The title of Kevin Breslin’s documentary, “Living for 32,” has a haunting derivation. In April of 2007, Colin Goddard was a 21-year-old student majoring in international affairs at Virginia Tech. On the morning of the 16th, a mentally unstable student named Seung-Hui Cho strode through the campus armed with a handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Before he took his own life, the gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17. Mr. Goddard was shot five times and lived. It was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history, an event that once again brought America’s obsession with guns into sharp focus.
“He played a unique role. He grabbed a cellphone and called the cops,” Mr. Breslin said of Mr. Goddard during a telephone interview on Sunday. After being shot, Mr. Goddard gave the phone to Emily Haas, a fellow student who maintained communication with the 911 operator. “He kept his wits about him. He was young and strong, that and God were on his side,” Mr. Breslin said. The courageous effort saved lives.
Mr. Breslin’s career began nearly two decades ago as a director and producer of television commercials and public service announcements. Then, his two short films about the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center were premiered on the Oxygen Network. “A Smile Gone, But Where?” made with his father, the columnist Jimmy Breslin, and the “Women of Rockaway,” drew critical acclaim. “The Women of Rockaway” won a New York City Film and Television Award in 2007.
“A year and a half ago I was asked to make public service announcements for the Brady Campaign for Sensible Gun Laws, a group formed by James Brady, White House press secretary, who was shot in an attemped assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.”
“Colin was working with them. We were making two 30-second commercials. I was listening. I thought, 30 seconds, nothing.”
The filmmaker and Maria Cuomo Cole, sister of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, saw a documentary. “After we filmed, Maria and I said ‘Let’s make this thing.’ We went to Virginia Tech in January, ended in April. We sent it to festivals in May, Sundance, Nashville, Tribeca, and now the Hamptons.”
“We tried to make a compelling story about who he is, and the drama that took place in that classroom. Colin always believed he was in the right place at the right time, so he’s made it his mission to keep going with this message for a while.”
“It’s not a message film per se. It’s an original story, one young man’s point of view. These things can be overdone. The hardest part was gaining the trust of Colin. He was shot so many times. He goes back in his mind, about losing people, ‘Where do I go from here? People say I should have been armed.’ So I just let the story go. It more than aptly speaks for itself, but there’s sophistication in that. You’re subtle with everything.”
“Colin’s trying to improve the gun laws in this country. He rejects the premise it can’t be done. Over a million people have been killed in this country since Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in 1968.”
The short film was directed by Mr. Breslin, and produced by Ms. Cuomo Cole. The cinematographer was Luca Fantini. It was edited by Garrett Sergeant with music supervised by Joel Martin.
Mr. Breslin knows the Hamptons. He’s a longtime surfer who first visited Montauk in search of waves in the late 1960s. These days he gets in the water closer to home at 91st Street in Rockaway Beach.
“Living for 32” was short-listed for an Academy Award. It was selected by the prestigious Silverdocs documentary festival this year as well as the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
In East Hampton it will be screened on Friday, Oct. 14, at 2:30 p.m. and on Oct. 15 at 8:15 p.m., both at the East Hampton Cinema, as part of the film festival’s Golden Starfish Short Film Competition.
“Maybe people out there will be interested. People carry guns in East Hampton, too,” Mr. Breslin said.