New London, Conn., filmmaker Nick Checker watches filming of “Trashed” with assistant Kate Mullarney (Photo: The Day)
In the wake of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision expanding government’s ability to take private property, the maker of a new docudrama has added an eminent-domain seizure to the plot.
Nick Checker of New London, Conn. – the town at the center of the high court case – wrote the screenplay for “Trashed,” which tells of a 20-something woman who is left homeless after the government takes her apartment, according to New London’s The Day newspaper.
“It’s a docudrama that conveys the fact that our society has a penchant for tossing things into the trash bin which we perceive as no longer having value or not enough value,” Checker said.
“We’re just too fond of ditching something in favor of something better,” he continued. “I want people to walk out of this film understanding that there’s value in entities we might not perceive as having value anymore. There’s treasure in the trash.”
The Kelo v. City of New London decision June 23 allows the New London, Conn., government to seize the homes and businesses of residents to facilitate the building of an office complex that would provide economic benefits to the area and more tax revenue to the city.
Though the practice of eminent domain is provided for in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, the case is significant because the seizure is for private development and not for “public use,” such as a highway or bridge. The decision has been roundly criticized by property-rights activists and limited-government commentators.
Public outrage over the ruling has prompted citizens to target the homes of two justices for confiscation.
The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire wants the city of Plainfield, N.H., to seize Stephen Breyer’s 167-acre vacation retreat by eminent domain and replace it with “monuments celebrating the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions.”
Californian Logan Darrow Clements is trying to use eminent domain powers to snatch the home of Justice David Souter in Weare, N.H., in order to create the “Lost Liberty Hotel,” a kind of museum commemorating the lost right to private property in America.
The New London paper says “Trashed” will intersperse the fictional tale of the young woman forced into poverty and homelessness by eminent domain, with real interviews.
Checker also is directing and co-producing the film through his company, Nightshade Productions.
Many people working on the film share Checker’s strong feelings about eminent domain.
“I think this is an awesome [film],” said Tory Ragsdale, 21, a script supervisor, continuity coordinator and an extra.
Ragsdale told The Day that when he “first heard about eminent domain, my immediate thought was, this is horrible. It’s going to leave a lot of people who formerly had houses and places to live, on the streets.”
The actress who stars as Autumn, Kathryn Downie, told the paper her personal connection with the New London area made her participation in the film especially meaningful.
“I think that eminent domain abuse is an issue that needs to be addressed right now,” said Downie, 27. “I think that art is an exciting way to express or show what’s happening in a community, and to bring awareness to the community.”
Checker expects the film to be completed by October.