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Director's Blog

February 04, 2012

We were thrilled when the vast majority of The Newseum audience stayed and asked many great questions.

Deadline screenwriter Mark Ethridge, Newseum CEO Jim Duff, First Amendment Center founder John Seigenthaler, former Congressman Bob Clement and Deadline executive producer Hunter Atkins
The Newseum audience

One of the first ones Mark got was one he always gets: “How much of Deadline is true?” And Mark’s answer: “It’s not all factual, but it’s all true.”

It’s more than a cute quip. Here’s one example.

The ‘real’ Trey Hall was a 30-something year-old man who had been educated in elite Northern schools, just like our lead character Matt Harper. It wouldn’t work cinematically to have two main characters who were so similar, so we decided early on to make Trey a just-out-of-college earnest young idealist. Then our editor Bob Gordon’s wife Dolly suggested that everything would be more interesting if Trey Hall were a young woman. Boy was she right! Every scene Trey was in instantly became more complex and compelling. We had to re-write some scenes to make the most of Trey’s change of gender, but the spirit of Trey’s character – as the person of means who wouldn’t allow the story of Wallace Sampson’s murder to die – is faithfully intact.

Mark and I worked together to make many such improvements, while always remaining true to the heart of the story of a young man in a tiny Southern town who was killed for no other reason than being an African-American in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the reporters who uncover the truth and bring the guilty to justice.

And that’s the truth.

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