TV series on Ghost Ship fire scrapped following public outcry
CBS’ new program surrounding the Ghost Ship fire in 2016 has been ended after significant pushback from the local Bay Area arts community.
Originally, Berkley-based authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman were to produce the show with Elizabeth Weil adapting the story for the screen. Weil covered the Ghost Ship tragedy extensively for The New York Times Magazine.
The show was only announced on Dec. 10, 2019, but in the short span of time since then, the reactions from those affected by the fire were so fervent that Chabon and Waldman felt the need to release this statement to 48 Hills, an independent San Francisco news outlet:
“Over the past few days… we’ve heard from parents of the victims, from friends and survivors, and from conscientious members of the community, appealing to us to reconsider telling the story of the Ghost Ship — because it’s too soon, because the wounds are too deep and too recent and the pain of reliving the experience would be too great. These appeals have been heartbreaking to hear, and they have changed our minds.”
Preceding this announcement, Chabon and Waldman attempted to appease concerns from the public via Twitter and other social platforms. Waldman even opened her email to the public but after such a strong response she and Chabon agreed that forgoing the project was the right choice:
“We believe that there is a conversation to be had about the propriety of telling the story of the Ghost Ship, and about the identity and moral responsibility of those who tell it, but clearly it’s not a conversation that can be conducted without causing further pain to the living victims of this tragedy. At this time, therefore, we will not be proceeding, and will do our part to leave the families and survivors to their grief and their loss, in the fervent hope that someday they find not just comfort but also a measure of justice.”
Kitty Stryker—a member of the community most affected by the Ghost Ship fire—had this to say of the proposed television program:
“I feel like TV shows tend to sensationalize these tragedies… A couple of wealthy white straight people who didn’t directly have any connections to the community were not the right storytellers, especially when so many who died were POC and queer artists. It felt disrespectful, especially when the survivors are artists and frankly, deserve that leg up to tell their stories themselves.”
Thirty-six people died in the Ghost Ship fire in December of 2016 during a concert at the unlicensed DIY venue. Two people were charged in relation to the fire. The “creative director” of the space, Max Harris, who was acquitted on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and Derick Almena, the one responsible for illegally converting the space into a venue, who faced a mistrial. His new trial will begin in March of 2020.
Photo credit: Oded Balilty/AP