History records that the Titanic sunk in 1912 after slamming into a giant iceberg. What it doesn’t show is that the massive liner also went down in Madera County in 2016.
The most recent sinking was for the filming of the independent docudrama, “Titanic: Sinking the Myths,” written and directed by Fresno High School graduate Ryan Katzenbach. The local filmmaker splits his time between Los Angeles and Madera County where he has a home.
Writer/director Ryan Katzenbach is a Fresno High graduate who has a secluded home in Madera County, where he has quietly filmed two movies.
It was at the secluded location of Katzenbach’s home in Madera County where he built the large set for filming his movie that is based on the book of the same name by D.E. Bristow. The film also features 33 local actors, many from Madera South High School.
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The independent film, shot on a budget that Katzenbach would only describe as “not large,” was financed by the Reelz cable channel and produced through Katzenbach’s Katco Media production company.
The two-hour version of the movie already has aired on Reelz but a special screening was held at the Madera Community College Center on Friday for the locals who worked on and supported the filming. Katzenbach also has a four-hour version that will be released at a later date.
Ed Asner stars in film
Among the guests at the special screening was veteran actor Ed Anser, the Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning performer best known for the TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the animated feature film “Up.” In “Titanic: Sinking the Myths,” he plays Wilhelm Müller, a Titanic survivor who tells his story to a reporter (played by Frances Fisher). The film reveals that there is more to the sinking than history has reported.
Asner had high praise for both the locals who worked on the production and the central San Joaquin Valley. He could not recall ever visiting Fresno but said he did own a home at Shaver Lake.
The local casting was the work of Ginger Latimer, who teaches drama at Madera South. She selected several of her current students plus alumni to be part of the local filming.
The key role was an easy decision by the director. Katzenbach has known Asner for years as they have worked on several scripts. It was Asner who provided the narration for Katzenbach’s “Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders” that also aired on Reelz. When another actor cast to play the reporter faced a conflict, it was Asner who recommended Farmer.
Asner, who describes himself as a believer in a 9/11 conspiracy, said he was attracted to the Titanic project because of the research Katzenbach put into the story. The director/writer had worked with Bristow on the writing of her book and ended up as the publisher.
As for being drawn to the tale of one of history’s greatest man-made tragedies, Asner said, “I’ve always had an interest in the Titanic because life seems to be a constant series of tragedies that we find out were caused by greed or carelessness or stupidity or just pure evil.
“When will we ever find out what’s going on there?”
Asner on Mary Tyler Moore
Asner got emotional when talking about the death of Mary Tyler Moore in January. He said “the beautiful princess” he worked with for a dozen years had started to change years ago because of lingering illness.
“I have been grieving for her for years,” Asner said.
As for the filming in Madera County, it almost sounds like a conspiracy that Katzenbach was able to build a set for “Titanic” and no mention was made to the media.
“When I shot the ‘Amityville’ movie, we built the house to a smaller scale in my backyard. It was still 17 feet tall. We had all of these blue lights going and no one said a word.”