It was 37 years ago to the day – March, 28, 1979 – that the partial nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island occurred.
Reported as the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, it was a day central Pennsylvanians would not soon forget.
Those who lived through it probably remember the panic.
Schools evacuated. Residents were encouraged to stay inside. Some fled the area.
But eventually, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported no deaths or release of radiation, and the crisis was over.
For years, it was assumed that there were no lasting effects.
But when filmmaker Jill Murphy Long was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012 and realized more than 50 people from her graduating class at Central York High School had either died from or been diagnosed with cancer or other neurological diseases, she started to believe it was all connected to TMI.
Several months of research later, Long, who now lives in Portland, Ore., told FlipSidePA in October 2015 that she’d completed the screenplay for a full-length feature film called “Meltdown” on the aftermath of TMI.
“The message in the movie is not all doom and gloom,” Long said. “It’s hope. We can turn this around … We can make this right and make this a safer place to live again.”
Since October, Long has done a table read of her script with 24 professional Screen Actors Guild actors reading the roles of 74 characters, set up a website and created a poster, logo and T-shirts to promote the film.
And now, as the region marks the 37th anniversary of the TMI accident, Long is moving another step closer to getting her movie made.
She’s released a two-minute proof-of-concept trailer for the film, and she’s coming home to York to show it in April.
“We need to get people to think, talk and act upon the options available for renewable energy that are safe and reliable and to be aware of the after effects of using nuclear power,” Long said. “That is the message in my feature film and the reason why I feel I need to make this movie and why I am coming home.”
The idea of the proof-of-concept trailer is to help Long secure investors, sponsors and hopefully an A-list actress like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock, she said.
“I’m trying to go big with this because I think this message needs to be heard,” Long said. “It’s a big project. I want it to be heard worldwide.”
The trailer – filmed at four locations in Oregon, including snowy Mt. Hood, a Portland neighborhood and a green-screen studio – features news clips from 1979 as well as accounts from two TMI survivors: Long’s former neighbor Michele Williams and Christine Layman, of Manchester.
“I thought I was one of the lucky ones until I got a call from my doctor saying I was at stage three melanoma,” Layman said in the trailer.
Williams added that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010.
“I want their voices to be heard,” Long said.
While she’s in the area, Long said she plans to film a dozen more accounts from TMI survivors, which could be featured on her website and/or written into the script.
She also plans to meet with local business owners and scout filming locations in the area – such as her old high school and neighborhood – so she can stay on schedule for a film release as early as 2017.
But the main event will occur on April 16 and 22 when Long plans to throw film-launch parties in York.
Locals are encouraged to come dressed in their best ‘70s attire to be considered as extras in the movie. Available roles include varsity girls basketball players, coaches, referees, basketball fans, high school students, newspaper and TV reporters and more. Party guests will vote for their favorites, and the winners will earn the credit of Featured Extra in the film’s closing credits.
The events will also include a meet-and-greet with the film’s executive team and Three Mile Island survivors, a screening of the proof-of-concept trailer, green and organic merchandise, food and beverages and dueling DJs playing ‘70s music.
Locals can also record their stories and memories from March 28, 1979 at the event or on the film’s website.
If you go
What: "Meltdown" film launch party at BrewVino
When: 3-6 p.m. Saturday, April 16
Where: BrewVino, 251 N. George St., York
What: “Meltdown” film launch party at Brandywine Lane
When: 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 22
Where: Kevin and Gwen Braecklein's Residence, 2301 Brandywine Lane, York
For tickets and more information: Visit www.meltdownthefilm.com.