A poignant film chronicles the Las Vegas shooting and its aftermath

By David Bauder
AP Media Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — A pair of cowboy boots Ashley Hoff never thought she’d see again helped unlock a powerful story about the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

The resulting film, “11 Minutes,” is an inside story of the 2017 massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival and, more importantly, how it impacted the lives of those who were there. Over three hours, the four-part documentary debuts Tuesday on the Paramount+ streaming service.

“I have never felt more useful or more like the universe placed me exactly where I was meant to be,” said Hoff, executive producer of “11 Minutes.”

It seems like an odd feeling considering Hoff was at the show on Oct. 1, 2017, four rows from the stage as Jason Aldean sang “Any Ol’ Barstool.” Hoff heard popping noises that she and her husband, Shaun, initially dismissed as fireworks — not the work of a gunman firing from a nearby hotel window.

She turned to look at her husband and saw someone right behind him hit in the face by a bullet. They alternately ducked to the ground for cover and ran away, depending on when they could hear the gunshots.

At one point she took off her cowboy boots because they were too slippery to run in, eventually escaping the killing field where 58 people died that night, and two more later from their injuries. . More than 850 people were injured before the gunfire stopped.

Nine months later, an FBI agent was on Hoff’s doorstep with his boots – part of a little-known unit that returns property left behind by those caught up in these incidents.

Hoff, already in the film business, thought it was an intriguing topic. She was encouraged to broaden her scope through her experience with other survivors and the involvement of director Jeff Zimbalist and veteran producers Susan Zirinsky and Terence Wrong.

Many survivors, like her, were unhappy with media coverage of the massacre, feeling that too much focus had been placed on the shooter and he had been forgotten too soon.

“We all went back to our corners to suffer in silence,” she said.

The film vividly takes you inside the event with footage from police cell phones and body cameras. Las Vegas police cooperation was key, bringing footage like the race to hospitals with survivors and the moment a tactical unit burst into the casino hotel room where the shooter had barricaded himself.

woven throughout throughout history. Both were seriously injured.

“Is it easy to watch? No, but it shouldn’t be easy to watch,” said SiriusXM host Storme Warren, who was on stage in Las Vegas that night. “I don’t know why you would tell the story if it was easy to watch.”

Warren was initially hesitant when asked to participate in the film, dealing with his own PTSD and suspicious due to past media coverage. He and Aldean, who gave his first Las Vegas interview to the filmmakers, are important connections to the country community.

Hoff believes his own experience that night, though not included in the film, helped convince some of those involved to speak up.

Grippingly, the parents of Carrie Parsons, a young woman who did not survive her injuries, discuss coping with every parent’s worst nightmare and how their time of grieving with her body has been cut short.

“They are going to cremate my daughter in 10 minutes,” recalls Ann-Marie Parsons in tears. “How do you handle this?

After the shooting stopped, police said they heard cellphones ringing as they walked among bodies still on the concert grounds, knowing there were desperate callers on the other end who wanted to know if their loved ones were safe.

Beyond the onlookers, it’s surprising to see some of the first responders — often not the most emotional types — talking about how they dealt with the emotional aftermath. “I was a very angry man. Very angry,” Brian Rogers, chief of paramedic operations, said in the film.

Part four of “11 Minutes” begins at dawn on October 2, 2017, and focuses on some of the lasting bonds between the survivors and some of the rescuers.

This is Hoff’s favorite part. “I like to encourage people to say there’s good in the end, so hang in there for that,” she said.

“There are extraordinary acts of courage and human beings helping human beings,” said Zirinsky, head of production company See It Now Studios. “They are just ordinary people. In the darkest hours, people found each other.

Zirinsky, the former president of CBS News, produced ‘9/11,’ perhaps the most memorable documentary made in the aftermath of that disaster, and considers ’11 Minutes’ the most powerful film she’s written about. worked since.

While the film is about the shooter, whose motive remains a mystery as he committed suicide before the police reached him, it does not mention his name. Almost militantly: a series of included audio reports are cut off just before the name is spoken.

The shooter was found to have searched the internet for ‘how to be a social media star’ in the days leading up to the shooting. Even in death, Hoff doesn’t want to give him that wish.

The film ends with a slow exploration showing the names of those killed five years ago in Las Vegas, as well as the victims of all mass shootings since that time in the United States where at least four people have been killed.

“I don’t call it a political statement,” Zirinsky said. “I call it a statement of reality.”

Both Hoff and her husband escaped the concert without any gunshot wounds, although Hoff broke her arm when she slipped and fell trying to run in her cowboy boots. She didn’t notice his injury until they stopped running.

She’s fine if people take her movie’s message that enough is enough.

“We need to stop turning away and we need to understand what it was like,” she said. “It changes a person forever.”

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David Bauder has been writing about media for The Associated Press since 1996. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dbauder