination, Jim and Sarah were an undeniable manifestation of tragedy’s human side. They forced the American people and members of Congress to look beyond ideology, rhetoric and statistics to see that real people were suffering as a result of the ease with which people legally prohibited from owning guns could buy them. While Jim and Sarah were a constant reminder to congressmen that their vote mattered, they never shied away from calling them “cowardly lions” if they thought they were dodging the issue.
As a result, President Ronald Reagan, who had been a longtime supporter of the NRA, publicly came out to endorse the Brady Bill. Congressman Les Aucoin wrote an editorial in the Washington Post about his defection from the NRA to support the Brady Bill. Countless other congressmen put themselves on the line as well – even knowing the likely political repercussions.
None of this would have happened without Jim and Sarah Brady.
Before the assassination attempt, Jim Brady was the life of the party – a modern day Friar Tuck, brimming with intelligence and warmth. It was no mistake that Ronald Reagan chose Jim as Press Secretary, and he was immensely popular with the White House press corps. To truly understand the loss and the magnitude of his suffering, we must show Jim as he was before and after the shooting.
Since very little video footage of Jim prior to the shooting has survived, we will create “home movie re-enactments” akin to those in Sarah Polley’s The Stories We Tell and animation similar to that in Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugarman. We will combine these techniques with audio recordings of Jim as Press Secretary to creative effect.
We believe audiences will draw parallels between now and the 1980’s regarding gun violence and the inability of congress to act. For example, while the horrors of Newtown CT are still fresh in the national consciousness, most people don’t remember the Stockton CA schoolyard massacre that occurred in 1989. The reflective aesthetic will be further emphasized by filming the main players, including Sarah, as they watch video of events that involved them long ago -- in essence reliving and commenting on them. Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin used this technique with the Rolling Stones in Gimme Shelter.
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Dana H. Glazer - Director
Dana Glazer is an award winning filmmaker and father of three young kids living in northern New Jersey. He has written screenplays for Warner Brothers and the Syfy Channel. He teaches film at Fairleigh Dickinson University, produces short videos for USA Today and writes for the Huffington Post. His fatherhood documentary, The Evolution of Dad (www.evolutionofdad.com), was featured in the New York Times, CNN and the Today Show and recently played at the White House. Dana’s second documentary, Parents of the Revolution, (www.parentsoftherevolution.com), is about activist parents in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Currently, Dana is making a documentary, called Brady and Goliath: Gunfight On Capitol Hill, about Jim and Sarah Brady’s battle with the NRA to get the Brady Bill passed.
Peter J. Nicoll - Cinematographer/Producer
Peter Nicoll has worked as a Director of Photography in Washington, DC, New York, Boston and around the world. He loves shooting in difficult places and temperatures from -40 degrees in Alaska to the marble halls of the US capitol. Recent work as a cinematographer include shows for Fremantle Media, Showtime Sports, PBS, Alex Gibney's Jigsaw Productions, Trouper Productions, White Dwarf Productions, commercials, and corporate clients all over the United States.
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