articles on the film "karla"   (previously called "deadly")



 

News Release:  Politicians must punish Canadian distributor of "Deadly"


Note regarding the Globe and Mail article below (Karla's Investors Say They Want Cash).   Peter Simpson of Norstar Filmed Entertainment, who is identified in this item as the Canadian representative of "Karla's" American producer, previously tried to make another movie about the case.  Simpson's movie, based on the book  Invisible Darkness, was roundly condemned by politicians.  Apparently, Simpson is still interested in trying to cash in on these terrible crimes, as evidenced from his role in "Karla".  Read more about Invisible Darkness and Mr. Simpson in this section, including a letter I wrote to him that provides details on some of the funding he's received from government.  Isn't it nice to know that we, the taxpayer, give money to people like Simpson?

Valerie Smith, Toronto, Ontario May 10, 2007


Karla's investors say they want cash 

May 10, 2021
Globe and Mail
By Simon Houpt

NEW YORK - A war of words has erupted between the American producer and the Canadian distributor of Karla after the controversial feature film about Karla Homolka failed to turn a profit at the box office and had its DVD release delayed by more than a year because of resistance from video distributors.

Michael Sellers, the chief executive officer of Burbank-based MovieBank Studios and the film's producer, accused Christal Films of Montreal this week of failing to share any of the box-office earnings or even provide him an accounting of the film's performance despite more than six months of queries.

"I need some ammunition to go to my investors with," Sellers said.

"They haven't seen a penny from Canada.

"Because of that, there's a growing sense that I'm not pursuing their case aggressively enough, and there's a lot of pressure building on me."

His Canadian representative, Peter Simpson of Norstar Filmed Entertainment, who helped broker the deal, said he was embarrassed he had vouched for Christal president Christian Larouche.

"I've gone from threatening to begging to appealing to his better half - apparently he doesn't have one," said Simpson. According to figures provided to The Globe and Mail by Christal, Karla took in about $600,000 during its eight-week Canadian theatrical run, which began in January, 2006. The agreement between the two companies calls for MovieBank to receive 10 per cent of the film's gross receipts, which, after the theatres have taken their cut, works out to about $30,000 to $40,000.

However, this week Christal's Larouche insisted his company didn't owe MovieBank anything. "We spent money to launch the picture," he said. "The film didn't do what it was supposed to do on theatrical, so we cannot [pay MovieBank] until we recoup."

Simpson says the company spent far too much on advertising and distribution expenses.Given the title's toxic reputation, Sellers said, "the perception at the time was that the DVD was really where the money was." But the film's likelihood of recoupment was seriously damaged after Christal scuttled plans for a DVD release last summer. At the time, the company refused to offer an explanation to the press. But in an e-mail to an expectant fan, a Christal representative said Sellers had put the project on hold and, therefore, the company's hands were tied.

In fact, e-mails recently obtained by The Globe and Mail show that Sellers and Simpson were outraged that Christal had nixed the DVD release, and were working furiously behind the scenes to take back the non-theatrical rights in order to salvage some of the film's potential earnings. But their phone calls, e-mails and other entreaties failed entirely. Simpson said he was disappointed that several meeting he had set up with Christal representatives at last September's Toronto Film Festival were scheduled and cancelled. This week, Larouche said the problem with the DVD release had been a wariness among Christal's video distribution partners. "Nobody at that time wanted to touch it, so we decided to let the situation cool a bit," he said. "We know a lot of people want to see the movie."

He added that Christal will release the DVD on its own this September.

Informed of the news, Sellers groused, "Nice to learn that from the press."

His partner in the venture didn't mince words given the fear within the film industry over piracy, distributors commonly seek to release movies on DVD as soon as possible. "What's with him releasing in September?" asks Simpson. "What kind of idiot pretends he understands the business and lets piracy rip off every dollar opportunity like that?"

The DVD came out last month in the U.S. and can be easily ordered online. Like many other films, Karla is also believed to be available for illegal downloading.

Simpson added that he believes Christal had not fully attempted to capitalize on the film by selling it into other markets such as broadcast or pay-TV.

Larouche did not return a call and an e-mail seeking further comment.

Ever optimistic, Sellers said the delay in the Canadian DVD release could have one potential upside: It would give him time to prepare special features such as a roundtable of experts on the Homolka case, as well as a producer's commentary, which he had proposed to Christal last spring.

"One of the things I'm really itching to do is take people on a guided tour of this movie," he said. "I'd like to say, 'This is what we thought we were doing, this is what we saw, this is what [the star Laura Prepon] was thinking when she played this scene. This is how the filmmakers intended this scene to be understood,' " he said. "That's another reason to try to get back on track with these guys."


Karla flick sure to bring more pain 
Film is pretty well done but don't expect anything new 

January 11, 2021
Toronto Sun
By Alan Cairns

Misha Collins and Laura Prepon play Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka in the movie Karla. This scene didn’t make the final cut. Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka's horrible creep show has finally made it to Hollywood.

But don't expect a happy ending to the movie Karla, a low-budget Ken and Barbie-gone-horribly-wrong shock flick that will leave the secrecy of a California studio and come to a theatre near you on Jan. 20.

Not even Hollywood can turn this sordid and twisted tale into a winter heartwarmer.

I predict that some rather chilling renditions of the rapes and deaths of victims Tammy Homolka, 15, Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15, will likely have you throwing up your overpriced popcorn.

The names of the young victims are changed but those of us who lived through this will know exactly who they are. Moviemaker Michael Sellers claims Karla is based on court transcripts from Paul Bernardo's summer 1995 trial.

As someone who reported on the case for the Toronto Sun and co-authored the book Deadly Innocence with former Sun scribe Scott Burnside, I can tell you after watching a pre-release copy of the movie in the newsroom yesterday that the assertion is largely true.

Sellers tries his best to capture the essence of Bernardo and Homolka and often goes to extremes to make scenes and props authentic. For example, Bernardo's champagne gold Nissan sports car, the couple's Rottweiler puppy, Buddy, and the interior of the couple's rented Port Dalhousie home are pretty much spot on.

But there are also truths that will really hurt.

The sickening homemade movies that Justice Patrick Lesage felt were too evil and depraved to show publicly in courtroom 6-2 at 361 University Ave. 10 years ago will violently be splashed across the silver screen.

While the brutal scenes and Bernardo's scripting of his victims have been watered down, squeezed and compressed, they remain stark and can only mean more hurt for the murdered girls' parents.

And don't expect anything new from Karla. The movie largely trots out the same old stuff that was plastered across the front pages of daily newspapers and lead the nightly TV newscasts at the time of Bernardo's trial and has since then been covered by at least four major books.

BEAUTIFUL-YET-DEADLY

The movie portrays the cataclysmic events that occurred between the couple's animal-like sex-at-first-sight meeting in October 1987 and their sensational confrontation at Bernardo's 1995 trial.

Moviemaker Sellers tries to enter "the facts" of the beautiful-yet-deadly couple's crimes through a part-fact, part-fiction mind-bending session between Homolka and a psychiatrist prior to her 2001 early release hearing.

Homolka is portrayed as part-vamp, part-victim by actress Laura Prepon. As good an actress as Prepon is, she is far too strong and assertive to play the morally and emotionally lacking Homolka.

Prepon is also way too beautiful and sexy in the role.

Misha Collins' scene-by-scene portrayal of Bernardo is pretty much right on, although Bernardo's character development is sadly lacking.

The ultimate outcome is a series of fact-based highlights of sex, abuse, rape and murder sandwiched clumsily between Homolka's explanation of events to the shrink.

There are also some startling errors and omissions.

A major invention in the movie occurs when the shrink tells Homolka that an FBI profiler, an RCMP supervisor and the cops believe Paul Bernardo's claims that Homolka killed Kristen French.

The assertion -- that a captive Kristen strangled herself after Homolka hit her with a mallet as she tried to escape -- was in fact made by Bernardo's lawyer John Rosen during Bernardo's trial.

CREATIVE LIBERTIES

Also made up was a TV news segment which falsely puts Homolka on the run after Bernardo's arrest.

Oddly, the movie ends with Homolka speaking as a narrator to the viewer.

Incredibly as it may seem, the movie fails to make any reference of the fairytale-like wedding the couple had in Niagara-on-the-Lake June 29, 1991.

It seems to me the horse-and-carriage, tuxedo and gown, roast pheasant affair would be just perfect for Hollywood. Also conspicuous by its absence is the Hawaiian honeymoon departure only days later.

Perhaps the props and extras needed for the wedding -- and the trip to Hawaii -- were beyond the budget?

But to be fair to Sellers, anyone would have a tough time boiling years and years of sensational, shocking and well-documented events down to an hour and a half or so of movie script.


Homolka film spurs global interest

December 7, 2020
Globe and Mail
By Gayle MacDonald

A firestorm of protest here over the release of the film Karla -- a low-budget movie about Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo's schoolgirl-killing spree -- has apparently only whetted the appetite of European distributors, who are snapping the movie up.

The film's producer, Michael Sellers of Hollywood-based Quantum Entertainment, has sold Karla to 12 European territories, where distributors have been impressed, he says, with his movie's "artistic merits" as well as with Laura Prepon's performance as Homolka.

Sources close to Sellers added yesterday that Quantum is on the verge of finalizing a distribution deal in Canada, which could be announced early next week. Sellers refused to comment, but said that he has been speaking to a handful of distributors in Canada who have expressed "strong interest." A deal will guarantee a new round of debate about the merits of dramatizing the exploits of two of this country's most loathed criminals.

The movie, which stars Prepon of That '70s Show fame, and Misha Collins as Bernardo, has distribution deals in Australia (Eagle Entertainment); in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Moviebank BVE); in Brazil (Alphaville Films); in Germany, Switzerland and Austria (Falcom Media Group); and also in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark (where it will be released by CCV-AS).

"Our distributor in Germany, for instance, is the same company that did Monster [Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos]," says Sellers. "Our film has the same kind of attributes as a film like Monster. And there has been a positive reaction particularly to Laura's performance as Homolka."

If a Canadian distribution deal is reached, the film will likely hit theatres some time during the first half of 2006. That will be a further blow to the families of the victims, who are reeling from a Quebec Superior Court decision last week to remove all the restrictions placed on Homolka since her release from jail last summer. The government of Quebec will appeal that ruling.

In Karla, Homolka is apparently played as a victim for most of the film. As Globe and Mail reporter Simon Houpt put it recently: "I don't think that this is a portrayal that Karla Homolka herself is going to have that much trouble with."

Sellers says he is fully aware of and empathetic to the sensitivity of the subject matter for all Canadians. "The film, I know, has a special set of circumstances in Canada. We have to be respectful and careful around that. But if one takes Canada out of the equation, the film has always held promise as one that would find an audience. It was up to us to make sure we made it the right way."

Last fall, Karla was dropped from the lineup of the Montreal World Film Festival after sponsors threatened to withdraw support. Ironically, that controversy caught the attention of many international distributors, who suddenly had a hook to market the film.

The Canadian film-distribution community is sharply divided over Karla. Last summer, distributor Jeff Sackman urged in an e-mail to 25 members of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters that "we remain united in our membership (and community) that no one would pick this up." Others argued that it should be left for filmgoers to decide whether or not to buy tickets.

"All I can say about Canada is that we're not being completely ignored," said Sellers, adding that a handful of distributors have expressed serious interest.

He is also negotiating with various specialty distribution divisions of some of the major Hollywood studios. If a deal is not struck, Sellers adds, his company will distribute the movie on its own.


Families step aside on Homolka film - 'They are not the censor police' - Distribution in Canada now likely

October 13, 2021
Toronto Star
By Rick Westhead, Business Reporter

The families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy won't try to block the release of Karla, a film about the slayings of the teens, paving the way for the film's Canadian distribution.

"The families recognize that they are not the censor police," Tim Danson, a lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families, told the Toronto Star. "They understand that people have a constitutional right to make a movie or write a book."

The Hollywood film company behind the controversial movie, depicting the horrific murders by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, says it's close to signing a contract with a distributor that would get the picture into Canadian theatres.

Quantum Entertainment president Michael Sellers said in an interview yesterday that he is in final-stage negotiations with a distributor in Montreal.

Sellers said the decision by the French and Mahaffy families marks "another hurdle that's been overcome in getting this movie made."

Danson said he attended a private screening of Karla in a Toronto hotel suite two weeks ago. The lawyer said he raised concerns that any nude scenes depicting the teenaged victims or visual depictions of their murders may constitute child pornography.

Quantum agreed to remove several scenes - including one eight-frame shot that depicted nudity, Danson said. A director's cut is unlikely, Sellers said.

While the film won't feature nudity or visual depictions of the murders of the teenaged girls, a DVD version to be released next spring will likely include deleted scenes such as clips of the movie version of Bernardo's trial and his relationship with Homolka, Sellers said.

While Danson said that the French and Mahaffy families, who have not seen the film, would prefer a movie wasn't made about their daughters' kidnapping and murder, he declined to elaborate on his views of the film after seeing it.

"My role is not to be a movie critic," Danson said.

Although Sellers declined to name the possible Canadian distributor, a film industry source said the likely company would be Christal Films, a production and distribution company created in 2001 by former Lions Gate Entertainment executive Christian Larouche.

Sylvain Gagne, Christal's vice president of distribution and marketing, confirmed the company is negotiating with Quantum, although "nothing has been decided."

In convincing the French and Mahaffy families not to try to block the film's release, Quantum has overcome a significant roadblock.

Canada's major theatre chains had said that they wouldn't consider showing the controversial movie unless Quantum signed a contract with a Canadian distributor.

Even with a distribution agreement in Canada, it's unclear what rating Karla might receive. Violent films typically receive a "restricted" rating, which limits their potential audience to those 18 years of age and older.

It's possible that Quantum could turn a fortune off the movie even if it didn't appear on a single Canadian screen.

Even without selling a single movie ticket or DVD in Canada, Sellers said Karla might garner as much as $100 million (U.S.) worth of revenue following its scheduled release after Christmas, bolstered by a "best-case" estimate of $50 million in U.S. ticket sales.

The movie is scheduled to be released after Christmas, said Sellers, who also produced Fortunes of War, starring Martin Sheen, and Goodbye America with James Brolin.

Karla was financed by a small group of individual investors and could generate as much as $7 million in foreign distribution rights in countries such as the U.K. and Australia and another $30 million in DVD sales and rentals, Sellers said.

It might also generate income from sales to pay television companies like HBO or Showtime in the U.S. An industry source said Quantum is also negotiating a deal for U.S. distribution with companies including Vancouver's Lions Gate Entertainment and Sony Pictures.

Karla, which stars Laura Prepon of the TV comedy, That `70s Show, was made for about $5 million, less than one-tenth the budget of some of today's large-scale Hollywood blockbusters, Sellers said. 


Watching 'Karla': It's not flash and trash

An unfinished copy of the controversial movie is sombre, restrained even 

August 17, 2021
Globe and Mail
By Simon Houpt

E-mail Simon Houpt Read Bio Latest Columns New York — Karla Homolka herself may not object much to the new true-crime drama about her and Paul Bernardo that a Los Angeles-based producer is currently fighting to bring into Canada.

An unfinished cut of Karla presents Homolka as a physically and psychologically battered woman who is so afraid of losing her boyfriend-then-husband that she willingly if not willfully accedes to his increasingly depraved demands. Only when she finds herself perilously close to becoming another of Bernardo's murder victims does Homolka flee their home and turn state's evidence.

A copy of the film, which is still a work-in-progress lacking a music soundtrack and a final mix of the dialogue, was obtained yesterday by The Globe and Mail from the film's producer.

Karla unfolds as a series of flashbacks that spin out of a fictionalized version of a psychiatric assessment that took place in 2000, during a bid by Homolka for parole after she had served only eight years of her 12-year sentence. It notes that, after that request for parole failed, Homolka did not again submit to any voluntary psychiatric assessments.

The film strives for a dissonance between its portrayal of Homolka-as-victim during the period that Bernardo was on his killing and raping spree, and the psychiatric evaluation many years later, during which Homolka is a calm and controlled woman spinning her self-justifying and self-delusional version of the murderous events that led to her incarceration. And while Laura Prepon is convincing as both battered victim and spinner, the inherently emotional nature of watching a woman who is utterly lacking in self-esteem submit herself to the whims of a sadist may prompt more sympathy for Homolka than the filmmakers intend.

Most of the time in the film, Homolka is a mere witness to Bernardo's horrifying assaults, standing by guiltily, either unwilling or unable to do anything to stop them.

Still, the film subtly notes that, when faced with the horrifying consequences of her actions, Homolka is concerned only with self-preservation. Moments after she learns of the death of her sister Tammy, even as she is wiping away tears, she quietly asks Bernardo where he'd put the videotape he made of the incident. Later on, as she broaches the possibility of turning Bernardo in to the authorities, she asks a lawyer, "If I help, can you get me immunity?"

But Karla may as well be called Karla and Paul, for its focus is on the criminally dysfunctional development of their violent, abusive relationship. It traces the couple from their first meeting in the bar of a Toronto hotel, where the 18-year-old, ponytail-wearing Homolka is attending a veterinary conference, to the last moments they see each other, as they face off at Bernardo's trial, where he is convicted of 12 counts of rape and two counts of murder for the deaths of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

The film makes clear that, while profoundly unhealthy, the couple's embrace of the dark side began in earnest only when Homolka drugged her sister Tammy and presented her to Bernardo in a perverted attempt to please the boyfriend she feared she was losing. After Tammy's accidental death, Bernardo uses Homolka's guilt to force her to accept his increasingly brazen criminal behaviour.

At one point, before he abducts Leslie Mahaffy (here called Leah McCarthy), Homolka confronts Bernardo when he drags himself home early one morning. "I just raped a girl," he tells her. She responds by desperately clinging to Bernardo, kissing him and telling him that she just wants to make him happy.

Later, he becomes laughably cavalier about his extracurricular activities. Grabbing some nylon stockings for a disguise as he heads out the door one night, leaving Homolka home alone, he says, "I'm going out with some friends. Taking these, just in case."

Those concerned about exploitation and gratuitous titillation may be relieved to know that the film, which has the feel of a movie-of-the-week, is sombre and directed with restraint. The production qualities are professional and polished. Nudity is all but absent, and the murders and rapes take place largely off-screen. French and Mahaffy are given pseudonyms. Indeed, the only woman abused at length on screen is Homolka herself, who in the film's final act submits to prolonged sexual humiliation at Bernardo's hands.

The film will likely prompt wildly disparate responses from Canadian and American audiences. Canadians may find even common moments creepy, as when Misha Collins sits down next to Prepon, turns on a charming smile and says, "Hi. I'm Paul Bernardo."

But for a film that centres on a psychiatric evaluation, Karla is void of most of the psychological insight and answers about motivation that audiences might desire. In the final minutes, the psychiatrist and Homolka share a brief rueful moment after she has recounted a one-night affair she had with a man after leaving Bernardo. "Why, Karla?" asks the psychiatrist. "Why not?" she replies, giving an answer that may just symbolize her entire approach to life.


Karla showings defended

Boycott of controversial film would resemble fatwa, distributor suggests 

August 15, 2021
Globe and Mail
By Simon Houpt

New York — The Canadian film distribution community is sharply dividing over Karla, as the controversial drama about Karla Homolka nears completion and the film's Los Angeles-based producer steps up his attempts to find a route to a Canadian audience in the wake of the film's first positive review.

In an e-mail to 25 members of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters, Jeff Sackman says that he is "sickened by the daily press mentions of the film called Karla. It suggests that there are discussions with a number of distributors. I hope we remain united in our membership (and community) that no one would pick this up."

Sackman noted that his company, ThinkFilm, currently has The Aristocrats in distribution, a comedy documentary that proudly features some of the most scatological and offensive language ever heard in mainstream cinemas. The Aristocrats is itself subject to a ban by the 3,500-theatre chain AMC Theatres in the U.S. "I see no irony in this," he wrote.

But not all of the e-mail's recipients agree with Sackman. "It's not my role or anybody else's role to decide what should be seen by people or not," said Hussain Amarshi, the president of Mongrel Media.

"Once we go on that path, it's not that far away from the fatwa of Khomeini against The Satanic Verses."

Amarshi said Mongrel Media, which specializes in foreign films, would be unlikely to pick up Karla, "but I would defend the right of any distributor or anybody to be able to present this film, because all distributors have presented or distributed films that are considered to be controversial to other people."

He noted that Hindu extremists tried to stop the filming of Water, a movie to be distributed by Mongrel that will open next month's Toronto International Film Festival.

On the weekend, Karla received its first review from a journalist who had obtained a bootleg copy of the film from someone at the Montreal Film Festival. The film was slated to premiere at the festival at the end of the month but was uninvited two weeks ago when sponsors threatened to pull their support.

Offering cautious praise in a re- view posted on the CBC website, Matthew Hays wrote that Karla could be read superficially as a tale of "a battered wife who could not escape the clutches of her violent, wildly manipulative mate." But the film, which unfolds as a series of flashbacks that spring out of fictional encounters between Homolka and a psychiatrist who seeks to understand her motivations, suggests Homolka may be an unreliable narrator. Further, Hays says that, as the title character, "Laura Prepon delivers a performance so measured and intelligent that it forces us to continually question Homolka's credibility as a victim."

Michael Sellers, the film's producer, noted that the review and the support of a couple of key members of the Canadian film community who have seen the movie suggested that, "in spite of all the efforts to paint the film as sleaze and exploitation," people are concluding the film is "quality work by intelligent filmmakers. "As an American, based on my experience in my country, I'm just a little surprised at the willingness to vehemently call for a boycott and block access to a film without the courtesy of a viewing," Sellers added, speaking from the editing suite in Los Angeles where he is working on a final mix of the film.

"Having said that, I want to acknowledge and be respectful of the emotions and passions that are a part of this whole situation, and it's clear to me that [Sackman] was writing from some deep conviction."

Sackman recently tried to have the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters, a lobby group, take an official position against the film, but he abandoned the effort when some other members disagreed.

The e-mail was an expression of personal frustration. Reached over the weekend for comment, Sack- man initially demurred, saying he resented the amount of press cover- age already heaped on both the film and Homolka herself. "I personally wish the media would not be covering this issue, because it's giving credibility to a film that probably doesn't deserve it, based on the producer's track record," he said. "This guy's exploiting the Canadian me- dia, which generates an emotional response in me on behalf of the people whose lives were affected by this criminal, and they can't read the newspaper without this reminder."

He added that even a rave review couldn't change his position, and that he has "made it a personal mis- sion to convince others that it is not worth exploiting this particular film, regardless of whether it has any commercial or artistic merit."

Others who are unconnected to the film are also trying to capitalize on its extraordinary prerelease press coverage. Yesterday morning, a Toronto businessman issued a call for support of Karla. Stuart Weinstein, who says he is developing a reality television show and a feature film about entrepreneur- ship despite the fact that he has no media experience, said the at- tempts by politicians to quash the distribution of Karla served as "a perfect example of how entrepreneurship is stifled in Canada." 


Private screening eyed for Karla film

August 13, 2021
Toronto Star
By Martin Knelman

Just as the furor over Karla Homolka's release begins to subside, here comes the sequel. This time the uproar concerns not Homolka herself but the movie Karla and its premiere — or lack of one.

Now the L.A. producer plans to bring his movie to Toronto next month for a by-invitation-only screening during the Toronto International Film Festival, the Star has learned.

That's in the wake of a debacle involving the Montreal Film Festival, whose boss Serge Losique cancelled Karla's Aug. 28 screening, caving in to Air Canada, which threatened to withdraw its festival sponsorship.

"Film buyers from all over the world come to the Toronto festival," Michael Sellers explained in a phone interview yesterday, "and that certainly provides a good opportunity to put our film in front of foreign buyers."

Maybe, but the Toronto festival, which screened two versions of the movie and declined to select it, will not be inviting Sellers to walk down the red carpet or providing any kind of welcome mat at all.

Among the fierce opponents lined up against Sellers are not only Air Canada CEO Robert Milton, Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the families of murder victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, but also powerful forces in the Canadian film industry.

A few days ago, Jeff Sackman, CEO of the Toronto-based distribution firm ThinkFilm, sent an email to fellow distributors urging them to pass on Karla.

"I hope we remain united in our membership (and community) that no one would pick this up," Sackman argued. He describes Sellers as "a third-rate so-called producer at best."

But as Sellers points out — and Sackman himself admits — Sackman, like Air Canada and the Premier of Ontario, are making certain presumptions without having seen the film. That puts Sellers in the position of being targeted for the cultural equivalent of a lynching.

The mob is not interested in hearing what Sellers has to say, but they might be surprised if they did. In conversation, Sellers emerges as articulate and extremely serious.

"Sackman is coming from a place of deep passion and emotion," says Sellers, "but he hasn't seen this film, and I think it's unfair to deny even the possibility that it might be something more than tawdry exploitation. When people see the film, I think a lot of people will conclude that we have approached this material with intelligence on every level. We were guided by the ambition to provide the same kind of insight as Downfall (about Hitler) and Monster (about serial killer Aileen Wuornos)."

A few ironies about Sackman's role as leader of the opposition:

He was the executive producer of American Psycho, a movie based on Paul Bernardo's favourite book.

ThinkFilm is currently distributing The Aristocrats, which is being hailed and reviled for its shocking and offensive language, leading the giant AMC chain to blackball it.

ThinkFilm spent months trying to acquire DVD rights to Vlad, a low-budget horror film directed by Sellers, after it won prizes at two film festivals.

At the moment, Sellers seems to be seriously outnumbered by his foes, but he does have one significant ally on this side of the border. To help launch his movie in Canada, Sellers has enlisted the support of Toronto producer Peter Simpson, a recent Genie lifetime achievement award winner.

Simpson owns the rights to Invisible Darkness, the book by Stephen Williams about the horrific story of Bernardo, Homolka and their victims. A few years ago, Simpson was planning a movie version starring Jason Priestley, but was unable to get a satisfactory script.

It was Simpson who approached the Montreal festival. After Losique bowed to Air Canada, one option was for the producers to screen the film privately in Montreal during the festival. Losique begged them not to.

Sellers insists the movie does not glorify Karla. "I was interested in the psychological process by which Karla went from a schoolgirl with no criminal record to the woman who a few years later helped Bernardo first capture, then kill, Kristen French. What happened on that journey? What took her from one step to another?"

Asked about the rights of the victims and the pain of their families, Sellers replies: "I have three daughters, age 14, 16 and 17. I can imagine, with great emotional intensity, what it would be like to lose a daughter in this manner."

What people do not realize, he says, is what the tape transcripts on public record demonstrate about the victims.

"They reveal extraordinary character and heroism on the part of these two girls. Leslie Mahaffy stayed calm, and in her worst moments, reached out to her family. ... She accepted her fate with grace and equanimity that is a startling affirmation of her humanity and courage. It is no disgrace to reveal her poignant, loving character in a film.

"For her part, Kristen French tried to match wits with Paul. She tried to out-think him, and when that failed, she looked him in the eye and actually said, `There are some things worth dying for.' If I were her father, and a movie memorialized the moment when my daughter found the courage to look her captor in the eye and say that, I would not only want that movie to be made — I would make it."


Uproar helping promote Karla film, producer says

Fest refusal seen to raise larger issues
More forceful marketing considered

August 5, 2021
Toronto Star
By Keith Leslie, Canadian Press

The producer of a film about notorious killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo vowed yesterday to step up his efforts to have the movie screened in Canada, one day after the cancellation of a scheduled screening in Montreal.

The decision by the Montreal World Film Festival to cancel the debut of the movie Karla came as a ``disappointment, but it's not a devastating disappointment," said producer Michael Sellers.

"It, for the first time, has kind of pushed us to begin being a bit more assertive about the rights of the filmmakers. They're really making it harder for the film to have a life in Canada."

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty had been urging people to boycott the movie, which tells the story of Canada's most notorious couple and the brutal killings of schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

McGuinty congratulated the Montreal film festival organizers yesterday for cancelling the screening set for later this month.

"These crimes were searing events in the life of this province," McGuinty said. "I have not understood how people would want to profit from that."

Sellers said he knows Air Canada, a sponsor of the Montreal festival, did not want its logo to be posted during the screening of Karla, and he believes the airline was among those sponsors pressuring the festival to drop the movie.

It shouldn't be up to corporations or governments to determine which films Canadians can see, he said.

"It does raise rather interesting questions about free speech, artistic expression (and) government, and corporate control over access to art," Sellers said. "No one's being tied up in a chair and being forced to watch this film."

Sellers said his company will review what he said has been a ``very careful and measured approach" to promoting the movie in Canada, and perhaps take a more aggressive stance in the marketing of the film.

"This is starting to elevate itself to the level of an injustice against the rights of artistic expression," he said. "We need to work hard to make sure (Karla) does get a chance in Canada."

Sellers also said the uproar generated by the film in Canada has raised the film's profile.

"I've had two other film festivals and two or three distributors call already this morning, so the news value of this and the controversy may in the end be positive," he said. "It's attracting international attention."

The film is set for release this fall. It stars Laura Prepon, best known for playing Donna on TV's That '70s Show.


Montreal film festival pulls Homolka film

August 4, 2021
By Tu Thanh Ha
Globe and Mail

Montreal — Bowing to sponsors such as Air Canada, the Montreal World Film Festival has dropped plans to play host to the premiere of the Hollywood movie about sex killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo.

"Half a dozen sponsors were going to pull their money," said a source who had spoken to festival president Serge Losique.

In a statement released yesterday, organizers cited "the discomfort expressed by clients of its sponsors" as a reason for dropping the film Karla.

As late as four days ago, an Air Canada executive was stating bluntly that the carrier was going to cancel its support.

Duncan Dee, a senior vice-president at Air Canada, was answering a query from Marsha Boulton, the wife of Stephen Williams, author of two books about the Homolka-Bernardo case.

"Air Canada informed the [Montreal World Film Festival] last week that it is cancelling its sponsorship of the event as a result of the festival's decision to screen Karla," Mr. Dee e-mailed Ms. Boulton on July 31.

A copy of the e-mail was made public by Mr. Williams yesterday.

By yesterday, an Air Canada official was saying that the company was looking forward to seeing the festival's eventual lineup.

"We are taking steps to dissociate ourselves from the screening of this movie," spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said. "We'll see what will be in the [final] program."

Mr. Losique didn't answer when The Globe and Mail called, just hours before the announcement, to ask about the prospect of losing sponsors.

He is expected to unveil the final lineup next Tuesday.

Yesterday, his decision shocked some who saw it as a setback for artistic freedoms.

"I was hoping the people lobbying against the movie would see the folly of their way. This is a very dangerous precedent for the film business," said Peter Simpson, CEO of Norstar Filmed Entertainment Inc., the middleman who put Mr. Losique in touch with the producers of Karla.

"This is appalling. It's outrageous," Mr. Williams said. "[Mr. Losique] went out on a limb and announced this with fanfare but he doesn't have the courage of his convictions."

It was good news, however, for Tim Danson, lawyer for the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, the Ontario schoolgirls raped, tortured and murdered by Ms. Homolka and Mr. Bernardo.

"It's nice to see in this day and age that, even in the movie industry, prudence, good judgment and common sense prevail," he said.

"This is the way free speech is supposed to work. Nobody had to legislate. Nobody had to pass a law. It's public opinion coming to bear."

Other sponsors contacted yesterday, such as Visa and Kodak, said they had supported the festival's right to pick its content.

The festival runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5.


Montreal film festival exploiting memory of Homolka's victims: Danson

July 26, 2021
Canadian Press
By Greg Bonnell

TORONTO (CP) - The Montreal World Film Festival is exploiting the memory of Karla Homolka's schoolgirl victims by screening a controversial Hollywood movie chronicling her crimes, the lawyer for the victims' families said Tuesday.

"We see this as being extremely exploitive and sensational," said Tim Danson of the festival's decision to host the international debut of the film Karla. "I think that is to exploit my clients' misery for (the festival's) own personal end. This is not the kind of film that you would normally anticipate to be at a film festival."

The festival organizers were told of Danson's comments, but did not respond.

Karla, set for release this fall, chronicles the ominous courtship of Homolka and Bernardo and the notorious deeds their union ultimately produced - the brutal murders of Ontario teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

The film, originally titled Deadly, has encountered vocal opposition in Ontario from the public and politicians alike with numerous calls for a boycott.

On Monday, it was announced Karla would make its premiere in Montreal sometime during the festival which runs Aug. 26 to Sept. 5.

"This is nothing more than an orchestrated and calculated attempt to give unique publicity to the Montreal Film Festival," said Danson, who couldn't rule out legal action to block the film's debut.

"If we conclude that this film portrays (French and Mahaffy) in a way that offends the girls' dignity and memory and sense of honour, then we will consider that to be a violation of civil law," he said.

"That could lead to an injunction."

The families have been assured by the film's producer, Michael Sellers, that an exclusive screening would be arranged for them in Toronto and that some of the film's more explicit scenes have already been edited out.

"The problem is, I only have his word on that. I have to see it," said Danson.

The recent re-branding of the film from Deadly to Karla has been defended by Sellers, who argues the name Karla holds little emotional sway outside Ontario.

Danson wasn't buying that argument Tuesday.

"My sense is now that the name Karla Homolka has now been reported widely in the United States. The change of the name from Deadly to Karla (was done) to tap into that new awareness," said Danson, who appeared on numerous American news programs following Homolka's July 4 release.

"(The case) has received some pretty wide publicity and I suspect they're taking advantage of that."

The film's website suggests the story is somewhat sympathetic to Homolka, portrayed by Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on That '70s Show.

"In the end, the viewer is left to ponder their sympathy for Karla, to ask how much she too is a victim of Paul," reads the plot synopsis. It further describes Homolka, who is believed to be living in Montreal, as "conflicted by her conscience but still unable to escape" Bernardo's grasp.

The producers, who are still seeking a distributor for the film, based their movie on court transcripts.


Karla film to debut in Quebec - U.S. producers choose new title

Montreal film fest to get first look

July 26, 2021
Toronto Star (CP)

MONTREAL—An American film about the horrific sex slayings committed by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka has been renamed and will make its debut next month at the Montreal World Film Festival.

Once titled Deadly, the controversial film has officially changed its name to Karla, producer Michael Sellers said yesterday.

Sellers denied capitalizing on the notoriety of Homolka, who was released from prison earlier this month after serving 12 years for manslaughter in the deaths of two Ontario schoolgirls.

Sellers said he wanted a less sensational title.

"I know that in Toronto the word `Karla' just by itself is not a value-neutral word," he said from Los Angeles.

"It's a word that there maybe has a lot of emotion attached to it.

"To the global market, it's just a name. That is what we'd like to be the starting point for the movie."

The film has prompted a call for a boycott by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and protests from the families of victims Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

It will be screened between Aug. 26 and Sept. 5 at the Montreal festival.

The $5 million film was directed by Joel Bender and stars Laura Prepon (That '70s Show) as Homolka and Misha Collins (24, Girl Interrupted) as Bernardo.

Serge Losique, head of the festival, said showing the film does not signify any sympathy for Homolka's criminal behaviour.

"I hope people are intelligent enough to understand that the biggest criminals in history have been brought to the big screen," Losique said in an interview.

"It's a sensitive subject, yes, but the crimes happened nearly 15 years ago."


Deadly film may not be shown here

May 25, 2021
Burlington Post
By Jason Misner

The producer of a controversial U.S. movie depicting the relationship of convicted killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka says he is hoping an agreement about donating film proceeds to charity can be reached with the victims' families should the controversial movie, Deadly, be released in Ontario. Michael Sellers, producer and writer of Deadly, told the Post from his Los Angeles office Tuesday that he plans to speak with Tim Danson, the lawyer representing the families of slain schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Sellers said he will suggest donating a majority of the film's proceeds to a charity the families are comfortable with -- "something that memorializes the victims in a good way."

Deadly - which won't be ready for full U.S. release until September or October -- has about six weeks of editing left before the film is finished, Sellers said.

By mid-next month, he said he plans to show a copy of the film to Danson, at which time he expects to talk about considering giving a portion of the film's box office proceeds generated in Ontario to a worthwhile charity.

"It really has to generate funds for charity," Sellers said. "I'm not talking about a small percentage of profits, I'm talking about the majority of the money taken at the box office."

Homolka and Bernardo stood trial for the deaths of French and Mahaffy in the early '90s. Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, handed a life sentence and subsequently declared a dangerous offender. Homolka was given a 12-year sentence for manslaughter in exchange for testifying against her husband.

As Sellers completes Deadly, Burlington Tory MPP Cam Jackson has introduced a private member's bill that would allow the French and Mahaffy families to sue the makers and distributors of Deadly for emotional distress.

Jackson's Bill 202 has already received first reading and could be passed as early as mid-June, depending on how quickly all provincial parties respond to the proposed legislation.

The politician, who has crusaded for victims' rights in the past, said the idea of the bill -- which he noted is supported by the families -- is not to censor the movie, but to make the makers and distributors accountable for the emotional turmoil the film might cause.

Jackson said the bill would "augment" the existing legislation Bill 210 called the Ontario Victims' Bill of Rights -- which he introduced a decade ago -- that prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes by retelling them.

Bill 202 is not intended to ban the film in Ontario, but is about protecting a person's right not to be re-victimized, he said.

"We cannot stop production of the film," Jackson said. "This has nothing to do with censorship. The film can appear anywhere it wants in North America, but if it does appear in Ontario the distribution company and movie theatre chain could be the subject of a suit. They have the right to decide if they wish to take the movie in the first place.

"Do I find it offensive? Absolutely. There is a price to pay for profiting from this much grief."

The Deadly Web site -- which also displays a series of print media stories about the movie -- states that "every scene of the film was derived from events transcribed in court testimony using police reports, interviews between Homolka and her psychiatrist, and videotape of the crimes shot by the perpetrators themselves."

On the Web site, Sellers states his reasons for making the movie.

"As an artist and filmmaker, I became convinced that creating such a film was a worthy endeavor. In the end, I made the judgment that the material could be fashioned into an intelligent, provocative and powerful film.

"Moreover, I came to feel that aside from issues of deeper artistic merit, the film will, in fact, have a tangible positive impact by conveying, in a very urgent way, the need for vigilance and alertness against the kind of predatory behaviour that Paul and Karla personify."

He added that, "I also made a commitment to myself to do nothing to dishonour the memory of the victims."

Sellers, careful with his words, said in an interview that while he thinks the proposed legislation could have some merit, he worried about the potential impact on freedom of speech.

"It's an interesting concept," he said. "We are doing everything we can to be genuinely sensitive to the victims' families' situation but to create a law like that, at this point, obviously is a cause for concern and raise questions about free speech which others can address better than I can."

Sellers said while he's still debating whether to pursue showing the film in Ontario, ultimately, if the bill becomes law, he said it would likely "kind of seal the deal" for the film.

"It may not be possible to release it all," he noted.

If that happens, Sellers stressed the movie doesn't live or die by being shown in this province, and that it can still survive outside the Ontario marketplace.

"Ontario represents a certain upside that is difficult to ignore."

There is no Canadian distributor secured yet, said Sellers, but noted one has shown "strong interest" but wants to see the finished product first.

Jackson said the showing of the movie will do nothing to help the Mahaffy and French families continue their difficult recovery from the deaths of their children.

"Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French died brutally for the private pleasure of Bernardo and Homolka and there are many in this province who believe that they didn't die for the rest of the public's entertainment. I recognize how much grief the family goes through everyday. There's nothing private about this for these families."

The bill is in the hands of all three party house leaders, and it has been presented to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"There has been absolutely no dismissal of this bill," Jackson said, adding he consulted with layers who have advised him the bill is not unconstitutional.

This isn't the first time the families have dealt with entertainment outlets wanting to tell the Bernardo/Homolka story. The Jerry Springer tabloid TV talk show wanted to interview Homolka from jail in 2002, but was denied by Corrections Canada.


OntARIO MPP trying to block Bernardo movie

May 20, 2021
CTV.ca

An Ontario MPP is trying to block the release of Deadly, a new Hollywood-made movie about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka in his province.

Cam Jackson's private member's bill, Bill 202, would allow family members of the victims to sue the distribution company or a theatre company for emotional distress from the film.

Jackson says it's not a matter of censorship; it's about protecting family members from being victimized all over again.

"The principle in law is that you can't re-victimize families that have already been victimized by a crime," Jackson explained to Canada AM.

"This, in a sense, says that you can go and sue someone who specifically wants to profit from your pain and your suffering as a family."

Deadly is slated to be released in the United States later this year but could be out in Canada first. Reports suggest the movie could be in Ontario theatres around the same time Homolka is released from prison, on July 5.

Jackson says the producers of the film have already violated the rights of the victims' families before the movie has even been released, just by naming the victims.

"What the producers are cleverly trying to do is actually use footage, go back to the scenes of the crime, to use the proper names. The fact of it is that you can't do that -- unless you have the permission of the family or you're willing to risk a lawsuit."

He notes that one of Bernardo and Homolka's rape victims who survived the attack was able to retain her anonymity by being called "Jane Doe" in all court documents. But Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, who were killed, were not afforded the same privilege.

"When you die, the state takes away your voice. And we're trying to give them a voice to say that they do not want this to happen," Jackson says.

He says the film is filled with images that reenact the crimes and he doesn't believe that anyone in Ontario should be looking at those pictures.

"These are horrendous images that re-victimize families, and what for? For the purpose of profit to exploit people's grief. Those two children died for the private pleasure of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka -- not for the pleasure of everybody else in Ontario to witness."

The MPP, who represents the riding of Burlington, sponsored another bill meant to protect the French and Mahaffy families back in 1994. That bill became the Victims' Right to Proceeds of Crime Act and prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes by retelling them.

The bill has meant that Bernardo and Homolka have not been allowed to sell movie rights or book rights to their story. Any profit they make in their lifetime will be seized by the state and go to provide services for victims.

The producers of Deadly have offered to have some of their profits go to charity. Jackson dismisses the offer.

"You have to look at this and try to imagine the extraordinary pain that families go through, especially on a crime this severe and this public," he says.


Movie profits Deadly

May 19, 2021
Toronto Sun
By Alan Findlay

BURLINGTON MPP Cam Jackson is proposing a new law enabling victims of crimes to sue movie-makers.

His private member's bill, introduced yesterday, would make film companies liable for emotional distress caused to crime victims and their families in Ontario if their crime is reenacted.

"Its purpose is to say to a distribution company that if you wish to come to Ontario and make a profit from retelling this story in its most graphic and horrific details, there will be a cost associated with that," Jackson said.

"It's not about censorship; it's about saying in Ontario we're not prepared to allow our families to be revictimized."

The bill is unlikely to pass before a new movie about Homolka and Paul Bernardo, called Deadly, is released later this year.

The producer of the film has proposed donating some of the movie's proceeds to charity.


NEW BILL ENABLES VICTIMS TO SEEK DAMAGES FROM HOMOLKA FILM

May 18, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(TORONTO) Today in the Legislature, Burlington MPP Cam Jackson tabled his Private Member's Bill 202 that, if passed, would make the producer (or distributor) of the film, "Deadly," (about murderers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka) liable for the emotional distress caused to the families of their victims in Ontario.

For the first time, Bill 202 would define the revictimization of crime victims through the commercial, cinematographic or video recounting of the crimes as constituting emotional distress for which civil remedies would be available. Jackson's bill supplements his previous legislation, including the historic Ontario Victims' Bill of Rights. Jackson's work was instrumental in creating the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, the first of its kind in Canada.

Jackson's Proceeds of Crime Bill 210 (1994) ensures that financial rewards paid to criminals for the sale of their accounts of their crimes are seized and used for services for victims of crime and their families. Although very rare for private member's legislation, Bill 210 passed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Reading in the Ontario Legislature, all on December 8th, 1994. It received Royal Assent the very next day, December 9th, 1994. In June 1993, Jackson was successful in convincing the federal government to block the importation of "serial killer trading cards" that graphically depict Ontario victims of violent crime. Jackson's current bill will also cover such offensive products.

Jackson's latest Bill 202 has drawn wide-ranging support that is understandable given the importance and timeliness of his unique initiative. "Cam has once again devised an important tactical measure to protect crime victims and I salute and support his initiative to protect crime victims from commercial exploitation. - The Hon. Dan McTeague MP (Pickering- Scarborough East).

"This Bill goes a long way to taking the profit out of revictimizing crime victims in Ontario. It also introduces some much needed accountability for the Victim Justice Fund so that the moneys supposedly dedicated to helping victims aren't squandered or left to sit in some bureaucratic bank account." - Scott Newark - Former Vice-Chair and Special Counsel, Office for Victims of Crime.

"This has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It has everything to do with the right not to profit from that expression and for victims' families not to have to relive the horror of their ongoing pain." - Priscilla de Villiers - Founder of CAVEAT and Co-Chair of the Office of Victims of Crime, 1997-2004.

Jackson has written to Premier McGuinty to seek his support to ensure timely passage of Bill 202 before the Legislature adjourns in mid-June. As his letter notes, "The Bill provides a specific remedy for crime victims facing an unimaginable prospect of re-victimization for profit. We can take effective action to prevent this if we stand together and do what's clearly right."

- 30 -

References: Cam Jackson, MPP  416-325-5362 / 905-639-7924


18 May 2021

The Honourable Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Premier of Ontario
 Room 281, Legislative Building
Queen's Park,
 Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier,

Re: Victims' Bill of Rights Amendment Act (Crime Redepiction), 2005

Today I tabled the above private member's bill on behalf of victims of crime and I write to ask for your earnest support for its speedy passage into law.

The Bill amends the Victims' Bill of Rights, 1995, to allow victims of a prescribed crime to recover damages for emotional distress from a person or body that produces, distributes or otherwise makes available to the public, whether or not for profit, any visual or audible product that redepicts in any way the circumstances of the crime of the circumstances leading up to it, except in two cases.

The two exceptions are the cases where the product is made available to the public for the purpose of the administration of justice or where the product depicts a crime that took place more than 50 years before the product was made available to the public. The regulations made under the Act can provide for a longer time period in that second case.

The Bill also amends the Act to require the Attorney General to prepare and submit to the Legislative Assembly an annual report on the operation of the victims' justice fund account.

Premier, this bill, if passed into law, would make the producer or distributor of the film "Deadly," which is, as you know, about the murderers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, liable for the emotional distress caused to the families of their victims in Ontario.

This Bill provides a specific remedy for crime victims facing an unimaginable prospect of revictimization for profit. We can take effective action to prevent this if we stand together in the House and do what is clearly right.

I am writing on behalf of the French and Mahaffy families whose children were the victims of Bernardo and Homolka to ask you to allow speedy passage of this legislation into law.

It is to be hoped that you, Premier, will accept this legislation in the same non-partisan spirit that my private member's Bill 210 was by then Premier Bob Rae. I enclose for you a copy of the Bill that I am sure you will recall as a fellow Member of the Legislature in 1994.

Bill 210, "An Act to provide for the payment of money awarded in civil law suits to victims of crime," (the "received enthusiastic, all-party support in the Legislature and passed 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reading in one day, on December 8, 1994. It received Royal Assent the very next day, on December 9th, 1994. Premier Rae enacted it into law on May 1st, 1995.

As you can see, Bill 210 deals with the recovery, by a victim of crime, of money awarded to the victim in a law suit against an accused or convicted person. Its purpose is to ensure that any money that the accused or convicted person (or a related person) receives relating to the crime is first used to satisfy awards to victims.

Premier, on behalf of the French and Mahaffy families, I implore you to do what is in your executive power to allow for quickest possible passage of my new bill into law. It has the full support of the Leader of the Official Opposition, John Tory and I have also written to Howard Hampton, the Leader of the Third Party.

Please feel free to call on me directly at any time should you or the Attorney General have any questions or comments concerning what I know you will agree is a very important and time-sensitive matter.

Yours sincerely,

Cam Jackson, MPP Burlington

CC enclosure


Producer agrees to delay Homolka film

May 25, 2021
Toronto Star
By Greg Bonnell, Canadian Press

A Hollywood movie chronicling the crimes of Karla Homolka likely won't hit Canadian theatres until fall to avoid the emotional outcry surrounding the schoolgirl killer's release from prison this summer, the film's producer said Tuesday.

Michael Sellers said a special Toronto pre-screening of Deadly, which was originally planned for late June, might also be pushed back so it doesn't coincide with the July 5 expiry of Homolka's 12-year prison sentence.

"As I watch that news coverage coming out of (Canada), it's all Karla, all the time," Sellers said from his Los Angeles office.

"I don't want to be a part of that circus, I don't think we should be. I don't think it's the right thing."

Deadly tells the story of Homolka's ill-fated union with Paul Bernardo, a coupling that ultimately claimed the lives of Ontario schoolgirls Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, along with Homolka's younger sister, Tammy.

Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on TV's That 70s Show, portrays Homolka as a "woman conflicted by her conscience but unable to escape" the grasp of Bernardo, who's played by Misha Collins, the film's website says.

Homolka was sentenced in 1993 to 12 years in prison in exchange for testimony against her husband, in which she portrayed herself as an unwitting victim. But caustic videotapes documenting the rape and torture of their victims later appeared to expose her as a willing participant in the crimes.

Critics branded her plea bargain a "deal with the devil."

Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, handed a life sentence and subsequently declared a dangerous offender.

News of the grisly events horrified Canadians, a fact that both supporters and critics of Sellers's film have used to argue their cases both for and against its release.

Sellers had offered lawyer Tim Danson, who represents the French and Mahaffy families, the chance to view the film in advance of its release, but Sellers said he's considering waiting until after July 4 — the day Homolka is expected to go free.

"I'm contemplating the possibility of delaying that screening until after she gets out," he said.

"Karla coming out must be difficult for (the families). Having to deal with this (screening) at the same time as dealing with that ... I just feel like we shouldn't do it unless we really have a need to."

His production company, Quantum Entertainment, plans a September or October release for Deadly. It would take "a major Canadian distributor banging on my door" to put the film into theatres before then, he said.

"I'm almost to the point of saying if a distributor came to us and said they wanted to distribute it in July or August, I would say no."

The growing media spotlight on Homolka, who's serving out her final days at the Joliette Institution near Montreal, is sure to mean Canadians will again be forced to endure the horrific details of her crimes.

Next week, Ontario Crown lawyers will travel to Quebec in an effort to convince a provincial court judge to impose restrictions on Homolka under the Criminal Code.

That extraordinary request, if granted, would see the 35-year-old submit to a range of conditions including a curfew, regular meetings with police and rules regarding her acquaintances.


Families not interested in Homolka film charity plan

May 12, 2021
St. Catharines Standard
By Karena Walter

Local News - The families of Karla Homolka’s victims won’t support a plan to give Ontario box office profits from a film about the killer to charity because they don’t want Deadly playing in the province in the first place.

“They would prefer it not be shown in Ontario and that there be no profits coming out of Ontario and therefore no money for any charity,” Tim Danson, lawyer for the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, said Wednesday.

But whether they would agree to charitable proceeds from openings in other areas or from a video release hasn’t been decided.

Homolka is coming to the end of a 12-year sentence for manslaughter in connection with the deaths of French and Mahaffy.

Deadly looks at the meeting of Homolka and her ex-husband Paul Bernardo, now serving a life sentence, and how the pairing resulted in murders.

The independent movie, which its Hollywood producer hopes to distribute by fall, has caused plenty of controversy in Ontario. Premier Dalton McGuinty urged Ontarians to boycott the film if it is released and the province says it will be watching closely to make sure it doesn’t violate any publication bans.

Film producer Michael Sellers said this week he has always intended to donate some of the proceeds of the film to charity and he was further prompted by a McMaster university student and her friend who wrote to him.

At Danson’s request, Sellers is meeting with him in Toronto in a few weeks for an advance screening of the movie.

The two have been in talks about concerns the families have has about the film.

Danson said, in fairness to Sellers, the producer has been very responsive to concerns.

He’s not so responsive that he’s not going to make the movie, Danson said, but that wasn’t something they could legally stop him from doing.

“As a matter of law, he’s entitled to do the movie. We’re entitled to not see it and not support it, but we can’t stop it unless he crosses a certain line,” Danson said.

That line, where free speech ends and the families’ privacy begins, is what the two sides have been discussing.

Danson said Sellers voluntarily agreed to edit the film in response to the families’ concerns. He expects scenes of rape, sexual assault or nudity of the victims won’t be in the film.

As well, the names of French and Mahaffy were changed at the families’ request.

“We certainly made it very clear that we felt it was entirely inappropriate to use their names and we wouldn’t accept it,” Danson said. “Then they kind of changed the names a little bit but it was pretty clear and now I think they’ve changed them completely.”

While an offer to use profits from the movie’s release in Ontario for charity may be a moot point for the families, using proceeds from other releases such as videos or in other geographical locations may be given second thought if suggested.

“The jury’s still out on that,” Danson said.

He said it’s a complicated issue and the families are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, Danson said, by engaging Sellers the way they are, it’s given him publicity and one could argue the families are assisting in promoting the movie.

On the other hand, regardless of what they do, the fact the movie exists is going to generate its own publicity and they have to protect the memory and dignity of the victims.

“Had we not engaged him, that wouldn’t have happened,” Danson said. “So you’re making the best of a bad situation.”


Homolka film: Will it pack the theatres?

May 11, 2021
St. Catharines Standard
By Grant LaFleche

Local News - Taken on its surface, there is something unremarkable about the trailer for the film Deadly.

Even the image of a teenaged girl, bound and blindfolded, isn’t enough to distinguish the film from the legions of thrillers and crime movies on the market.

But if you know the case well, if you know what comes next, that image — which flickers across the screen in the blink of an eye — is unnerving. It’s a little like peeping at something unsavoury you know you’re not supposed to see.

Whether the trailer for the movie about schoolgirl killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka will titillate the curious or repulse the righteous might not matter.

The film doesn’t have a distributor in Canada or the United States. And without a 20th Century Fox to put the movie in theatres coast to coast, Deadly could just quietly vanish into cinematic limbo.

“Independent films always face an uphill battle,” Deadly producer Michael Sellers said in an interview from Los Angeles.

Officially, the film’s opening date is listed only as “coming soon” because without a distributor, no release date can be set.

“We are looking toward a fall release, perhaps in October, after the summer blockbusters are over and before the Christmas movies, unless something drastic changes before then,” Sellers said. “But that seems to me to be very, very unlikely.”

Even if Sellers does find a distributor that can put the film in theatres across the United States and Canada, there is no guarantee it will become a blockbuster.

University of Toronto cinema professor Bart Testa said there might be enough interest in Ontario to give the film a decent opening weekend, but there will be little interest in the United States.

“After (the opening weekend), I suspect it will disappear very quickly and end up where it belongs, behind the counter at the local corner store.”

Testa said Sellers’ company, Quantum Entertainment, mainly produces direct-to-video titles such as Children of the Living Dead and Nightmare Boulevard.

Deadly might have remained equally anonymous if not for the attention of Canada’s news media, Testa said.

The film is not generating nearly as much interest in the U.S., where the names Bernardo and Homolka are not nearly as infamous.

Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert said in an e-mail, “I have not heard of the film.”

Based on Quantum’s past productions, Testa said he isn’t expecting much from the movie.

“It wouldn’t disrespect B-movies by calling this a B-movie,” he said. “If you had a filmmaker like Bernardo Bertolucci doing the film, you would get a meaningful exploration of it. There would be merit to that.

“But this is just going to exploit the story for the sake of making a movie,” he said. “And I think that the filmmakers will be so worried about censorship that it won’t even be titillating. I expect it will be a very bland film.”

Yet Sellers and Deadly director Joel Bender insist the movie is not mere exploitation of the story.

The movie is an exploration of how Homolka “went from a normal person to a participant in these horrible, horrible crimes,” Bender said.

Nevertheless, he said, they tried to be sensitive to the feelings of the French and Mahaffy families.

Although Tammy Homolka — Karla’s younger sister and the first girl killed by the pair — is named, the names of their other victims, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, are never used.

“Even the killings themselves are not exactly as they happened,” said Bender.

“You won’t see the actual killing at all. The camera angles are such the murders happen off camera.”

The film also faces a challenge that has nothing to do with the subject matter or production company.

True crime movies are hard sells, says Ebert.

“Movies based on true crime are not usually as successful as completely fictional crime movies, maybe because the fictions can be more sensational,” he said in his e-mail. “Yet some of the best movies I’ve seen have been inspired by true crimes, including In Cold Blood and Monster.”


Murder flick may be blacked out in parts of Ontario

Producer says he's 'not comfortable' screening Homolka, Bernardo film in victims' communities

May 6, 2021
The Halifax Herald
By Nicole MacIntyre (Canadian Press)

HAMILTON - The makers of a film about Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity or to restrict screenings in Ontario.

Producer Michael Sellers said he's willing to black out Deadly in areas deeply affected the horrific crimes, including St. Catharines and Toronto.

"I'm not comfortable with putting the movie out normally in Ontario," he said Thursday from his Los Angeles office.

Sellers said he's also willing to have open screenings of the movie and give the majority of local proceeds to charity.

He plans to consult with the families of victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy to decide which option is best, "black it out or earn a million for charity?"

Sellers says a charitable donation was always in the works but he was inspired by e-mails from two women who challenged him to do something good out of a movie many fear will reopen painful wounds.

"If you are truly making this film because you feel it is a valuable story to tell, that society can learn and benefit from, then put your money where your mouth is," McMaster student Kelly Peterson wrote to Sellers in March.

"Donate all or a portion of the proceeds of this film to victims' services, or set up a scholarship in the name of the girls that were victimized by these two monsters."

Sellers wrote back immediately and asked for help in finding the appropriate charity.

Peterson and her friend Michelle Berelowitz are now working to set up a fund in the victims' memory.

"We want something positive to come out of it," said Berelowitz.

Planning is at an early stage and still needs the input of the victims' families, she said.

Tim Danson, the lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Sellers has already extended an invitation to Danson to preview the movie before it is released later this summer or fall.

The film won't be done until the end of June, Sellers said.

A distributor will then decide when and where the movie is released.

The movie has sparked outrage from some Ontario residents who are horrified Hollywood is trying to make millions from the agonizing deaths of two schoolgirls.

Unable to ban the movie under current law, senior politicians have urged people to boycott the film.

Attorney General Michael Bryant has also warned Sellers and his colleagues at Quantum Entertainment could face legal action if the film breaks a publication ban imposed on the evidence heard at trial.

Homolka is set to be free in less than two months.

Ontario will take its bid to limit her freedoms when she's released from Joliette Institution, north of Montreal, before a Quebec judge on June 2.

Homolka's father Karel revealed this week that his daughter does not plan to return home to St. Catharines.

She is planning to live in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace area of Montreal, he said.

The focus on her release and controversy of the movie has created a prime market for Deadly's release, noted Sellers.

While local audiences might be horrified by the content, he noted it's similar to other true crime movies such as Monster, the tale of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

"Everywhere else in the world it's just another movie."


Homolka film will be pre-screened in Toronto Families' lawyer requested viewing

MPPs worried about court ban

May 4, 2021
Toronto Star
By Greg Bonnell, Canadian Press

An exclusive viewing of a Hollywood film chronicling the depraved crimes of Karla Homolka is being offered to interested parties in Toronto in advance of a potential Canadian summer release.

The controversial film Deadly could come to Canada just as the teen girl killer is released from prison, a move motivated in large part by sensational media coverage negating the need for a long publicity campaign.

"We're going to provide an opportunity to screen it in advance," said Michael Sellers, producer of Deadly. "I will come up to Toronto with a print."

That extraordinary move is in response to a request to view the film from Tim Danson, the lawyer for the families of slain girls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

"He won't be the only set of eyes that can watch it," Sellers said from his Los Angeles office.

"There will be some other people, independent-type people, whether it be some media or other concerned citizens in Canada I've been in communication with, who I've offered an opportunity to see it."

Danson hasn't yet responded to the offer to view the film, Sellers said.

The Ontario Government cautioned yesterday that Sellers and his colleagues at Quantum Entertainment could face legal action if the film breaks a publication ban imposed on evidence heard at trial.

"If they break the publication ban and enter Ontario, they will face the laws of Ontario," said Attorney General Michael Bryant. "The evidence involved in the publication ban is remarkably painful to the victims and many Ontarians."

While Bryant confirmed someone from the Crown's office would view the film to judge whether it's in breach, it wasn't clear if that person would be invited to the June screening.

Bryant was not willing to detail what evidence, if included in the movie, would violate the ban, saying to do so would, in effect, break the ban.

Deadly chronicles the ill-fated union of Homolka and Paul Bernardo, a coupling that ultimately led to the rape and torture deaths of French and Mahaffy.

Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, handed a life sentence and subsequently declared a dangerous offender.

Homolka secured a 12-year sentence in exchange for testifying against her husband. Critics who branded the plea bargain a "deal with the devil" were emboldened following the release of videotapes documenting the couple's crimes.

Homolka's prison term expires July 5, but her freedom could be granted as early as June 23 under Corrections Canada guidelines.

The film's website suggests the story is somewhat sympathetic to Homolka, portrayed by Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on That '70s Show.

"The film is essentially ready for distribution at the end of June," Sellers said.


hollywood homolka film stirs debate

April 10, 2021
Canadian Press
By Greg Bonnell

TORONTO -- An ill-fated union of lovers. The macabre musings of seemingly ordinary suburban folk. Grisly murders that shock a nation.

Storylines like these populate Canadian cinemas nightly -- that's entertainment.

Throw in the names Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, call the film Deadly and an emotional outcry ensues from politicians and the public alike.

Condemnations of a Hollywood feature dramatizing the crimes of Canada's most most infamous and reviled couple have been harsh and numerous.

Filmmaker Michael Sellers says he's received "tons" of email from Canadians upset he is delving into the story.

But the sentiment fuelling that protest is somewhat of an enigma.

Is it concern for the sensibilities of the families of the two slain schoolgirls at the centre of this horrific tale? Or do explorations of humanity's dark side become simply intolerable when viewed through the lens of true crime?

"People who do these things are real human beings," Sellers, producer of Deadly, said from his Los Angeles office.

"When you de-monsterize them, and at the same time show the reality of how it happened, it's very scary to people."

Deadly, set for release this fall, chronicles the ominous courtship of Homolka and Bernardo and the notorious deeds their union ultimately produced -- the brutal murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

The victims' families are gravely concerned about the script, which is woven from court transcripts detailing the torture and rape of the teens.

"Obviously we're not going to get what we want, which is simply to trash the movie and not go forward with it," said Tim Danson, lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families.

Still, Danson has discussed the film's content with Sellers and both are hopeful some common ground can be found.

"He seemed to be willing to work with us, that it wasn't his intent to violate the girls in the way that we most feared, which is simulating what's in the transcript in terms of being raped and tortured -- those awful things," said Danson.

However, the film's very existence evokes strong emotions.

"I guess you can make the argument that they have a right to make the movie," said Steve Sullivan of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

"Just because you have the right to do it doesn't make it the right thing to do."

Politicians in Ontario, where the grisly crimes occurred, have declared a boycott of sorts against the film, urging the public to ignore it upon release.

Sullivan fears those well-meaning words may have the opposite effect and that people will be drawn to Deadly out of morbid curiosity.

The film's profile is also likely to be raised by the fact that Homolka is portrayed by Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on That 70's Show, and by all the media attention it's getting in Canada.

True crime stories have always enjoyed a sizeable audience, from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood to Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

Despite the public's appetite for such fare, filmgoers should consider the larger ramifications of making a movie about Homolka and Bernardo, said Sullivan.

"You have to weigh what the impact is going to be on the people whose lives were most touched by this," he said.

"I'm not sure this movie is intended to give us a better understanding of what happened as much as it is to make a dollar."

Of the numerous missives directed at his company Quantum Entertainment, Sellers says one in particular stands out.

"The rationale given was, 'This (crime) changed the way (Canada) thought about ourselves and we don't want to go back there. We don't want to revisit that experience, it's very painful."'

That only fuelled Sellers's interest in the project.

"There is something very deep going on there. No other producers that we know, that have been involved in other (true crime) films, have been involved in this kind of problem."

Exploring the underbelly of humanity is an artistic endeavour fraught with peril.

"If on the one hand you dehumanize such figures, you're implying something almost otherworldly about people who are responsible for grave crimes," said Charlie Keil, an associate professor of cinema studies at the University of Toronto.

"On the other hand, if you humanize them, you're saying on some level they're just like you and me. I think that's equally disturbing to people."

Whatever side the filmmaker falls on, there's going to be criticism.

The central question -- how can people commit such atrocious acts -- is one artists and filmmakers have a right to explore, said Keil.

"Of course, some people are going to hate the answers."


Cineplex places hurdle in front of Bernardo film

Requires `tasteful' marketing plan
Ontario theatres expect backlash

By Rick Westhead, Business Reporter
Toronto Star
April 8, 2021

Canada's major theatre chains say they won't consider showing the controversial movie depicting the horrific murders by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka unless the producers sign a contract with a Canadian distributor.

But the Hollywood production company behind Deadly says it didn't plan to sell the movie here and expects to make a fortune regardless; indeed, the producers say their interest lies in making "as much money as possible."

"In general, we require to work with a top film distributor who has a tastefully prepared marketing plan," said Pat Marshall, a spokesperson for Cineplex Galaxy LP, which along with Famous Players controls a combined 1,500 movie screens across Canada.

If the filmmaker does sign an agreement here, the government would assign it a rating and the chain bookers would then consider whether there is an audience for it.

"Our role isn't to censor film product," she said, noting the backlash to Deadly is "very Ontario-specific."

If the movie were to be released in Canada, theatres would likely face boycotts and pickets at a minimum.

But Quantum Entertainment, the production company that is in the final stages of producing the film, says it will make tens of millions of dollars regardless, even if it never appears in a Canadian theatre.

Even without selling a single movie ticket or DVD in Canada, an official involved with production says Deadly stands to garner nearly $100 million worth of revenue following its release this fall, bolstered by a "best- case" estimate of $50 million in U.S. ticket sales.

"I have a fiduciary responsibility to our investors to try to make as much money as possible from this picture," said Quantum Entertainment president Michael Sellers.

"It's not like we planned to milk Canada," said Sellers, who also produced Fortunes of War, starring Martin Sheen, and Goodbye America with James Brolin. "We never planned to sell the movie there in the first place."

Sellers, who said Deadly was financed by a small group of individual investors, added that the movie might garner as much as $7 million in foreign distribution rights in countries such as the U.K. and Australia and another $30 million in DVD sales and rentals.

It might also generate income from sales to pay television companies like HBO or Showtime in the U.S.

"We think this is a good film," Sellers said. "Homolka and Bernardo are both attractive and at first, it seems like Paul is the one in control and then later it looks like maybe she's the one driving the bus. It's a compelling story."

While activists want to stop theatres from showing the movie, which is based on Bernardo and Homolka's kidnapping and murder of teenagers Kristin French and Leslie Mahaffy, the hype that has engulfed the project may backfire and could ultimately broaden the film's prospective audience.

U.S. conservatives, for instance, fought last year to stop theatres from showing filmmaker Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The campaign to stop Moore's film from being shown backfired miserably. The movie generated $23.9 million (U.S.) in ticket sales in its opening weekend, setting a record for a feature-length documentary.

"Controversy amounts to free publicity," said Jason Squire, a former studio executive with United Artists, now a film professor at the University of Southern California. "The more controversy, the less you have to spend on your advertising budget."

Deadly, which stars Laura Prepon of the TV comedy, That 70's Show, was made for about $5 million, less than one-tenth the budget of some of today's large-scale Hollywood blockbusters, Sellers said.

Quantum will open negotiations in the next few weeks with distribution companies such as Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Films and Warner Bros. Studios, Sellers said. The movie is scheduled to be released this September.

"I think there should be an appetite for this movie," Sellers said. "It's not like it's the first true-crime movie made. In fact, this is probably one of the top 10 true-crime stories that hasn't been on screen yet."

DEJ Productions in Hollywood might be interested in distributing Deadly, an official said. It recently distributed the movie Dahmer, the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was convicted of 17 murders in 1991 and sentenced to 957 years in prison. Dahmer was made for about $250,000 yet garnered about $1.5 million worth of revenue for DEJ Productions, said Angela Palmieri, a company official.

"The horror genre in general has been on an upswing," she said.

"Look at the success of movies like The Ring 2, Saw and Amityville Horror. The appetite has increased."

If a large distribution company passes on the Bernardo-Homolka film, Sellers said Quantum would probably arrange with individual theatre owners to show the movie.


Bernardo pic meant to be a Monster

L.A. producer defends his film as an art-house work, not exploitation

By Simon Houpt
Globe and Mail
Tuesday, April 5, 2021 Page R1

E-mail Simon Houpt Read Bio Latest Columns NEW YORK -- The producer of a controversial feature film about Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo says the movie represents a shift in strategy for his small independent film company away from its past as a maker and distributor of B-movie genre pictures and into the more respectable niche of art-house films with Oscar potential.

"This is a move on our part to try and reposition ourselves upward a little bit," said Michael Sellers, the Los Angeles-based producer of Deadly. Sellers's company Quantum Entertainment is a small player in Hollywood, specializing in films made for under $5-million that frequently go straight to video.

"Deadly represents our evolution as filmmakers," said Sellers in a telephone interview. "We've been moving a little bit away from the mainstream genre approach and moving more into the realm of the well-made smaller film with a more artistic orientation, and something that has a little bit more provocativeness, or a little bit more of what you could genuinely consider to be artistic content."

Sellers sees Deadly, with its lead character of Karla Homolka played by Laura Prepon (That '70s Show) as a character study akin to Monster, the film based on the true story of prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Her battered past led her to torture and murder men. Charlize Theron won an Oscar last year for her portrayal of Wuornos.

Founded in 1996, Quantum both produces its own fare and distributes pictures made by other producers, including the Corbin Bernsen stalker pic Nightmare Boulevard, and Spin, Shoot & Run, which a description on the Quantum website says is, "a quirky thriller" about "a tempestuous beauty on the run carrying a baby in one hand and a gun in the other."

Sellers says the company's intentions are better expressed by the films it has produced like Goodbye America, which a Variety critic said would find an audience among viewers, "who long for genre pics that pack intelligence, not just firepower."

Deadly began as a straight genre film. Inspired by the financial success of the 2002 docudrama feature Dahmer, about the serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, and the 2003 straight-to-video thriller Gacy, Quantum's director of distribution Pamela Vlastas had been itching to make a true-crime film. In January, 2004, she and Sellers were approached by Joel Bender, an editor on one of their previous productions, with the Homolka story. "He'd had his eye on it for years," said Sellers. "For people who follow true-crime stuff, the story is pretty well known. I'd say it's in the top 10, if not the top five, of well-known true-crime stories that are out there."

After Sellers and Bender worked up a script and sent it out into the Hollywood casting community, Prepon immediately expressed interest in
the lead role. Tess Harper, who was nominated for a best-supporting-actress Oscar for her role in Crimes of the Heart, came on shortly thereafter.

The film shot for three weeks in Los Angeles last summer. Only once it was in the editing suite did the producers realize "the film had great potential," but it would need more work. They scheduled another week of
shooting in December, which Sellers says, "really brought the film to a level where we felt like we had something substantial.

Rather than a true-crime focus on the police trying to catch a killer, Deadly is "the story of these people and how it happened, and why, with an emphasis on trying to achieve some level of understanding about the psychological processes that take place in a situation like that."

The film unfolds through a series of flashbacks framed by a fictional rendition of a psychiatric review that Homolka underwent in 2001. "It's Karla, eight years later, trying to rationalize and explain what she did," said Sellers.

But while Sellers makes comparisons with Monster, Deadly does not attempt to absolve Homolka of responsibility. "Our standard has been different," Sellers says, referring to the fact that Monster was fiction based on a true story. "We didn't change the story to make it fit the dramatic model. There are no made-up scenes in the movie.

"I'm sure there will be people who criticize us and say it's too sympathetic, but there are others who will say, we're going to have a hard time watching this movie because we don't care about [Homolka] after a while."

The film is scheduled for completion in June and Quantum is projecting a fall release in the United States, likely no earlier than October. While the company does not yet have a deal for distribution in Canada, there are no laws preventing its release and Sellers says the recent flap over the film, including calls by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and provincial Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson for Ontarians to boycott the movie, has prompted expressions of interest from a number of Canadian distributors.


Boycott of Bernardo film urged

Ontario powerless to stop Deadly from being shown
Families of victims may be allowed to preview movie

March 24, 2021
Toronto Star
By Philip Mascoll and Robert Benzie

The lawyer representing the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French will likely be allowed to preview a copy of a movie that recounts their killings, the filmmaker says.

"I am favourably inclined to sign an agreement that would let him (lawyer Tim Danson) see an advance copy," producer Michael Sellers said from his Los Angeles office last night, where he is currently editing Deadly, the film based on the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Sellers went on to say that after a long telephone conference with Danson earlier yesterday, while he made no commitment to additional changes in the movie, he felt that he and the lawyer were "about 30 seconds apart" in their concerns.

Sellers said he had instructed the editors who were now putting the film together to make a version that meets the families' criteria that will be viewed alongside the version he envisages.

The families' concerns were nudity, sexual activity with the girls and depictions of torture, he said.

"There's about 30 seconds in the movie that doesn't fit their parameters as they described it to us."

Sellers said he has to talk to his attorneys and there will have to be research into Canadian law and Ontario law before the final determination on allowing Danson an advance copy.

"I am favourably inclined to sign an agreement that would let him see an advance copy. I am hoping that once they get to see the totality of what we have, their fears will be lessened."

There was also some concern expressed that releasing the movie would contravene the child pornography laws in Canada. Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, were 15 and 14 respectively when they died.

Danson said he had a lengthy, "realistic" discussion with Sellers earlier yesterday.

"There is a line between artistic content and free speech" that the families don't want crossed, the lawyer said.

"The families would rather that there be no film, because they see it as highly exploitive and violating their daughters."

Danson said the concerns he expressed were not about the right to do movies, but about content.

"The families will never support it (the making of the movie) but he wanted the families' okay of the sensitive areas."

At Queen's Park yesterday, Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson said Ontarians should boycott the "despicable" film.

"My hope is that distributors in the province of Ontario and in Canada will shun this film and not try to make a quick buck out of a very disturbing part of our history," Watson said. "We have to think of the families of these two young women who were killed by Bernardo."

Because the province is no longer allowed to censor films after a court ruling, Watson said the government is powerless to stop Deadly from being shown here.

"Under the Charter there is the ability for people to distribute films. Our only condition is if it is in breach of the Criminal Code, if it's considered obscene, the police can lay charges and that way the film can be stopped from distribution," he said.

The film does not yet have a distributor and Sellers said Tuesday that it is unlikely to be released until September or October - after Homolka finishes her 12-year prison sentence in June. Bernardo, declared a dangerous offender, is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.

Deadly should never be seen here, Watson said.

"I'd like to keep it out because I think it's a despicable film.

"Most Ontarians don't want to go and see and this. If it does get distributed, my hope is that the vast majority of Ontarians will turn their back on this kind of a film that is basically recreating a very horrible and tragic situation," he said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty echoed Watson's sentiments, saying the project is "an unfortunate development."

"I don't think that legally we can prevent that movie from being shown in the province of Ontario," he said.

Deadly stars Misha Collins as Bernardo and Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on TV's That 70's Show, as Holmolka.


Shun film on killers: Preem

Hollywood depiction of Bernardo-Homolka set for later this year

Thu, March 24, 2021
Toronto Sun
By Alan Findlay, Queen's Park Bureau

PREMIER DALTON McGuinty is asking people to snub a new movie depicting the story of schoolgirl killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka if and when it comes to Ontario. McGuinty doubted the province can legally prevent the American movie, titled Deadly, from being shown in Ontario later this year, and called it "an unfortunate development for people to choose to capitalize on a terrible and horrific tragedy."

"I certainly will not be viewing that movie, and I guess my advice and my encouragement to Ontarians is that they would do the same," he told reporters outside his Queen's Park office yesterday.

Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson also encouraged people to stay away in droves.

"I think most Ontarians don't want to see this," said Watson.

NO DISTRIBUTOR

He pointed out that the film, set for release in September at the earliest, still has no Canadian distributor lined up.

"If it does get distributed, my hope is the vast majority of Ontarians will turn their back on this type of film that is basically recreating a very horrible and tragic situation. You have to think of the families," Watson said.

The movie's website suggests Homolka, whose 12-year sentence ends this June, could be viewed in a sympathetic light by the audience in what will be an ambiguous portrayal.

Watson said the province can't prevent films from coming to Ontario unless they actually breach the Criminal Code.

Tim Danson, the lawyer for the families of slain teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, said the movie could contain child pornography if it attempts to recreate the girls' final hours as recorded on videotape by the couple.

Danson said the families worked hard to achieve the closure of destroying the videotapes and other evidence.

They did it so that they wouldn't somehow resurface despite a court publication ban.

"We're now going to have a Hollywood production that simulates what we've destroyed?" said Danson.

"It's very, very painful for the families."

One picture on the movie's website shows the exposed back of a blindfolded girl as the actor playing Bernardo videotapes her from the front.


Lawyer demands advance viewing of Bernardo-Homolka movie

Globe and Mail (Canadian Press)
March 23, 2021

Toronto - A lawyer representing the families of two slain Ontario schoolgirls has demanded an advance screening of a new Hollywood movie about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka to determine whether he will try to block its release.

"We have very serious concerns about the film because transcripts (the producers) have... include what went on inside the house (and) what was on the videotapes and it's very disturbing information," said Tim Danson.

The film, entitled Deadly and slated for release this fall, chronicles the ill-fated courtship and subsequent criminal life of Canada's most notorious couple - a union that ultimately led to the murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

"We're aware they've hired two actresses to play the roles of French and Mahaffy and that they intend to simulate what occurred inside the Bernardo-Homolka home," said Danson. "On that basis, we have requested an advance viewing of the tape."

Danson said he is "very, very concerned" the film's depiction of those gruesome events could be construed as child pornography.

"The fact that it's simulated is no defence - if that information is true, we will use every method we can to stop this."

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for a boycott of sorts against the movie on Wednesday.

"I certainly will not be viewing that movie, and my advice and encouragement to Ontarians is that they would do the same," said McGuinty. "It's an unfortunate development for people to choose to capitalize on a terrible and horrific tragedy."

The province has no legal power to prevent the film being shown in Ontario, conceded McGuinty.

But if the film makes its way into the province, the Ontario Film Review Board can forward it to police if it feels the Criminal Code has been breached.

The film's website suggests the story is somewhat sympathetic to Homolka, portrayed by Laura Prepon - who plays Donna on That 70s Show.

"In the end, the viewer is left to ponder their sympathy for Karla, to ask how much she too is a victim of Paul," reads the plot synopsis. It further describes Homolka, who will be released from prison this July, as "conflicted by her conscience but still unable to escape" Bernardo's grasp.

Danson said he's been unsuccessful so far in obtaining an advance viewing of Deadly from its U.S. producers.

"If they're not prepared to satisfy us that they're not, for example, simulating rapes of children, then I will be in contact with the appropriate people in the United States to see what kind of legal recourse we can do," he said.

"We have no choice but to think the worst and we'll have to act accordingly - it's what we don't know that is causing concern."

The film's producer, Michael Sellers, says he's keenly aware of those concerns.

"I... made a commitment to myself to do nothing to dishonour the memory of the victims," Sellers says in a statement posted on the film's website. "All of the people involved in creating the film have gone through similar soul-searching."

The producers based the film on court transcripts, information that was subject to a media ban in Canada.

"I guess someone took the view that they were part of the public record and were entitled to it - I've read those transcripts and it's very, very disturbing stuff," said Danson.

Several items of hard evidence from the trials, such as videotapes and photographs, were later destroyed, but trial transcripts were preserved.

"We didn't destroy the transcripts because we have to be mindful of the fact that Paul Bernardo - even though it's theoretical - will be entitled to parole reviews in the future," said Danson.

The French and Mahaffy families are concerned the film could violate their daughters' memories.

"When we destroyed the videotapes and other sensitive material - (the families) really did believe they had purged this evil - that their daughters were now free from further violation," said Danson.

"The thought of a Hollywood production simulating what had happened to their daughters is something that's excruciating and incomprehensible to them."

Even if the film was picked up by a major distributor or distributed independently by Sellers's Quantum Entertainment, it would be unlikely to make it to a theatre before September or October.

Quantum has no distribution arm in Canada.


Bernardo movie to be released when Homolka is

CTV.ca News Staff
March 23, 2021

Producers of a movie about notorious sex killer Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka will tie the film's release to her release from prison this summer.

And that has Tim Danson, lawyer for the families of two girls killed by Bernardo, feeling wary.

"I, personally would have much rather had this come out before she gets out," Danson told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday. "It feels a little ... frankly, it makes me uneasy."

The movie is called Deadly, and stars Laura Prepon from That 70s Show as Karla and Misha Collins as Bernardo.

The still images available on the film's website show Homolka and Bernardo kidnapping a victim at knifepoint. They also show Bernardo and Homolka in bed together, Homolka with black eyes and Bernardo being arrested.

Danson says according to information he's received, some of the terrible things that were done to his clients Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy will be recreated on screen.

"That is very, very disturbing, and I haven't decided yet whether or not it's legal," he says.

CTV News Toronto's Paul Bliss says the movie's writers used actual transcripts from the trial of Bernardo to help create the movie's script.

Producer Michael Sellers says in a message on the film's website that one goal of his film is to promote "predator awareness.

"I also made a commitment to myself to do nothing to dishonor the memory of the victims," he says.

Danson wanted to see the movie before it's released, but Sellers said it's too late to make major changes to the film.

However, Sellers says he wasn't planning for the film to be distributed in Canada, adding he can't stop people from uploading the film onto the Internet for people to view.

Sellers also says he couldn't prevent a larger distribution company like Miramax, as one example, from buying the rights to the movie and releasing it in Canada.

Background

Homolka began her 12-year sentence after pleading guilty to two charges of manslaughter in 1993.

She is scheduled to be released on July 5.

Authorities are trying to put as many conditions on her release as possible. They fear she may still be a danger to the public.

Bernardo began his crime career as the Scarborough rapist, and was suspected in the sexual assaults of at least 14 women in the late 1980s.

Homolka and Bernardo met in 1987 and were engaged in 1989.

The first death attributed to them was Karla's sister Tammy, who was drugged by Karla so she could be used as a sexual treat by Paul. Tammy choked on her own vomit and died.

Leslie Mahaffy, 14, was kidnapped by Bernardo and Homolka about two weeks before the couple's wedding in late June 1991.

Kristen French, 15, was kidnapped in April 1992.

Videotapes of the two victims' time in captivity were made by their captors. Those tapes were eventually destroyed when their usefulness as evidence reached an end.

In 1993, Homolka left Bernardo after he beat her with a flashlight. She filed charges. This led to his arrest.

While she pleaded guilty, Bernardo went to trial in 1995. Karla was a witness against him.

Besides being convicted on murder and other charges, Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender in October 1995, making it likely he'll never be released from prison.

The case has been the object of books by Ontario author Stephen Williams: Invisible Darkness and Karla: A Pact with the Devil.

There were plans by another movie producer to make a film based on Invisible Darkness, but they never came to fruition.


Bernardo film's release held until fall

Mar. 23, 2005. 01:00 AM
Toronto Star
By Philip Mascoll

The release of a controversial film based on the murders committed by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka has been delayed until fall, the producer says.

Deadly, which had been slated for a spring release, won't even be shown to distributors until well after Homolka finishes serving her 12-year prison term in June, Michael Sellers said from Los Angeles last night.

Production problems and an additional week of shooting in December put the film, which was scheduled to take 10 to 13 weeks to complete, into its 29th week of production, Sellers said.

Speculation that the film had been delayed so its release date would coincide with Homolka's release from prison began with an independent website and was untrue, Sellers said.

The families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy and those of the couple's other victims were foremost in his mind, he said.

"We are trying to get it right. We are aware of all the sensibilities and are trying to be responsible," he said.

Sellers said that even if the film was picked up by a major distributor or distributed independently by his Quantum Entertainment, it would be unlikely to see a theatre before September or October. His company has no distribution arm in Canada.

Laura Prepon, Donna on That 70s Show, plays Homolka, and Misha Collins portrays Bernardo. Joel Bender is the director.

Sellers said the film's script was based on court transcripts and other evidence aired at the trial.


true horror

Cable Pulse 24
March 23, 2021

Will one of southern Ontario's darkest skeletons of the past soon be exhumed to entertain popcorn munching movie-goers?

"Deadly" a Hollywood production chronicling the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka schoolgirl sex killings could be out by the fall, amidst a storm of controversy and local backlash.

The sinister duo were responsible for the murders of teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

Tim Danson, who represents both of the victim's families is fighting to halt the film's release. He, like many others, believes the film is exploitative and will further compound the families' suffering.

"We're aware they have copies of the transcript of what is on the videotapes," he said, referring to the infamous sex tapes the twisted couple made before killing their victims. "And it's our understanding that they intend to do scenes of what went on in the house and what was on those videotapes.

"We will certainly use all legal remedies to prevent the film coming out here in Canada. However if it's played in the United States and they put it on the Internet . I mean it's going to be very, very difficult."

Retired detective Bruce Smollett questions the integrity of the filmmakers. He was the lead Toronto lawman on the infamous case at the time.

"There's always the piranhas in the ocean that want to come out and make money off the misery of other people," he said. "I'm very disappointed."

Norstar Entertainment proposed making the film based on the book "Invisible Darkness" a couple of years ago. But Telefilm Ontario pulled out their $7 million and the Ontario government refused to give tax credits because of the backlash.

It goes without saying that finding a local distributor will be difficult.

"I'm very disappointed if they do get a film distributor up here that's willing to show this movie," Smollett added. "To me no good can come of it."

The movie was due out this summer, but has been delayed by production woes. That means it will likely hit theatres well after the release of Homolka, scheduled for July.