Tower documentary gets boost from UT alumni

AUSTIN (KXAN) – You’ve heard the UT tower story.  It’s twisted, full of terror and shock.  It’s the Charles Whitman story.

That’s not the story Keith Maitland is going to tell, assuming, that is, that he meets his deadline.  He’s winding down a campaign to fund a documentary on that day in 1966, based on the oral histories that Pamela Colloff gathered and expertly wove together for Texas Monthly.

Maitland is promising to surprise us with perspective.  This is not the sinister story of a sniper looking down at victims.  His camera is set squarely on the ground, offering the viewpoint of the survivors – the people who stared up at death that day and sprang into action rather than acceptance.

“Every week we discover somebody new who has a unique perspective on that day,” said Maitland.

He started looking for those survivors last August.  And now, many are approaching him, wanting to offer their take.  

Chances are, even the survivors who participate will see their own stories in a new way, thanks to animation that Maitland is incorporating.

“We’re mixing archival footage from that day with newly created rotoscopic animations,” he said.  The artists are the same who created the images for Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly

“It paints a visual picture over live action video so that we can create a dreamlike quality to these re-creations. It allows us to really nail details from that day and to create an intimate relationship with the audience and these personal stories.”

The fundraising, now 75 percent complete, is a launchpad for Maitland to continue his conversation with PBS.  With just two days to go, a group of UT alumni offered a matching grant to cover half the difference.  The goal is to air the documentary nationwide on PBS, on the 50th anniversary of the shootings – August 1, 2016.

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