The fictional film ‘Del Playa’ has real consequences for people who lived through the Isla Vista shooting

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The horror film Del Playa hits digital platforms like Amazon and Youtube today. Set in Isla Vista, the film follows the story of Matthew Hudson, a mentally unstable boy who was bullied back in high school. In the movie, he follows his high school crush to college, seeking violent redemption. 

It’s a fictional story, but inspired by real events.

When the trailer for the movie was released two years ago, it was met with a backlash in Santa Barbara. Nearly 30,000 people signed a petition to stop the film. Many thought the movie was profiting off the tragedy that happened in IV three years ago, when six students were killed and 14 others injured in a violent shooting spree.

“Bringing back the memories for so many people who have been scarred for life – it’s one of the worst things you can do,” said Geena Levy, who signed the petition back in 2015. She was living on Del Playa when the shooting happened, and saw two of the dead bodies out of her window. “It’s doing a bad thing and ruining people’s idea of what IV is. I’m not going to see it and I’m sure my friends won’t, either.”

KCRW’s Larry Perel spoke with Shaun Hart, who wrote and directed the film.

KCRW: You began writing this film immediately after the shooting spree. What would you say? Are you profiting off tragedy?

Hart: “I would have to begin by saying the intention for creating this film was never for monetary gain. I’m a young filmmaker. This was one of my first films. The intention was to grapple with the questions that I feel everybody is grappling with, and that is why is there an epidemic level of school violence that has perpetrated year in and year out?”

Behind the scenes. (Photo: Tomik Mansoori) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Knowing that this may affect people so personally, why did you choose to shoot the film in Isla Vista and call the movie Del Playa?

“Being that I’m an alumni of UCSB, I can see [Geena’s] perspective. Elliot Rodger’s story didn’t just affect the people who were there, witnessed it or had friends who were affected by the tragedy, but it affects all of us. I felt like making something real. Something that’s honest, something that’s authentic to me and the questions I have. I’m a filmmaker, director and writer so I write what’s personal to me. I write what’s important to me.”

Scene shot in Isla Vista for the movie. (Photo: Del Playa) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

What do you want people to get from the film?

“I think it’ll be different for everyone. I think some people will see the stereotypical tropes of a classic late ’80s, early ’90s slasher film. I think other people will see something deeper. Ultimately, I want it to be genuine, authentic, and with a purpose. Being what we had, what little amount of money, and little amount of crew, and zero support, I think we accomplished that.”

Josh Berger, Tomik Mansoori, Francis Casanova, Phillip Marlatt, Clinton Kyle Hollister and Shaun Hart produced the film with Belligerent Seal and in association with Berger Bros Entertainment. The film will be distributed by Terror Films.