It was the story of the decade, a scandal of shocking proportions. Producer Blye Faust ’97 helped bring it to the silver screen, where it’s drawn rave reviews.
Blye Faust ’97 knew that the subject of her film was an incredible story. The unbelievable part was that no one had told it yet. Enter Spotlight with a cast headlined by Michael Keaton. It has been generating major Oscar buzz.
Six years ago Faust was with her production partner, Nicole Rocklin, in The Boston Globe’s cafeteria. They were about to ask a Pulitzer Prize–winning team of investigative journalists to trust their self-financed production company, which didn’t have a major film credit, with the film rights to the 143-year-old paper’s biggest story.
In 2003 the Globe investigative team (named “Spotlight”) won the Pulitzer for a series that chronicled sexual abuse by priests. The award citation commended the paper for courageous coverage “that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction, and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church.”
“At the time, nobody had written a book or article that we knew of about the Spotlight team,” Faust recalls. “Nicole and I were given the incredible opportunity to do their work justice with the film.”
Faust surmises that the producers were given the chance because of the fervor they brought to that initial meeting, along with a confidence that they could put the movie together. The results show that the Globe’s trust was not misplaced—though Faust and Rocklin struggled to find the right fit in production partners and screenwriters until Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy were able to nail a script. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), one of the earliest actors to sign on, was “a talent magnet,” according to Faust. He proved key in assembling a cast that also includes Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and John Slattery.
Spotlight premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in September. At the Toronto International Film Festival it earned a pair of standing ovations—at a public screening and from a special showing for grizzled press and industry vets. It opened in some cities Nov. 6.
Faust hopes that the film succeeds in shining light on a timely problem at major papers. “Spotlight is the story of the power of investigative journalism, but it’s becoming a dying game,” she says. “The resources to fund these investigative teams have largely gone away, and it leaves the question for stories like [the sexual abuse scandal]: Would they have been broken?”
ACADEMY AWARD UPDATE: BEST PICTURE — Oscar buzz turned to a pair of Oscar wins for Spotlight at the 2016 Academy Awards. The film won for best original screenplay and for the top honor: best picture.
Producer Blye Pagon Faust paid tribute to the people whose story the film tells: ”We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters. Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism."
In recent months, Spotlight has been nominated for scores awards around the world. The night before its Oscar wins, the film picked up four honors in the Independent Spirit Awards: best feature, best screenplay, best editing, and best director.
At the beginning of February, the Vatican hosted a private screening of the film for the commission entrusted with investigating the cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the Church. When the film was released last year, Vatican Radio described it as “compelling” and “honest.” Updated February 29, 2016.