‘67 Shots’ novel on May 4 shootings in process of being adapted into movie

Gershon Harrell

May 4, 1970: College students assemble outside Taylor Hall for a peaceful protest. The National Guard stands in formation, rifles loaded. All the tension from past riots in the ‘60s has boiled down to this one place — Kent State’s campus.

Angered by the presence of the guards, students shout and throw rocks. In retaliation, guards throw tear gas. They point their M16 rifles at the crowd and fire.

Howard Means, an English teacher at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., watches as lives are lost and people are injured. He goes home and writes a sonnet about the tragedy that took place on the university’s campus.

For him, this is a time of political awakening.

“67 Shots”

Means’ sonnet led him to his book — “67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence,” which was published in April 2016. He later received a phone call for his book to be made into a movie. 

Means wanted to write about the ‘60s because he could relate to living through that time. He said the ‘60s were a violent time full of bombings, people beaten with clubs and tear gas.

“This and the 1960 presidential campaign and the Martin Luther King assassination, for that matter,” Means said. “It just seemed to me to be an event that all the forces that I wanted to write about in the ‘60s flowed together at this one moment in time.”

He added the ‘60s was a period in history that somewhat resembles life today.

 Means said he felt excited when he found out his book was going to be optioned for a movie, but that wasn’t the only emotion because “everything can go right, and everything can go wrong.”

Means said there were multiple people interested in the movie, but he chose a combination of production companies Everyman Pictures and Little Stranger.

Jay Roach — who was confirmed to direct “67 Shots” last year — is the CEO of Everyman Pictures. He also directed the “Austin Powers” trilogy, “Trumbo” and “Meet the Parents.”

Tina Fey and her husband Jeff Richmond, a Kent State alumnus, are the CEOs of Little Stranger. Fey will produce the movie.

At the time of the May 4 shooting, Richmond was 9 years old and lived three miles from the university.

Means said he felt Roach read the book carefully and understood the nuance of the book that Means was trying to get across.

“I felt that Jay Roach understood what I was trying to do with the book better than anyone else I had talked (to), and so I went with him,” Means said.

Means said he would love for his book to be made into a movie.

“I have seen the first draft of the screenplay, which they didn’t have to show me,” Means said. “I was incredibly impressed with it, moved by it. I was in tears at the end of it actually.”

Means and Stephen Belber, the screenwriter for the movie, have never met in person, but they have spent a lot of time on the phone, Means said.

From what Means understands, the team was hoping to begin filming this summer on Kent State’s campus. 

Sarah Fisher, the creative executive of production company Everyman Pictures, said “67 Shots” does not have a production date and the script is still being written.

“It’s possible that we could go into production summer 2019, and the hope would be to film on campus, but nothing is set,” Fisher said in an email.

Gershon Harrell is a features writer. Contact him at [email protected].