Petition Seeks to Halt Indie Horror “Del Playa”

Campaign says film is “Too close to real-life”.

What happened in Isla Vista, California, on May 23, 2014 was a tragedy. Now, a group of individuals profoundly affected on that date have launched a petition to halt a film that, they claim, seeks to exploit events that took place in the beachside community surrounding UC Santa Barbara.

The petition, launched by UCSB alumnus Kate Noller, is absolutely worth reading in its entirety; it’s a poignant and emotional statement of purpose: Articulate, accurate, and compelling. It definitely helped me empathize with her continuing grief and I respect the courage it took for her to take action.


The Tragedy

Shortly after 9 pm on May 23, 2014 Elliot Rodgers opened fire up and down the crowded streets of Isla Vista, an area populated, mostly, with UCSB students who study hard by day, and turn out in droves to party hard on nights & weekends. Before crashing his BMW and committing suicide, Rodgers killed 6 people and injured an additional 13. A 140 page manifesto and an online “Retribution” video revealed a delusional, misogynistic 22-year-old who felt entitled to female attention, claiming his violent retaliation was justified. This was to be his “revenge against humanity” for being bullied and rejected.

The Film: Del Playa

Directed by Shaun Hart, Produced by Berger Bros Entertainment

“In less than one year from the inception of the idea to the answered print, we are proud to present to the world the trailer and poster for our horror film, Del Playa.” – Berger Bros Entertainment, Del Playa Trailer Release

Official Synopsis: Set in the vibrant party atmosphere of UC Santa Barbara’s adjacent town, DEL PLAYA tells the story of Claire Rhodes, a girl with a tragic past that returns to haunt her. Her senior year of high school is shattered by a fellow classmate who’s feelings for her turn to obsession. When a high school dance brawl leads to the brutal murder of her boyfriend, Claire’s fairy tale childhood eviscerates.

Years later, during her junior year at the University of Santa Barbara, Claire’s life seems to be on track: good boyfriend, loyal friends, and a rising star in the psychology department. But on the inside Claire is broken and scarred. A classic example of a wounded healer whose destructive behavior starts to spiral out of control just as her high school stalker reemerges from the shadows on the anniversary of Claire’s high school sweetheart’s murder. The real question is: who will be the first to succeed in the total destruction of her life?

The title is taken from Del Playa Drive, a street in Isla Vista popular with UCSB students.

del playa

It’s important to note that Noller and her supporters’ objections to Del Playa are based exclusively on the film’s trailer. Del Playa has not been released in any form.

The Petition

“It is clear that the creators of this film conceived their idea immediately after the Isla Vista shootings, seeking to profit off the horror felt by the students and community. The horror film “Del Playa”, produced by Berger Bros Entertainment and directed by Shaun Hart, follows the actions of a disturbed individual who does not deserve to be memorialized in film.

The film Del Playa intentionally seeks to commoditize the death of six beloved students, and makes light of the tragedy faced by the entire Isla Vista/UCSB community. Del Playa not only justifies the motives behind the Isla Vista gunman, but also glorifies his actions. Releasing such a film merely 18 months after this tragedy recreates the helplessness and horror felt by the Isla Vista community.”

In response to the petition, Hart (himself a UCSB alumnus) released a statement that reads, in part:

“First and foremost, I would like to publicly apologize to everyone who has been offended in any way by our making of this film.  It was never our intent to monopolize on the tragic shootings in Isla Vista that took place last year.  While I do admit there is the connection of Santa Barbara, this film is not about Elliot Rodger.  The fictional character in the film is not meant to portray anyone in particular. It is meant to portray incidents that take place, not only in Santa Barbara, but across the country on a daily basis.

As a graduate of UCSB and a former resident of Del Playa, that day was a knife to my heart.  For me, the actions of one individual tainted a lot of good memories of an innocent time and brought darkness to a place that should only be home to the hopes and dreams of the young.”

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, Noller said that she’d be willing to settle for a change in the movie’s title, and profits from the project going towards a memorial fund for victims and families affecting by the shooting. “They have the right to make the movie, but it shouldn’t be profiting off the death of students. It’s a horrible precedent to set.”

Shaun Hart

Shaun Hart

A “Horrible Precedent”

Noller is 100% correct about setting a “horrible precedent”, but we disagree on how.

Of course Del Playa was conceived in the aftermath of 5/23/14; Hart was there, and himself deeply and irrevocably affected by it. As an artist, in his case a filmmaker, it’s completely natural to make a movie as a way of processing those events. Art is excellent therapy.

Noller doesn’t seem to realize that this precedent has long been established; most creative manifestations initiate from actual events in an artist’s life. And this isn’t at all uncommon. Every war movie, every Holocaust drama, every story of tragic consequence is based, somehow, in reality. This is a far cry from “profiting” off of death; if anything, it’s a remembrance of life and a reminder to appreciate however much time we’re allotted. And speaking of profiting, indie filmmaking isn’t exactly a boon industry; many films, both big-budget and independent, never recoup their production costs. If anything, indie filmmaking proves that Hart is, primarily, artistically motivated.

I’ve always been of the opinion the life influences art, never (or extremely rarely) the other way around. As an art form, horror movies hold up an especially harsh mirror, forcing us to examine society’s darkest realities–sometimes ad nauseam. It’s not always pleasant, which is exactly why the genre we love isn’t for everyone.

I would only ask Noller to suspend her judgment, at least until the film is released. Naming the film “Del Playa” clearly connects it to that tragic day, but, truthfully, most movie viewers won’t make that instant connection. Ironically, Noller’s petition will most certainly have the opposite effect of her intension, increasing the awareness, buzz, and marketability of Del Playa. I just hope Hart and company produce a final product that warrants making such an obvious (and for many, painful) connection.

The “horrible precedent” is that if this petition were successful at halting Del Playa’s release, it would empower other misguided attempts at derailing films deemed, in whatever way, to be offensive. Art can be rough sometimes, and you’re welcome to express your informed opinions regarding its cultural validity. I respect that. But freedom of expression comes first, so please stop trying to block access to something we might appreciate just because it bothers you. Instead, let’s talk about it and hug it out—or at the very least: Agree to disagree.

My sincere condolences to all those effected by the tragic events that took place in Isla Vista on May 23, 2014.


What’s your opinion about Del Playa and films inspired by real-life tragedies? Is it simply too soon for a movie that makes such a bold connection to that dark day in 2014? Sound off in the Comments section!

Follow me on Twitter @josh_millican for quality horror articles worthy of your attention.




11 Comments on this post.

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  • Chris
    9 August 2015 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Every horror movie is based off some kind of real life tragedy this one will be no different. Why not go ahead and stop every horror movie?? Quit getting so offended at everything and stop takin it all so literal

  • Rick
    9 August 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

    So a kid snapped and killed some other people . It happenes everyday world wide so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal . If you don’t want to see it or are “offended” by it DON’T WATCH IT ! Bunch of cry babies no doubt libtards need to crawl back under the rock they came out from and leave this movie and the makers of this movie alone . Besides the best horror movies made now a days are baised on real life events .

    • Jake
      9 August 2015 at 10:19 am - Reply

      Chris and Rick – Like the filmmaker who released his pathetic statement, you’re both (illiterate) jackasses with no heart or conscience. Let’s see how you feel about this after you’ve face any actual difficulties in your pampered lives.

      • Jake Is A Dumbass
        10 August 2015 at 8:59 pm - Reply

        Jake, the movie clearly has very little to do with the actual events, and is so loosely based on anything, that it’s really only the title itself and the setting holding it together.
        Rick was 100% correct in his assessment that people need to stop being so damn offended by everything. Nobody has the right to go out and try and stop someone from making a film, a song, writing a book, or painting a picture. It doesn’t matter what it is. They have the right to make it, tell their story, and release it. If this girl doesn’t like it, she has the right to make a petition, too, but she’s wrong to try and stifle someone’s free speech in doing so. On top of that, the movie isn’t even out yet. More than likely, it will have absolutely zero to do with the actual events, which you can tell from the trailer already.

  • Autumn Dawn Gorny
    9 August 2015 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    The article fails to mention of the percentage of Isla Vista residents feeling negatively about the movie. How do we know that the filmmakers did not get information and permission from the other residents? Maybe those residents believe this can help raise awareness.

  • Danni
    10 August 2015 at 8:37 am - Reply

    I can honestly see where both sides are coming from. It is completely understandable to assume the tragedy which ensued at UCSB is still very fresh in the minds and hearts of those connected to the University and the area. And perhaps it is too soon for some, but to learn that the filmmaker himself was a student leads me to believe that this may simply be his way of coping with the rampage. I don’t believe he meant any disrespect or to capitalize upon the loss of life and innocence. It is unfortunately not uncommon for disturbed individuals to initiate a series of traumatic life altering events, forever shattering others sense of trust and safety. Becoming the catalyst for overwhelming anxieties and depression. Everyone deals with grief, pain and loss in dramatically different ways. Its obvious the person who spearheaded the petition is still trying to heal and doesn’t realize the movie may be the filmmakers way of healing. I would hope a compromise can be made between the two parties, both of whom have been adversely affected.

  • Matthew Myers
    10 August 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Last October, there was an SVU episode entitled Holden’s Manifesto that was clearly based on the Elliot Rodger shootings. There were not any petitions or protests about it.

  • betty
    14 August 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Well lets respect the rights of victims…..this is due to a change in society. People do care! We will change society for the better. One step at a time……be positive!

  • betty
    14 August 2015 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Let us have respect…..if it was not before, let it be now.

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    21 August 2015 at 12:16 am - Reply

    […] Petition Seeks to Halt Indie Horror “Del Playa” Posted 2 weeks ago […]

  • Jess R Bolen Jr
    2 September 2015 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Before expressing my opinion on the aforementioned petition, I would like to extend sympathy toward those affected by the tragedy in Santa Barbara. I live across the country, and only learned about the events of that day through the news.
    As a writer, I am compelled to examine some of the most painful experiences I have endured. When I convert those experiences into a fictional piece, it is therapeutic. The goal that I have, in sharing with readers, is merely to assemble a sort of music. In doing so, perhaps others who have had similar experiences might recognize certain notes, or even feel less “alone.”
    If the Del Playa film had as its subject matter, a critique of the victims’ lives, or if it were glamorizing the actions of Elliot Rogers…perhaps I could understand people having issues with it. Since the film synopsis doesn’t discuss those particular themes, I probably wouldn’t support the petition.
    I support artistic creativity. Artists who truly reflect the human condition will invariably offend some people. In this case though, I think that, if there were a better understanding of what the film’s subject matter involved, there’d be less resistance. Just my “two cents worth.”