"Mental illness, violence in the media, all these issues that were at play in Christine's story have only become more prevalent," says Craig Shilowich
When Craig Shilowich first heard the story of Christine Chubbuck – the broadcast journalist who shot herself in the head on live television in 1974 – he immediately felt a strong connection to her.
“I went through a really dark patch in my early twenties where I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues. When I came across Christine’s story, it felt familiar to me. It felt personal. And it felt relevant,” the film producer tells PEOPLE of Chubbuck, whose story is told in the current issue of PEOPLE.
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“I’m not sure why people didn’t try [to tell Chubbuck’s story] earlier…I bet you people tried,” says Shilowich. “I know one of her coworkers actually became obsessed with Christine after her suicide and tried for years afterwards to get a TV show or a movie made about her. It’s tricky material though.”
But Shilowich wasn’t to be deterred. He set out to write the film himself.
For more on Christine Chubbuck’s shocking on-air suicide in 1974, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday
“It was a real tightrope walk when I was writing it. You don’t want to glorify or sensationalize what she did. You want to be fair to her and to all the other people involved but you also want to shine a light on the larger issues that led her to do what she did, which isn’t always going to be comfortable for the audience,” he says. “I almost gave up a number of times.”
Ultimately his worked turned into Christine, which delves into Chubbuck’s final days and stars British actress Rebecca Hall. The film is one of two about Chubbuck that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January: The other, Kate Plays Christine, is a pseudo documentary that centers on House of Cards actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she studies and researches Chubbuck as though she is a character Sheil is going to play in a film.
“I think her story has only gained potency and relevance as the years have gone on,” Shilowich says. “We’re no closer to resolving these problems, they’ve only gotten thornier. We’re failing people with mental illness every day. Nothing’s resolved here.”