Ryan Katzenbach: Director, Writer, Producer, Editor, a Mac Guru...is a man who certainly wears many hats as he also has a huge industry tenacity to stay alive in the Entertainment field. His new documentary 'SHATTERED HOPES: THE TRUE STORY OF THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS' goes inside the Amityville, and specifically DeFeo family story, like no film before it. The film, with a total running time of 6 hours, is divided into a 3-part trilogy -- something that is a bit unique for documentary narrative. This film is narrated by the ever so fabulous veteran actor Ed Asner. Ryan says, "It's time to revisit America's most infamous "haunted" house and the crime that inspired "The Amityville Horror."
Alexandra Holzer: Your becoming known as 'The Amity Man' so-to-speak but not without much oppression and angst. How did you become involved with the Amityville Horror Case Files?
Ryan Katzenbach: I was first introduced to the story when I was in the first grade. I forgot about it for a number of years and then rediscovered the case when I was assigned to do some Halloween interest stories for a local newspaper. I thought it would be fun to revisit the story. That was how I met Ric Osuna who was writing the book "The Night The DeFeos Died," and he had, when I met him, just interviewed Ronald DeFeo Jr. I was intrigued with Ric's work, and it gave a very alternate view of the case while dismissing the haunting as a hoax. This fascinated me because it was the first real account I had ever read that focused on the murders, and I was shocked at some of the allegations of police brutality and corruption levied against the Suffolk Police Department. Up to that point, I had been involved in a development deal with Twentieth Century Fox for a book I had published. I was actively looking for a new project, and given my renewed fascination with the case, thought this had the potential of being a great film that would capture people's imaginations. So Ric and I went to work adapting his book as a feature script, and in 2003, with executive producer Bernie Sofronski, struck a development deal with Sony Television Pictures and the USA Network for the movie. For a number of reasons, the film never eventuated, and after going through several deals with studios and becoming frustrated with the system, I decided, in 2006, that we would do this film as a documentary on an independent platform. And, the rest, as they say is history.
AH: 'Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders' is a very bold title for a very old and argumentative case, one which my own father (Dr. Hans Holzer) investigated. Are you very certain that you have true facts others do not and why?
RK: Alex, you hit it on the head. This is an old and extremely argumentative, controversial case and, for whatever reasons, it attracts people who are very passionate and often steadfast in their views. The story has created, essentially, two factions of people. First, there are the pro-haunters who believe that the Boogey Man lives in that house and they live and die for the idea that Jodie the Pig stalked the house and there were flies and slime coating the doors and windows. The second, quieter faction, are those who are fascinated with the case but believe that it was a hoax or that the story was grossly over-embellished, and I think this group, like myself, are more interested in the murders that prompted the whole case. For the last four decades the murder of the DeFeo family, in my opinion, have been treated like an afterthought of sorts, when, frankly, they were the genesis for the whole story. And they're far more fascinating to examine and discuss than entertaining arguments of whether Kathy Lutz levitated off her bed or whether a ceramic lion bit George in the living room during their alleged 28-day stay in the house, none of which can be proven in the slightest. Having said that, yes, I do believe our project has the facts pertaining to the case dialed in with very precise clarity. Our film, I believe, is the first to marry a very forensic analysis of the case with the psychology of what was going on in that house. This is laminated with documents that have never been seen before....literally hundreds and hundreds of pages of stuff that has never been seen. Then, this is all meshed together with eyewitnesses...friends of the DeFeos and people who knew them...who give us an insider's portrait of what was happening at 112 Ocean Avenue. I think when you intertwine all of those elements together, you get a clear idea as to what was going on. Having said that, and to revisit what I said earlier, there are those people who will never listen to these facts that we're going to present. There are people who would much rather spend their time launching ad homonym attacks against myself and trying to disgrace my credibility or those who are in the film instead of just maintaining an objective ear at the risk of possibly learning something new. Our documentary, to my knowledge, is the only documentary that has ever had a 5-year smear campaign advancing it....a whole campaign of people who have attacked me when they don't even have any idea as to the scope of the work and research that has been done. When you can't debate the facts and the documents, the next best thing to do is to attack the person presenting them and fabricate whatever truth is convenient. And that is exactly where a detractor goes when they can't debate the facts, and if you want a history lesson about this, just ask President Bill Clinton about the attack his Presidency suffered from the right and Mr. Kenneth Starr during his 2 terms. Thankfully, this group of people who have spent their time defaming myself and our project is small, and getting smaller. Over time, I think we've demonstrated our case and shown people that there is much more to the story than ever put forth before. This film, yes, indeed, caters to the Amityville genre, but, I think, it has an even bigger following amongst the true crime enthusiasts. The really big story here lies in the forensics, and that is what Shattered, in all three installments, really looks at. And if you need proof that our story goes further than anyone else, just ask yourself why there has been such an effort to discredit us. I think that speaks volumes about the merits of our work.
AH: You were recently interviewed by the TV Chat Show, Actors Entertainment. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it came about?
RK: Pepper Jay was introduced to me by an actor, Tim Slaske, a year or so ago when we were doing a staged reading of a screenplay I wrote at Garry Marshall's Falcon Theater. Pepper runs the ActorsE! show, and she's an actress and she's been around Hollywood for a long time and knows EVERYONE, it seems, in the business. Her website focuses on entertainment events, and that's why she came to cover our staged reading which was starring Ed Asner, Ross Benjamin and John Heard among many other great actors. Pepper had me on the show to talk about the entertainment business in June 2010, and then, with the impending release of Amityville, she invited us back recently to talk shop about the film. ActorsE! is a great resource for industry folks, and the interview talked a lot about the nuts and bolts of making a film, what went into it, and so forth.
Interview continues next week as we continue to look into the first take on an infamous haunted story that began in the 1970s through CSI-styled forensics, data and never before unearthed information buried for over three decades.
For more information on the new film please go to: http://www.shattereddocumentary.com
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