A movie that will put women from the Downtown Eastside "front and centre," in a fictional story based on the events leading up to serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton's arrest and sentencing, starts filming in Vancouver next week.
"I can confirm that we will be working with Full Flood Pictures Inc. to bring Canadians a different perspective on the horrible tragedies that happened in the Pickton cases," said Sally Catto, general manager of programming for CBC-TV, which is co-producer of the movie with the working title Full Flood.
"Told from the viewpoint of the women of the Downtown Eastside, the women are front and centre in this film."
Full Flood, which doesn't yet have a release date and will be renamed before it goes to air, will be based on Stevie Cameron’s 2010 national bestselling book On The Farm. Cameron started following the case in 1998, when women started going missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
"It’s a very important story, a really necessary story," said executive producer Rupert Harvey of Full Flood Productions. "It has to be told. It is fraught with a lot of issues."
Harvey said the intention of the movie is not to glorify the serial killer.
"What went on was horrific, but it was made worse by the lack of attention that was given to the girls, and it always seemed to me that the girls were the story and the story is about the girls," Harvey said.
"It’s not a movie about Willie Pickton. It’s a story about the girls living and working in the Downtown Eastside who have everyday lives just like you and me … They were completely marginalized and ignored until so many of them died."
The movie isn’t based on any of Pickton’s actual victims. Instead, the characters are fictional, “more invented than composites,” according to Harvey.
In the film’s synopsis, main character Nikki Taylor is described as a “quick-witted and spirited” sex worker who raises the alarm with a local police officer, Sinead McLeod, when she notices an alarming number of women in the Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are disappearing.
Taylor and McLeod are repeatedly faced with indifference while trying to bring the crisis to the attention of the police department. A social worker eventually contacts the media, and Vancouver’s missing women become a national story. As police finally admit there is a serial killer on the loose in the city — Taylor takes a date with Pickton.
“This is not a documentary. This is a drama,” Harvey said.
“Because it was a drama and the story remains one of the most extraordinary dramatic events to happen that just happens to illustrate a problem that continues to exist to this day. I don’t think there’s any immediate end in sight to this kind of exploitation of vulnerable women around the world. Things have to be changed, and the sooner that stories like this get told the better.”
Harvey contacted the families of the victims before production work began, and said he’s working to plan a series of events so the family can get to know the film-makers and cast.
Sentenced to life in prison
In 2008, Pickton was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.
He was sentenced to life in prison with no change of parole for at least 25 years.
Pickton appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled unanimously that he would not a get new trial.
Pickton, now 65, was also charged in the deaths of 20 other women, but they were eventually stayed.
The victims disappeared from the troubled Vancouver neighbourhood between 1978 and 2001, and traces of their remains were found on Pickton's Coquitlam pig farm, about 25 kilometres east of Vancouver.
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