UVU To Host ‘The Executioner’s Song’ Filmmaker July 16 For One-Day Conference
June 27, 2014
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Melinda Colton | 801-863-6807
Lawrence Schiller, acclaimed filmmaker and director of the Norman Mailer Center, will be at Utah Valley University on July 16 for a one-day conference to discuss the “The Executioner’s Song,” a film he directed that depicts the events surrounding the 1977 execution by firing squad of Gary Gilmore in Utah.
Hosted by the English and philosophy departments, the conference is entitled “Echoes of The Executioner’s Song: Why a New Generation Should Listen.” All events, which are free to the public, will take place in room 120 of the UVU Library. At 2 p.m., a panel of Utah Valley-based writers, scholars, and legal experts (including Michael Palmer, managing editor of Iron Horse Review; Rich Roberts, civil litigation attorney; and Nancy Evans Rushforth, humanities coordinator for UVU Integrated Studies) will comment on the crucial legacies of the Gilmore case. A screening of The Executioner’s Song is scheduled at 4 p.m., followed at 6:30 p.m. with an address by Schiller, who will take questions afterward.
Schiller’s connection to the Wasatch Front runs deep. In the late 1970s, he resided in Utah to research the context and conditions of Gary Gilmore’s Utah County murders and one of the most perplexing and highly publicized death penalty cases in U.S. history. Schiller’s work substantiated the content of Norman Mailer’s massive nonfiction novel The Executioner’s Song, which in turn founded the script and production of Schiller’s film adaptation of the same title. The 1982 film, which starred Tommy Lee Jones and Rosanna Arquette, was shot on location in the Utah and Salt Lake valleys.
More than three decades after the events that first brought him here, Schiller is in Utah to direct the Norman Mailer Center’s prestigious summer writing workshops, scheduled for three weeks in July at the University of Utah.
The impact of the Gilmore case on Utah County residents at the time was profound. Gilmore was convicted of two murders and sentenced to death; however, the United States had at this point discontinued penal executions for over a decade. When Gilmore, through his lawyers, insisted that the state of Utah follow through on the sentence, the nation turned its full attention to the case. Gilmore’s death by a Utah firing squad generated social, cultural, legal, and aesthetic questions that cannot be fully obscured by time.