OKLAHOMA CITY — The television movie about religious cult under siege near Waco probably will skirt the problem of the still-unresolved real-life ending by concluding the day the standoff started, the production company owner says.
The movie version of the saga of Vernon Howell and the Branch Davidians will be part of Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment’s series for NBC on “the tragic deaths of law-enforcement persons,” said Ken Kaufman, owner of the Los Angeles-based company.
The In the Line of Duty series format stresses “what led up this situation,” Kaufman said.
So most of the movie will deal with Howell’s life before February, and “our movie most likely will end at sunset Feb. 28,” the day four federal agents and at least two cult members died in the failed raid that started the siege, he said.
The movie company is building a mock-up of the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco at a boys ranch near Mounds. Other Oklahoma locations will be used to depict the early days of Howell, the movie makers said.
Director Dick Lowry, who has directed four of the five movies in the In the Line of Duty series, grew up in Oklahoma City.
Lowry realized watching news coverage from Waco that the landscape “looked a lot like Oklahoma,” he said.
He was on the telephone to Mary Nell Clark at the Oklahoma Film Commission five days after the standoff started, asking her to find something that looked like a compound.
Clark talked to Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, who drive and fly over Oklahoma’s flat grasslands. By March 7, she had photos to Lowry of the drab, flat buildings at the 160-acre Bethesda Boys Ranch. The company had people in Oklahoma the next day.
The movie will be filmed through April and air in May, the movie company says.
The draw was the two-story dormitory, vacant since cottages were built for the boys 10 years ago. Construction workers are building a four-story tower and outbuildings that will come down after filming is over.