"Execution" (2007) - design and reception of a non-mainstream death row movie

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On this page I will present SOME information and discussion on my final thesis. Consider it as a kind of diary, although I don't know whether I will constantly post here or not... --Bastian Martens 22:42, 6 August 2008 (CEST)

"Execution" (2007) - design and reception of a non-mainstream death row movie


I'm writing my final thesis on a death row movie simply called "Execution", a film which I haven't seen and won't see unless the producer manages to get it published on DVD before the end of november. What is most important about this film is, that is different from the films we've seen in the seminar Present US-Cinema and the Death Penalty. Therefore, I'll try to find out what is different about this film...

Collection of thoughts and ideas

Here I will collect any unassorted thoughts, ideas and questions on the issue, until I manage to incorporate these thoughts, etc. into other parts of this page.


Here I will try to give some information on my progress, although I might cancel the idea if it gets to disquieting. ;-)

until now: I've made up my mind about the general direction of this thesis and found some ideas to get started with. I've (superficially) browsed the films homepage and watched the YouTube films on it. Most important: I got into contact with "Execution" producer Steven Scaffidi and he offered his help. This will hopefully give me some new insights, especially on his ideas concerning the design of the film. We'll see what he's got to say... I've also written mails to some people who hosted screenings of the film.

04/08/2008: written next mail with a lot of questions to Steven Scaffidi and received his answer within a few hours! Most interesting about that:

  • He agrees on his film being considered as non-mainstream, but thinks that ALL death row movies, even 'Dead Man Walking', are non-mainstream.
  • While talking about stars, success of a movie and uniqueness he compared his film to 'Blair Witch Project', which worked without any famous stars but still was very successful due to its uniqueness. I had thought about that comparison but didn't expect to hear it from the producer himself in the first place!

I also got a short reply by Dr Loraine Gelsthorpe of Cambridge University, who I had asked about the screening and the audience's response.

06/08/2008: started reading Guest, David: Sentenced to Death - The American Novel and Capital Punishment. --> He writes about the DP's representation in fiction. It should be easy to transfer or expand some of his ideas from novels to movies.

05/09/2008: done a lot of reading about movies, movie reception, wrong assumptions when analyzing films; watched some movies again and completed a list of possible criteria Death Row Movies seem to share (see below); written some more mails to Steven Scaffidi...

On the thesis itself

Preliminary structure

1. Introduction
2. The development of Death Row Movies
3. “Execution”
3.1 General information – “This is as real as it can get”
3.1.1 Content
3.1.2 from first contact to screening – the process
3.1.3 From actors to characters A true convict A true prison warden A true prison priest
3.2 Design
3.2.1 Script?!?
3.2.2 Awareness of genre features (Breaking with Hollywood conventions?)
3.2.3 Intentions
3.2.4 The idea of the screening
3.2.5 www.executionfilm.com and other online presentations
3.2.6 Voices of actors
3.3 Reception
3.3.1 www.executionfilm.com and other online receptions
3.3.2 Public reactions (TV, newspapers…)
3.3.3 Meta-reception
4. Conclusion

I'm still re-thinking some of the titles...


This is a list of 46 (!) elements/categories/aspects Death Row Movies seem to share. I'm still figuring out, which are more important and which are rather insignificant, as not all of these elements reoccur in every Death Row Movie. Some of these elements are neatly tied together, so I will probably group them under one headline (1 Facts about convict; a, b, c...)

For the time being, I'm waiting for Steven Scaffidi's response to my last mail, in which I asked him to complete the missing facts about 'Execution'. I really am expecting there to be some significant differences to other films!!!

1. gender of convict
2. race of convict
3. guilty of the crime he’s been sentenced for
4. Confesses the deed from the very beginning
5. Confesses the deed later on in the movie
6. audience knows the truth from the beginning
7. Or: truth is revealed during the movie
8. time on deathrow
9. film starts:
10. repentant
11. executed
12. method of execution
13. procedure explained
14. closing of the shutters
15. opening of the veil to the witnesses’ room
16. reading out the legal text
17. phone call with response “but it’s too late”
18. eye contact with dear one during execution
19. reflections in the window between convict and dear one
20. last meal is part of the film
21. priest offering his service
22. Receives last rites by a priest
23. is offered a sedative
24. refuses to take sedative
25. Last meeting with convict’s family/dear ones
26. Communication/Socialisation with other inmates
27. Other aspects of prison life
28. talk about the guards’ work
29. intimate relationship between convict and consulting person
30. consulting person tries to save convicts life shortly before the execution
31. victim’s family’s point of view
32. at least 1 vehement supporter of the DP among victim’s family?
33. flashbacks of the crime?
34. Other revisiting of the crime scene(s)
35. stars
36. Argumentation of the DP on a religious level
37. Argumentation of the DP on an ethical level
38. Argumentation of the DP on a political level
39. political representative involved (e.g. governor)
40. Are both sides of the discussion (on no matter what level) presented
41. length of walk
42. length of preparation
43. length of execution
44. at least partly filmed in real prison
45. based on a book
46. based on a true story

Furthermore, I've checked the "elements [film companies] need to market a film successfully" as Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) names them in 'The Player':

1. suspense
2. laughter
3. violence
4. hope
5. heart
6. nudity
7. sex
8. happy endings ("mainly happy endings")
June also asks for another element to which Griffin does not respond. Yet, it seems to be of some importance:
9. reality

Interestingly but not surprisingly, happy endings and reality avoid each other's company...



Execution at IMDb

Interview with Billy Moore at guardian.co.uk

Interview with Billy Moore at voice-online.co.uk

youtube playlist on "Execution" includes trailers, interviews and scenes from the movie.