The 2020 movie Worth shows how Kenneth Feinberg (played by Michael Keaton) and Camille Biros (played by Amy Ryan) tackled the impossible task of determining the worth of life to help families affected by the September 11th attacks. Kenneth and Camille join us today to chat about what the movie got right, what it got wrong and a peek into the true story.
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Dan LeFebvre 01:57
Before we dive into some of the details of the movie, I want to ask, what were your thoughts the first time you watched a movie about you? Do you feel did a good job capturing the essence of what really happened?
Kenneth Feinberg 02:09
Well, in the case of Michael Keaton playing Ken Feinberg, I thought that much to my surprise, actually, because of the genesis of the movie from the book, I thought that the movie did a fairly good job of conveying to the unknown viewer, what we went through back in the design and administration of the 911 Victim Compensation Fund 20 years earlier. And for 20 years, I doubted whether a movie could ever accurately convey what we went through the stress, the tension, the debilitating moments, but I think that’s direct a spherical Angelo and the actors did a pretty good job better than I thought possible. And the result was satisfactory, but I don’t know Camille may have a different view.
Camille Biros 03:07
You know, I agree. I thought Sara did a great job in compressing almost three years worth of work into into the movie for two hours. And I think she really got to the essence of some of the key aspects.
Dan LeFebvre 03:23
That’s always a challenge and a movie is compressing that timeline down for sure what? Well, according to the movie way, it sets up the fund itself, it mentions that Congress passes something called the airline transportation safety and systems stabilization back, setting up the It’s a mouthful, setting up the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. Basically, as the movie explains it, it says that if everybody Sue’s the airlines, then the entire American economy could collapse. So the fund was set up as to compensate the victims of the attack in exchange for them agreeing to not sue the airlines. Did the movie do a good job of kind of setting up how that was and how you guys got involved?
Kenneth Feinberg 04:04
Yes, it did. It’s accurate. Now. There’s a fair amount of dramatic lights in the film. But the basic supposition that you just referenced, the law was designed voluntarily not mandated voluntarily to incentivize people entice them not to go to court, but instead come in to this very generous fund. So that is accurate. How about the timeline?
Dan LeFebvre 04:37
It mentions November of 2001, starting with a deadline of December 22 2003. And then the kind of the throughout the movie, it’s trying to get to this 80% of people. Was that accurate?
Camille Biros 04:51
That was absolutely accurate. The majority of the claims were filed late in the last year with December. being the largest month of of claims to be received, it was very accurate in terms of our attempts to do significant outreach to make sure that everybody was aware of the program. And everybody, you know, came into the program file and filed their claim for compensation.
Dan LeFebvre 05:20
Something that was watching the movie and never even occurred to me was part of this task is figuring out how, who the people are that need to be compensated. The movie points out that the planes have manifests and first responders like NYPD and NY, FD have names. But if there were any logs of people in the world trade center at that time that would have been destroyed. I think there’s a scene in movie where there’s two members of your team, Priya and Daryl who are just writing down names on from missing sides. Is it true that you were involved in figuring out some of those numbers of victims and who they were?
Camille Biros 05:58
We were definitely involved at, at the outset of the program we received. Basically, information from the New York Police Department, we received some information from the FBI, local law enforcement, it was it was not as easy as one would think to put together the list of the known victims. Of course, the employers also helped a great deal giving us the list of their employees who for certain were victims. But yes, that it was accurate. Maybe not so much. Someone sitting down with a pencil and paper and putting it all together. But collecting the information was accurate. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre 06:34
Yeah. It’s just something that never even crossed my mind. And it’s like, well, yeah, I mean, just because of the timing of it, if it started in November, I mean, that was just right, after, of course, didn’t even know how many victims there were at that point. That’s right. There is a scene in the movie where it Ken is trying to explain how the 911 fun works to a room filled with victims families, and it doesn’t take very long in the movie, people start getting mean, they’re upset, angry, of course. I mean, it makes sense. You know, they’re going through all these emotions. Did that meeting really happen the way that we see in the movie?
Kenneth Feinberg 07:09
Pretty close, in fact that that scene, that town hall meeting, there were a dozen of them. In New York, Boston, Los Angeles, places where people the planes either crashed or Washington, where the planes either crashed or, like in Boston with so many families boarded those planes to go to the west coast. So yes, I would say that those townhall meetings in various locales, the movie accurately depicts the anger frustration of grieving families so soon after the attacks, and the movie is also fairly accurate. Camille accompany me to most of those town hall meetings. And we caucus before and after the the town halls to talk about what transpired or would transpire what to expect. In that sense that scene with Camille counseling. Ken Feinberg, at that Town Hall in New York City. Is is is a good example of what we experienced.
Camille Biros 08:26
It actually that particular meeting was intended to be the first meeting was, was hugely attended, and it was much more difficult reality than it appears on the screen. It was it was really a difficult meeting. That’s right. I think that’s when we we we it really hit home how soon after the tragedy this was and how raw the emotions are.
Kenneth Feinberg 08:53
And there was no in the movie, there’s a fair amount of dramatic license throughout the movie. In reality, at meetings like this first one that Camille just described is no child’s Wolf, calming everybody down. Let’s hear Mr. Feinberg out. There was no Charles wolf intervening, we had to urge people calm down and let us at least explain the law. And it was tough.
Dan LeFebvre 09:23
Were you able to get through everything that you wanted to or? I mean, I imagine that yeah, because there’s all those emotions. A lot of interruptions, I could just imagine.
Kenneth Feinberg 09:32
Yes, we were able to get through it. And frankly, I think families in grief appreciated are reaching out to them. And they were at all of these needs. People didn’t No one shouted us down so that we fled, but it was very emotional, very, very tense. But people listen, and they learn from what we told them.
Dan LeFebvre 10:00
Speaking of emotions there, there’s a theme throughout the entire movie of hearing people recount the stories of the loved ones that they lost. For example, there’s a scene of Amy Ryan’s version of Camille, where she helping a woman with all of her deceased husband’s paperwork cuz she doesn’t even know where to start or later, there’s another scene where Camille is just breaking down crying in a room after hearing person after person recount the story of what happened. I think there’s a line of dialogue and movie mentions, you know, we’re not supposed to be therapists, but it’s almost that’s like a role that seems to be portrayed throughout the movie, was it correct to show that there was this balance of you have a job to do, but also having to deal with all those emotions almost almost being therapist for people whose lives were irrevocably changed?
Camille Biros 10:48
Without question, and can himself set through not 900 Plus, of these very difficult meetings. And, and, and quite frankly, it was really an opportunity for the family members, just to talk about their loved ones. And to and just to any anecdotal information that they wanted, they wanted just to present a picture of who that individual was, who was who was their, their last relative and, and they were really, really difficult. And the stories that were told in the movie, were absolutely accurate. They were true stories, each one that we heard what was worse than the one before. So they were very difficult to get through.
Kenneth Feinberg 11:34
Let me say that I’m asked this all the time, then but but the single most important step we took to encourage people, victims to voluntarily enter the fun were these hearings. These hearings were not required by the statute. We built those hearings into the regulations, because we thought that by inviting people to come in and vent alone confidentially, about life’s unfairness, or to validate the memory of a lost loved one would go a long way to making the program. Victim friendly. We were right about it. And it was critical, I think, to the success of the program, the idea in the movie, that this was an epiphany, that that Charles wolf brought this to our attention. That’s dramatic license, Charles wolf did a very good job, a very good job of promoting the program and calling for its modification. But a good example of dramatic license in the movie, much to the movies credit is that, you know, fiber, again, by rolls, gradually realize about the value of listening and learning about empathy. Well, there’s a certain dramatic license in that.
Dan LeFebvre 13:16
Well, you mentioned, you know, can sitting in on 900 Some there and in the movie, I think he doesn’t sit in on any of them. He’s purposely doesn’t do that. So it sounds like that would be some more dramatic license that the movie took him out wrong. In a gesture that they got that wrong. Yeah. Well, you mentioned Charles Wolf, and I want to ask about him because he is a big part in the movie and his organization, you’ll fix the fun that that concept there. The impression that I got was he was almost the little guy like fighting for these 7000 Some people against the airline big corporations or you know, the almost got this own little guy versus versus a big corporation. Is that a fair assessment of six the fund and Charles wolf role in all of this.
Kenneth Feinberg 14:07
We appreciate what Charles did. I’m surely a cheerleader and an advocate for what Charles did. I’m just trying to point out that Charles went from fits the fund to the fund is fixed, partly because of what he did, and he deserves a lot of credit. Let me just say that Charles has kept in touch with us ever since. But also I think he realized that our decision to exhibit empathy through these hearings, was going to succeed. And he rightfully felt that he deserves some credit, that’s fine.
Dan LeFebvre 14:51
With those hearings, was that something that started from the very beginning or was that something from some of those townhall meetings that you started realizing that people needed to vent was
Camille Biros 15:00
right away from the very beginning? Yes. Yep. In New York and Washington, in Virginia, in New Jersey, the very beginning.
Dan LeFebvre 15:11
Did you see them change at all throughout?
Kenneth Feinberg 15:14
No, we realized immediately that the hearings would be an essential opportunity for very angry people to come in privately and vent and our ability to offer that person an opportunity. I think those hearings were critically important. But Camille will tell you how some people came to those hearings. And as the movie pointed out, they did not want to travel up to the 15th floor of the 20th floor for those hearings, they demanded that the hearings be in the basement of the building.
Camille Biros 15:52
Now, I mean, there’s really story after story that there was one particular meeting we held in our New York office at the time, which was on the 20/26 floor. And it was all windows in the conference room. And there was a young woman who lost her husband, she had two little children. And we were at a conference table with her attorney. And we had a very, very good meeting, and the meeting was completed. And I got off to walk her out to the reception area. And she stopped by the window, she was about 24 years old and young woman, she stopped by the window, and she looked out, and she was calm and composed throughout the entire meeting. And when she got to the window, she looked at me and she said, they must have been really scared when they jumped out the window. And then she just broke down and just complete sobs. And that was the kind of thing that you know, you know, certainly can dealt with all the time. And it’s just, you know, it just really is hard.
Dan LeFebvre 16:51
The amount of patience that you guys had to have had to listen to those stories. Did you go from one to another did you have to like I just, I don’t know, it’s one of those things that I just can’t fathom.
Kenneth Feinberg 17:05
It’s very debilitating. We will do as many as 10 a day. But, but always we would take a break, we would try and go outside walk around the block, buy an ice cream cone. Watch children playing in a playground, you have to after a while, it’s like torture. And, and every story different. And yet every story emotional, tears, wailing, crying. I look back now and wonder how we were able to get through it frankly. It was not. It was not easy. It was very, very challenging and very emotional.
Camille Biros 17:55
And we learned listen a lot. One lesson we took away from just just listen.
Dan LeFebvre 18:03
Curious, then with the the timeline, because in the movie, there is that deadline that you’re up against, and all these meetings. I mean, that’s taking away time that you’re able to work on other things. And in the movie, it suggests that other members of your team helped with some of those meetings as well and helped kind of with the day to day operations of other things going on. How much did the rest of your team help with the overall process in the movie, get that right.
Camille Biros 18:31
And that’s probably another sort of misleading aspect of the liver. We had a team of lawyers, we had a team of accountants, we had an IT team, we needed a fair number of people to make sure that all of the documents were reviewed correctly, that they that the calculations were done correctly, that the intake and the you know, the public facing technology was was adequate. So we had quite a number of people who were working behind us we had some some more other lawyers doing the meetings, in addition to Canada and myself, so we have a lot of individuals working with us who came through in the movie as well as it probably should have.
Dan LeFebvre 19:21
Yeah, that makes sense. And that’s another thing kind of like with the timeline a lot of times movies kind of compress people as well, just because you have a lot of people that can get really confusing to watch on screen.
Kenneth Feinberg 19:31
Yeah. Oh, I think that’s right. There was a lady a prominent part in the film was played by that young woman of Indian I think she said, Who?
Dan LeFebvre 19:43
I think Priya is her character’s name. Rhea.
Kenneth Feinberg 19:46
There was no prayer. That was a dramatic license. That was a a character. A composite of maybe a half a dozen people who assisted That was a added by the screen right? There was no pre but pre his attitude. And her thoughtfulness and her desire to do the right thing exhibited the characteristics of the staff that we brought in to assist us.
Dan LeFebvre 20:17
I think there was a scene where Priya almost, she gets overcome with a lot of the emotions, listening to a lot of these stories. And the impression I got from her character was that she, understandably, she, you know, she couldn’t take it. And, you know, I think that was when she went to go meet with Charles bowl for the first time in the movie. Was there anybody who kind of had to take a step back, just going through all of this?
Kenneth Feinberg 20:47
Yes, they were members of our staff who might have done a hearing because we were busy, wouldn’t do another one. They were people on our staff who really opted to do some back room work on mechanical work, or technical work, rather than engage with grieving family members.
Dan LeFebvre 21:11
I want to ask about the committee kind of alluded to this earlier, but the success of the fund at the end, and the movie, it seems like a very last minute thing, we see the numbers on the whiteboard change in, you know, in the beginning, it’s like 12%, committed in December of 2002. I pause the movie to write these things down 36% in December of 2003, and then still only 51%, in December 19 2003, with five days left in the movie, it shows you know, 51%. And then there’s that conversation between Ken and Charles and Charles posts to his website that the fund is fixed. And then all of a sudden, all these people come into the office, there’s big boxes of you know, mail coming in that I was like, well, mail, did mail get delivered that quickly, right after but okay. And then we find out that over 95% committed to hit the goal. Did the movie get that?
Camille Biros 21:59
Right? It definitely got to write with respect to the last minute violence. There’s no question about that. It was a very busy last few weeks in November and very busy December, while we got the last the last times in so so yes. The the dramatization of the big huge boxes being delivered. That was you know, we had electronic filing. You know, we had our back room that were receiving the packages, we did get some directly into our offices, but that was just to for, you know, for dramatic purposes.
Kenneth Feinberg 22:36
Now, let me just say this. This is a very important substantive point. During the administration of the fun, where the as you pointed out, and the the they were dribbling in the claims, I remember Senator Kennedy saying to me, you know, we’ll we think we better extend the deadline to give people more time to file. And Camille said, Don’t you dare. If you extend the deadline, people will procrastinate. They’ll delay they’ll ham their hall, you watch. And I remember Kennedy saying, Well, you know your business, okay? And sure enough, as Camille says, over the last, let’s say, not three days, but let’s say three months of the fun. I’ll bet you two thirds of the claims came in and Camille’s right, there was no like mail truck that arrived with 1000 planes. But the last couple of days where you have to have a postmark by December 22 2003. We were getting claims being hand delivered being left at our door. And that is true, Camille’s right. This was as we expected, as we expected, a last minute flood of claims to satisfy the statute.
Camille Biros 24:10
And you know, we do this type of work, we run a lot of these claims administration programs, we implemented a lot of these programs. It’s not unique to the 911 fund it what what the pattern of filing is usually very busy at the at the implementation and introduction of the program, then it just sort of levels off. And there’s a slowness and then towards the end, is when everybody realizes that they they must file and they must get the paperwork into essence. So it’s not necessarily unique to the 911 find we find that with all the problems.
Dan LeFebvre 24:48
So it sounds like if I’m understanding right then it was more that that people were procrastinating till there was an actual deadline, not necessarily as much that Charles will posted this to his website and then all of a sudden that What was the movie implied that that was kind of the the reason why everybody poured in at the end?
Camille Biros 25:05
I think it was the just the nature of the process. And I think, you know, as I said, we see this all the time and all the programs that we’ve run.
Dan LeFebvre 25:14
Makes sense. I have people do that. Do the same thing with taxes, too. And then yeah, well, I wanted to ask you about the overall character arc, for each of you. For Ken, Michael Keaton’s version of you in the movie starts off as someone who doesn’t want to bend the rules for an individual case, but then, by the end of the movie, there’s a complete turnaround on that. And for Camille in the movie, we see you more involved talking to the claimants, and we kind of talked about, and then at the end, when Ken has this turnaround, Amy Ryan’s version of you just immediately supports that decision. So how well do you think the movie did, covering your individual character arcs kind of throughout the entire process?
Kenneth Feinberg 26:00
I think in my case, there was no epiphany in the middle of the film, suddenly a light goes on. I think we knew from the outset, that we had to reach out to these grieving claimants, and encourage them to participate. I will agree with the moral lock of story that as we get into these hearings, more and more, you do become more empathetic. And I think that’s right. I think the film did a good job of conveying that. There is no doubt in my mind for the minute I saw the film that Camille biros played by Amy Ryan is the moral center of the film. And that comes through loud and clear in that fabulous scene, where Camille is all by herself calling the same sex partner to explain to the same sex partner, there was nothing we can do. And that really, I think, was very, very accurate. But I don’t know.
Camille Biros 27:07
I just want to say one thing, the film portrayed Ken as being reluctant to have a one on one sit down with one of the family members. And that just is 180 degrees. Different than what Ken is all about. He would be the first one and was the first one to pick up the phone and call one of the family members sit down with the family members. He did it routinely. And he did it constantly. So that that was that? I think that was one area that I think maybe could have been done a little bit better.
Dan LeFebvre 27:46
Sure. Well, how do you feel Camille the movie did with your character arc throughout the film and portraying what it was like,
Camille Biros 27:53
I was happy with with Amy Ryan’s portrayal I thought she she brought a certain sort of dignity to the role or sort of quietness and which I think, you know, the subject matter, you know, deserved and I thought I was very pleased. And I thought as the movie went on, she, I think developed in her role and in in the portrayal
Kenneth Feinberg 28:16
what’s fascinating about this behind the scenes, is how receptive the actors were to our presence and our accomplishment. Amy Ryan, let’s focus Amy Ryan could not have been more thoughtful, nicer, engaging directly with Camille and others. But Camille, learning from Camille, what was it like what? And in the PR at Sundance, when we were all there together? Amy Ryan and Stanley Tucci Michael Keaton was live and Amy Ryan Stanley Tucci, and others all extremely couturiers and thoughtful in praising Camille and myself what we went through. And that really comes through in the film, I think.
Camille Biros 29:10
There were very accessible and very, very cooperative throughout. And basically in all what we did, quite frankly, they were just quite lovely.
Dan LeFebvre 29:20
Some of the specific cases that the movie focuses on there was Graham Morris, the gay man who lost his significant other. There’s also a woman, Karen, Donato, I believe was the woman in the movie. Her husband was a firefighter and then found out after he died, that he had two other children with a mistress and in the movie, you know, Ken is the one that delivers that news. Were those real people whose stories affected the way that you kind of considered each person’s claim like the movie shows,
Kenneth Feinberg 29:49
real claims, different names, real claims, but a great deal of dramatic license in order to heighten the pathos And the tragedy and the dramatic interest in the film. Yes, there was a Karen Denardo different name. But if you think that as the administrator, I would go to her house to explain to her about her husband’s other life. Forget, that is all written into the script. What we did with Karen Donato is we made a calculation for her and her three children and paid her. And without her knowledge, we did a separate calculation and paid the girlfriend as the guardian of the two kids. We never talked now that was 20 years ago, I’ll bet you they know each other today, 20 years later, not our place, we would never go and we would never go to a home and trying to explain to someone other than Karen DiNardo, like her brother, or her brother in law, we would never engage in that degree of family counseling. That wasn’t a job.
Dan LeFebvre 31:09
Yeah, it sounds like a lot of creative license to tell the story then of being able to tie all that in.
Kenneth Feinberg 31:15
But those stories about the same sex partners, Camille, myself, but Camille, that those were very accurate. Back in 22,000 123, there were no same sex partners, permitted by law to recover compensation. And what we went through with about, I’d say, two dozen play of family members fighting with same sex partners over who gets the money. That was a very real challenge, and a very real difficult aspect of what we have to do. Yeah,
Camille Biros 31:51
and also the scene, the scenes with the undocumented victim families. So you know, that was that was definitely accurate, it was much better attended than that, that those meetings portrayed. So that was a very difficult period for us to try and convince these these people to come on into the fund, because they were so concerned about being deported. So, you know, we had to, we had to work very hard to, to ensure that these people understood that that wouldn’t happen to them. And in addition to the same sex couples issue, there were also a few instances of individuals who were engaged, you know, a heterosexual relationship, they were engaged, but the parents then would not approve of any distribution to the fiancee. So that was another area where we tried to convince the families that the right thing to do would be to make sure that the fiancee was taken care of
Dan LeFebvre 32:59
the way the movie portrays the those particular stories and kind of uses them as a method of explaining why, in your in Ken’s case in the movie, you know why he’s deciding to go into look at each case individually, instead of kind of, in the beginning, you know, this broad, you know, everybody has to go by the same rules. Did you have to make any individual changes like that? A few.
Kenneth Feinberg 33:24
There were a few changes we made, if we made changes to the formula, everybody benefited. If we made one change, because we convinced that a claimant was entitled to that change, we would make a similar change among all others similarly situated. But the the underlying story, the implicit in the movie is that somehow Charles wolf got us to change. What does that mean to change? We didn’t change the formula. I mean, the federal statutes sort of laid out the formula. What we did do in terms of change, is we encourage people to come and see us and talk one on one. And over the course of the life of the program. We were empathetic and try to adjust if we could, based on the rules. The the the film makes it appear that there is an epiphany in how we calculate value was. No, there was no difference there. Not really maybe a few tinkering. Not really, it was the whole hearing process that was so critical to success.
Dan LeFebvre 34:49
Was there anything from the real events that didn’t make it into the movie that you wish did?
Kenneth Feinberg 34:55
That’s a very good question. I don’t know,
Camille Biros 35:01
what comes to mind. You know, the focus, understandably, was was on on the deceased victims and the families of the deceased. But there were a number of seriously injured victims. And, and one that comes to mind was a gentleman who survived, who was burned over 90% of his body and had gone through 30 some operations that insisted that he wanted to come see, Ken and I, and he came to our offices. I I’m assuming it was at least a year after with his attorneys and his physicians, and it was quite stunning. I mean, just the will to live because, you know, he was attached to oxygen, they had to wheel him and it was it was quite stunning with the artificial skin. Yes, yes. And he had, I don’t know how many skin grafts. And it was pretty remarkable. To see that
Kenneth Feinberg 36:11
the men were individuals stories that just you could have to the movie would go on for nine hours if you put in, but there were a couple of individual stories. One lady came to see me and said, Well, I’m going to receive $100,000 For every dependent child that I had with my husband. And I’d like you to meet my family, and then all 11 children were brought into the room to hear we were private, all dressed up, the little guy with a bow tie and just heartbreaking. The oldest one like in teen the youngest one like three and 11 children. I mean, it was just heart wrenching. Another lady came in to see me to explain how her husband a firefighter died. After rescuing 40 People from the World Trade Center, when he was running across the plaza of the World Trade Center, he was killed when somebody leaked to the death from the 100 and third floor and hit him like a missile. Both die. And she said Mr. Feinberg, I’ll never believe in God again. My husband, if you had taken one step either way. So there were stories in the book. This all comes out in the book that I wrote, but in the movie, I mean, after why and you can’t pile on you, you start telling people too many of these stories, they’ll walk out in shaky, so they have to make some decisions on that as to dramatic art.
Camille Biros 37:51
And this story. Why don’t you tell us about the Pentagon, the father with Oh,
Kenneth Feinberg 37:55
the father of father came to me at two years old crying. I lost my son. He was at the Pentagon. He escaped when the plane hit. But he thought his sister was trapped. She also worked at the Pentagon. He ran back into the burning building to find her. She had already escaped through a side door he died looking for. And story after story like this and chilling, chilling.
Dan LeFebvre 38:28
You mentioned the impression you people want walking out of the movie. And I think everyone has an impression from any movie when they walk out of it. What’s something that you want to make sure you know somebody watching this movie say this? They watched the movie and that’s it. Then when they walk out of it, what’s something that you want to make sure that they walk away with?
Kenneth Feinberg 38:49
That is my favorite question that anybody asks, What do you hope to achieve what I hope to achieve what Camille and I hope to achieve 20 years later, let the public understand that just 20 years ago, not 100 years ago, the country as one, one national community stood behind these weapons, and it didn’t matter. Red State Blue State liberal conservative, it didn’t matter. Back then, just 20 years ago, the country in a time of historical grief, rallied as one behind the the victims. And I say to people, especially young people who don’t remember 911 You know, it used to be that the country would set aside its differences during times of crisis and act as one nation, the city on a hill I don’t Very, very much today that there could ever be a 911 fund. I’d be surprised. And that’s a sad commentary. But that is what I hope people will understand. And
Camille Biros 40:10
I completely agree the number of people who came up to me after the movie came out and said, I didn’t know that was a fund. I didn’t know anything about this is remarkable to us. I mean, maybe because we were so close to it legit. But it’s remarkable that it’s its history. And you’re not aware of the fact that the country, you know, developed this process whereby we can very quickly help people in need.
Dan LeFebvre 40:39
Well, you mentioned that, I mean, the fun there. But that’s not the only fund that you have been a part of, at the very end of the movie, talks about how you’ve also, you know, BP, the Deepwater Horizon, the Newton Sandy Hook shootings, that Catholic Church sexual abuse claims. How did the September 11, victim fund change your approach to handling these other funds? Or was it kind of the same for these are I mean, they’re all different situations, of course. But
Kenneth Feinberg 41:10
how did that affect it? Well, that was Sara Colangelo, the director, she said, One lesson that we want the movie viewer to appreciate is that this wasn’t a one off for the two of you, that chameleon can continue to do this. And I think the 911 fun for me was sort of an example of how after tragedy, the, the American people may want to create another fun like this, and another for as long as they as successful. As long as we get money out the door that we help people. This became a rarity, they’re very rare these funds, I must say, this notion that this is a whole new area of the law, that’s not true these that she lists a dozen or so examples over a 20 year period, you’re talking about one or two, I think the 911 fun for me was the toughest because first of all, it was all public money. Everybody was watching us the grief, so soon after the event. The other programs I think was somewhat very emotional, same emotion. But when you don’t have to win the money is a gift from the American people, you have to sign away your right to sue, it becomes easy to distribute the funds, the emotion never goes away, brutal, brutal and debilitating in every case.
Camille Biros 42:47
One of the key lessons that we we we learned from 911 and which we adopted in most of our other programs, particularly with the church programs is are these personal meetings, and the importance, the important role they play and the importance of of not having a meeting where you interrogate the victim, but having a meeting where they can just explain and vent and have somebody on the other side, understand and believe what they’re what they’re telling you. So that’s that was an important takeaway for us and on after 911. The other thing is the you know, the these other funds there, there’s a lot of similarity and a lot of differences. For example, and, you know, a calculation of future earnings was done for 911, we did the same thing. And in BP, we did the same thing. And GM, with the charitable funds, those are a little bit different, because you have a finite amount of money. And you have to come up with a process and are designed to, to make sure everybody is treated the same. So those are and there’s not that much money to begin with. So those are a little bit different.
Dan LeFebvre 44:02
Well, thank you so much for coming on to talk about the movie. I know we’re just scratching the surface in this chat here. But the movie was based on your book. Ken, can you share a little bit about your book for someone listening? Who wants to dig in deeper?
Kenneth Feinberg 44:15
Yes. First of all, the name of the book is what is life worth from which the movie worth comes? And here’s the interesting thing. I wrote that book in 2005, for two reasons. First, as expiation as as I wanted to get out in printed for what we went through the horror of processing 1000s of claims. And the other reason I’m an all history major from college, and I thought there ought to be a first hand account for generations to come on how And why the program was designed and administered. Now, when I wrote that book, and it was, came out in hardback and then paperback, it did fairly well. In 2005 678, I was approached in 2008 by a film producer, we think this will make a great movie. I said, Not a chance. You’ll never be able to make a movie out of this book. Well, let us buy the book rights for a two year period, and we’ll pay you for the exclusive rights to the movie 2008 2010 2012 Every two years they would come back is a check. We want to extend the exclusivity rights. I said, You guys are throwing your money away. Camille and I were in our office one day. Unexpected. A check comes from the producer of the film for $150,000. What Camille and I had to dust off the contract for the book rights. And it said, The day we have a screenplay that will be turned into a film you get a down payment. And then the contract says and the day we stopped filming, you get the rest of a payment. I called up the producer. Yeah, we’re making the film Michael Keaton, Amy Ryan Stanley Tucci. Camille thought it was a joke. She didn’t, I thought it was a joke. And that’s the genesis over a 10 year period, from the sale of book rights to an actual screenplay to the movie. We had some say. There was some hard negotiating on the on the on the screenplay as to how the screenplay initially would treat me treat Camille, treat others. And we went back and forth with some conditions. But finally, it is screenplay. And there it was, and we end during the filming. We went watch them film the movie. The Amy Ryan, Michael Keaton couldn’t have been nicer hours talking with us. What about this? What about that? Amy Ryan talking to Camille, about how you went about doing this and doing that. That’s how that’s how it works.
Dan LeFebvre 47:44
What a way to find out that they’re actually making the movie.
Kenneth Feinberg 47:49
totally surprised. We have no idea. We will laugh. We said this is a joke, then we knew they were gonna really go forward. A tremendous, by the way, a tremendous sense of gratitude to not only the cast and the director. The original producer of the film, Sean Sorenson never lost faith over a 10 year period that this film would be made. And his colleague, fellow producer, Marc Butan, who was constantly in communication with us, those two producers Sean Sorenson, and Mark buta, they know this stuff. And they had confidence in the script. And they pulled it off.
Dan LeFebvre 48:36
Well, I’m sure glad they did. Because it’s a story that I, I think people need to know. I mean, it’s one of those things that like you’re saying, can your future generations it’s or even either you’re saying Camille, this generation, some people didn’t even know that existed, right.
Camille Biros 48:53
Kenneth Feinberg 48:55
Goals. Sundance for the world premiere, along with our entire family saw children. It was like an event that we you know, an experience. It was quite an experience to go to Sundance, with her children and husband, my children and my wife, etc. And for a couple of days, the just getting into the whole thing. It was terrific. It was great.
Dan LeFebvre 49:19
Wow, it’s a walk the red carpet and stuff and yeah,
Kenneth Feinberg 49:23
we did. We did walk the red carpet.
Dan LeFebvre 49:25
I think you Ken, Camille, again for your time. I really appreciate it.
Kenneth Feinberg 49:29
Thank you. Thank you. It’s a wonderful podcast. It’s a wonderful idea to contrast, moving and dramatic license to real life and we salute you for the effort and congratulate you and your success. So thank you.