Park City High School graduate making documentary about Ted Bundy
Calderon and crew are seeking participants
Filmmaker Celene Calderon is making a documentary about Ted Bundy, a serial killer who was executed by the electric chair in Florida’s Raiford Prison in 1978.
Calderon, a 2005 Park City High School graduate, is mostly interested in Bundy’s Utah connections.
“I want my film to get to the bottom of the issue of how Ted Bundy touched Utah in a good and bad way,” Calderon said during a Park Record interview with her producer Sean McKenna. “I got the idea because we’re essentially living in the backyard where everything took place in Salt Lake.”
Although Calderon has wanted to do a documentary for a while, the idea of focusing on Bundy didn’t dawn on her until a couple of years ago, after she picked up Ann Rule’s 2008 memoir, “The Stranger Beside Me.”
The book is about Rule’s realization that her co-worker Bundy — they worked for a crisis hotline — was the serial killer, who would eventually confess to the murders of 36 women from around the United States.
“There are a few items in the book that intrigued me in the sense that he was a charismatic guy who could do these terrible crimes,” Calderon said.
The filmmaker’s desire to move forward with making a documentary was fueled by her time volunteering in the Documentary Films program at the past two Sundance Film Festivals.
“I was influenced by a film by Ken Snyder I saw at the festival called ‘Newtown,’ which was about the Sandy Hook shooting victims’ families,” Calderon said. “The film allowed the families to talk about the children, show home videos and pictures.”
She began discussing her idea with some of her fellow volunteers, who told her to go for it.
“The one thing that I’m interested in are the families of the victims and survivors who are in Utah,” Calderon said. “I feel like each of the documentaries we’ve watched are pretty bread-and-butter, the basics, and just mentioning names and situations, but I wanted to go deeper.”
So far, Calderon and her producers, McKenna and Tim Psarras, have been in contact with people who have agreed to discuss their connection with Bundy.
“We’ve met some people who have had great interactions with him and we’ve met people who haven’t,” Calderon said.
One person who has signed on to the documentary is Rhonda Stapley, a former University of Utah student, who stepped forward last year.
Stapley, now 62, claimed in her book, “I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life,” that she was raped, but managed to escape from Bundy in 1974.
“She is looking forward to meeting members of the other families and hopefully heal together,” Calderon said.
The biggest challenge to date is finding family members of victims Nancy Wilcox, Debbi Kent, Melissa Smith and Susan Curtis.
“I would love to meet with someone from the families who could shed some light on the women and discuss how things were handled during the investigations,” Calderon said. “Our goal is to find five families who are willing to work with us. Obviously, time is of the essence, since the events happened 45 years ago.”
Calderon has created social-media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and encourages people to either share posts or message her directly with any experience they want to share.
The social media handles are
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theodorethedocumentary
- Instagram: theodorethedocumentary
- Twitter: TheodoreDoc“I’m hoping that they understand that I want to do these people and families justice,” Calderon said. “This is very important to me.”
As of now, she has received a number of replies.
“The challenge is making sure that they want to be on film for the right purpose,” she said.
Another challenge is verifying the validity of the claims, McKenna said.
“We are checking to see how authentic these statements are, and this is already an interesting process,” he said.
McKenna, who is a burgeoning scriptwriter, joined the project after meeting Calderon at work.
“I was already interested in the topic of Ted Bundy after seeing some documentaries,” McKenna said. “So, when Celene asked if I would be interested in participating in the project, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity like this.
“Growing up in Utah, I was familiar with the story of Ted Bundy and to me it was strange how he’s almost like a Yeti or a Sasquatch in the sense that many people say they know someone who has interacted with him on one occasion or another,” McKenna said. “My father is no different. He worked alongside a colleague who had direct interactions with Ted Bundy.”
After signing on Calderon’s project, McKenna reached out to his friend Tim Psarras, who works for a small Salt Lake-based production company.
“He creates small documentaries and is familiar with the process, and when I asked him if he would be interested in the project and he jumped on it right away,” McKenna said.
Calderon’s overall goal is to enter the documentary in the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
“We are hoping we can get some grants and work at the Sundance Institute Filmmaking Labs,” she said. “But right now, we’re working on contacting people who want to tell their stories.”
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