Brad Holland, University of Virginia Ombudsman
Last summer, the tragic suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review managing editor Kevin Morrissey, who made a 911 call reporting his own shooting down by the Coal Tower on former UVA president John Casteen's last official day in office, made national headlines, including a segment on the Today show, which revealed a troubled office environment at the award-winning magazine and launched a discussion of so-called "workplace bullying."
That caught the attention of New York City-based documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, a former bullying victim herself, who has devoted herself to telling these kinds of stories. Almost as soon as the VQR story broke, she called the VQR offices.
"Our arrival was delayed a few weeks when the Today show segment came out and no one wanted to talk on camera anymore," says Peterson. "I was pretty surprised at the way the story was framed in that segment, so of course it only intrigued me more as events continued to unfold in both the press and the comment boards."
Eventually, Peterson managed to get just about everyone connected with the story on camera, including VQR editor Ted Genoways, whom former VQR employee Waldo Jaquith had accused on the Today segment of treating Morrissey "egregiously" in the last few weeks of his life. Indeed, Genoways appears in Part I of the documentary, along with his wife Mary Anne, who tearfully says, "We did so much for Kevin, but it was never enough."
"Kevin's mood could be dark for days, weeks at a time," says Genoways in the film, "in ways that were not always visible to the rest of the staff."
Peterson also interviews Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo, Morrissey's sister, Maria, Waldo Jaquith, VQR contributors, bullying experts, UVA officials, and this writer, to name just a few.
The result is a 40-minute documentary called Our Bully Pulpit: What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey?
"The key to making a documentary is access," says Peterson. "No access, no documentary. So it's really important to me to struggle and obsess about my true intentions for what I want a film to accomplish from the start– not a 'pitch' description, but the true core of what this film can hope to bring to the public dialogue."
Peterson says her goal is to use her film to re-frame what the public dialogue about workplace bullying should be.
"It's not some simple good guy versus bad guy story," she says. "The real answers are in the nuances and shadowy areas. What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey? is screening on the Internet, and I hope it spurs in viewers a similar passion and desire to grapple with answers just as I've had to."
To see Part I of the documentary, click here.