A disciplinary committee disbarred disgraced prosecutor Mike Nifong for his leading role in the disastrous and dishonest prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players who he falsely accused of rape last year. Even Nifong agreed that his punishment fit his crime.The only thing left in Nifong’s public humiliation will be the books and the movie that may come of all this. I’d love to write the movie of this slow-motion disaster. In fact, I tried as hard as I knew how to do exactly that.
First, the background: the TV movie business isn’t what it used to be. The networks, for all intents and purposes aren’t interested anymore, leaving the form only to the cable outlets and even that territory isn’t taking up the slack.
The Duke non-rape case was a good example. Ten years ago this might have been the perfect “ripped-from-the-headlines” film. It’s got it all. He said-she said. Sex (or no sex). Athletics. Class struggle. Strippers. A good villain. Ruined lives.
So, as the story was breaking last year, executive Jonathan Eskenas from the Orly Adelson Company and I said to ourselves, “Damn. There’s a movie there.”
As a consequence, I wrote this one-page treatment. You can read it for yourself if you want by clicking the link below to download the PDF file.
We called around. Almost everybody passed in the concept stage. We got one actual pitch, at ABC. The executive we talked to understood the idea, he liked it even, but they passed, too. They just weren’t sure…
Too damn bad. I look at the date on that treatment. June 5, 2006. Almost exactly one year ago. That means, being as fast a writer as I am, that I’d have jetted off to Durham for a few weeks, nosed around, read everything, and would have had a first draft by the end of August. We could have been in pre-production in September, shooting in October or November.
If ABC had bought this pitch, they would have had a movie in their hands for this May’s ratings sweeps, and they’d be re-airing it this week with the Nifong hearing. Tell me that people wouldn’t watch that. We’d have tacked on an ending reflecting the current reality, but it would have been compelling television and I’d be willing to bet that such a movie would have won its time slot.
But the networks are out of the TV movie business. I’m not sure that’s wise. Sounds as clueless as Mike Nifong…
Maybe the feature people will think differently.
Bryce Zabel writes regular dispatches from the culture war