Sam Granillo's documentary on Columbine: Animation, fundraisers and survivor guilt

This week's cover story, "The Columbine Effect," reports on the controversy over a proposed television miniseries based on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School -- and the effort by CHS grad Sam Granillo to complete a documentary focused on the survivors' stories, dealing with the shock and long-term trauma of the attack.

Granillo's project has taken some intriguing turns since he first started a Kickstarter campaign online a few months ago to raise seed money. He's reconnected with old friends who were at school that day, shot some preliminary interviews, and discovered a common thread among his classmates: survivor guilt.

"That's been the most surprising thing," he says. "I didn't know until I started this that I wasn't the only one who felt it was somehow my fault that my friends got hurt or killed. It seems like the farther away people were from the school, the more they have it."

Hundreds of Columbine students weren't at school that day (which happened to be 4/20); Granillo was, and ended up trapped in a small room in the kitchen area during the killers' rampage. He went on to graduate from film school and work as a camera man and production assistant on commercials and television shows. But he remained haunted by "chase dreams" and the fantasy -- now common, he realizes, among his classmates -- that "I could have stopped it if only I had done this or that or been in the right place."

Conveying the emotional journey of the survivors on film would be a challenge, even under ideal conditions. Granillo is exploring the use of animation to convey nightmares and other aspects of long-term trauma, as well as to express what was going through the minds of those injured as they waited for aid. But first he has to raise more cash; he expects that the entire project, including post-production costs, could cost more than $200,000.

At present Granillo is concentrating on simply raising a few thousand dollars to complete a "sizzle reel" to show potential backers. A silent and live auction is scheduled for Sigi's Cabaret in the Tivoli on April 14. Twenty bucks admission ($30 per couple) gains access to plenty of food and desserts and an open bar, plus a chance to bid on items ranging from tickets to opening night of The Book of Mormon to a Fat Tire cruiser bike to d Bar desserts to custom jewelry made from shattered glass Granillo collected at Columbine.

For additional information about the auction and Granillo's film, check out the Columbine Wounded Minds Project.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "The Columbine effect: A horrific roster of school shootings since 1999."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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