The filmmaker behind a movie about the "House of Horrors" doctor convicted of murdering babies born alive said he has turned to a rival crowfunding website for support after Kickstarter tried to censor his film.
"We just couldn’t start telling this story by buying into an act of censorship. We walked away," Journalist and filmmaker Phelim McAleer told NBC10. "(The subject matter) is going to offend. We are not going to be part of community that’s offended by the truth."
- HOUSE OF HORRORS TRIAL
McAleer used the popular online crowdfunding website Kickstarter for his first project "FrackNation," which was supported by 3,305 people who donated $212,000. Kickstarter, however, tried to censor his next project about Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who in July was convicted of murdering three babies that were born alive in a West Philadelphia abortion clinic.
McAleer and his co-producer Ann McElhinney submitted the Kickstarter project in March and patiently waited for the company to give the proposal a greenlight. He received word later that month that his project description needed amending to fit Kickstarter community guidelines before the campaign could go live. The website requested via email that he amend this part of the project's description: "1000s of babies stabbed to death" and "1000s of babies murdered."
McAleer felt the response was a slap in the face after using Kickstarter for "FrackNation" and an attempt to censor his project.
So the film producer turned to Indiegogo, a rival crowdfunding website, to fund the Gosnell movie project. To date, the project has raised $546,752 of the $2.1 million goal with 32 days left in the campaign.
While in Philadelphia producing his film "FrackNation" last year, McAleer found himself with three days off and a break from the film. So he opened the newspaper to find out what the big stories were in Philadelphia.
Pictured at right: Producers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer
The case of Gosnell stunned him. The abortion doctor ran a clinic in West Philadelphia for years and stored fetuses in jars. Gosnell was convicted of murdering three babies that were born alive, killing them by snipping their spinal cords with scissors.
In addition to first degree murder, Gosnell was convicted of 233 additional counts, avoided a death sentence and is serving life in prison. In a separate federal case, he was found guilty of running a "pill mill."
The trial was dubbed the "House of Horrors" by local media. After the trial, there was a movement by religious entities, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to bury the Gosnell fetuses, or "babies" as they were referred to.
McAleer, who was born in Ireland, says he had no idea how abortions worked in the U.S. before reading about the case. He decided to spend his three days off in court listening to testimony to learn more.
The producer was left with a horrifying picture of abortion, as he didn't know a six-month fetus could be aborted. McAleer felt the national media was for the most part void in telling the story. So he decided his next film would be a story on the Gosnell case and he'd rely on crowdfunding again to make the film possible.
An email exchange provided by McAleer, shows Kickstarter requesting language changes, citing the community guidelines on March 27. McAleer wrote back to the change request with the filmmaker's decision to pull the plug on the Kickstarter campaign.
In an email provided by McAleer, Kickstarter responded the next day giving a greenlight to the project but the correspondence did not address Kickstarter's previous request to amend the project's language.
McAleer feels comfortable with his decision to seek another crowdfunding outlet after the experience. Many crowdfunding platforms receive a portion of the proceeds after the campaign has ended and the total amount is raised. Kickstarter's guidelines can be found here.
"The project submission was accepted on Friday exactly how it was submitted for our review and the filmmakers are still welcome to launch the project on Kickstarter at any time," Kickstarter spokesman Justin Kazmark wrote via email to NBC10 today. "Kickstarter is a platform open to projects from across the creative spectrum that represent an incredibly diverse array of topics and viewpoints."
After the producers meet the Indiegogo fundraising goal, they plan to hire a writer, director and release the made for television movie sometime next year. McAleer descibes the movie as a docudrama that tells Gosnell's story and the media cover-up.
Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.