‘Under the Gun’ Director: ‘I Stand By’ Controversial Edit

Stephanie Soechtig Under the Gun
Katie Jones/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Director Stephanie Soechtig is sticking up for her documentary “Under the Gun” after executive producer Katie Couric apologized for a controversial scene in the film.

Couric, who also narrates and appears in the movie, expressed regret Monday for a moment in the film in which she asks members of a gun-rights group called the Virginia Citizens Defense League a question about background checks for felons and suspected terrorists. The group members are shown sitting silently for eight seconds before finally answering. Couric and the movie, which premiered May 14 on Epix, became targets for gun-rights advocates last week after unedited audio revealed that the silence had been added into the documentary — the VCDL members had responded immediately to Couric’s question. In her statement Monday, Couric said, “I regret that those eight seconds were misleading,” and claimed that she raised concerns about the edit to Soechtig during the filmmaking process.

Speaking to Variety Wednesday, Soechtig defended the editing decision. She also praised Couric with whom she’s worked on two films, calling her “incredibly supportive.”

Katie Couric said on Monday that the eight-second pause the had been edited into the scene with the VCDL members did not “accurately represent” their response. Do you agree with that assessment?

The focus on this exchange shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the film gave the VCDL a platform to express their views and opinion. It’s really important to keep in mind that this is a group that thinks domestic abusers should have guns and that guns should be allowed in schools and bars. If I wanted to make them look bad, I would have focused exclusively on their radical ideology. But I didn’t do that. I wanted to allow them an opportunity to explain their beliefs. In hindsight, had I known that the NRA would focus on eight seconds of a two-hour film, I might have done things differently. But I made the creative decision and I stand by it.

What was your intention with inserting that pause?

You have Katie asking the group this question, “Do you think people on the terror watch list should be allowed to own guns?” Katie’s asking the question of the group, but as the filmmaker, I want to ask the question of the audience. So what I was thinking, my editor was thinking was we need to stop for a second, because the film moves along at a really fast clip. So you’ll see that throughout we’ll stop down after something happens or when we present something. The terror watch list is a real pivotal feature in the film, as is the whole notion of background checks. So this felt like a really crucial time to stop down and allow the audience a moment to let that question sink in.

Is that sort of edit in line with standard practices for documentary filmmaking?

I think it has a different standard than the nightly news has. When you’re making a film like this, the goal is to get people to come to theaters to watch your film. You have to provide a thematic experience for them. I don’t think we misconstrued any of the facts. I think the VCDL made their position on background checks very clear earlier in the film and throughout the film. So yeah, I do think it’s pro forma for filmmaking.

Couric said in her statement that she spoke with you about the edit and raised concerns. Did she?

We talked about everything in the film and all edit choices. I’m the director of the film and at the end of the day I felt it was necessary to stop down and give people a moment to consider the question.

She mentioned you by name in her statement. Did you feel at all like she was attempting to shift blame for the controversy to you?

Not at all. Any time Katie does an interview and receives a compliment on the film she says, “It’s all Stephanie. I can take very little credit for this. Stephanie and her team did all of this.” That swings both ways, right? In other decisions that I made I need to take responsibility, too, and this was my choice.

Were you surprised to see this moment in the film singled out?

No, if they didn’t find this, they would have found something else. Honestly, I think it’s interesting that they’re focusing on what’s not in the film instead of what is in the film, because if they focused on what is in the film, it would threaten their livelihood. This is very textbook gun-lobby intimidation tactics, and I won’t be intimidated.

Have you been threatened or harassed since the film premiered?

I’ve been harassed up the wazoo. If you check my Twitter feed, the harassment has been fierce. But it’s what we talk about in the film. These types of intimidation tactics are very common. The survivors in the film, people who lost their babies in Sandy Hook or their daughter in the Aurora theater, they get hate mail all the time. They’re getting it now saying, “Your daughter deserved to die” or “You’re making this up. You never had a son.” There is a small but noisy fringe in this country. They’ve been really loud, and to be honest they’ve been really successful in preventing our legislators from passing any meaningful legislation on this issue. So I expected it. What I’m getting is really very little compared to what the victims and survivors are getting.

There was a shooting today at UCLA. Do you see the way that people are responding to these events changing?

We talk about this in the beginning of the film. We have this script that’s been rolled out — mass shooting, breaking news, a grieving public, everyone asking “How does this happen? Why does this keep happening?” Then a cute kitten video pops up and we all move on with our lives. My hope with this film is that it makes us stop and actually see things for what they are.

Do you see any political movement on the horizon with this issue?

We do, we see a lot of movement. In the film we cover Washington state where they closed the background-check loophole. We’re seeing a lot of ballot initiatives coming up too for this coming election, one in Maine and one in Nevada. This has really become a people’s movement, and ballot initiatives have really become an effective way for people to vote directly. I think that’s really encouraging.

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  1. Joshua Long says:

    ‘”I would have focused exclusively on their radical ideology.”‘

    when you use this as a defense, you’ve pretty much sacrificed your right to call yourself objective.

  2. MARTY JACKSON says:

    Shame on Soechtig.
    Soechtig did nothing but undercuts Reasonable Gun Control Efforts, hurt Katie Couric’s Reputation, and admitted she lied and broke Federal Laws and undercut her own credibility by intentional ignorance and actions.

    One can commend Soechtig to create her own agenda and position but not in the way she misused her Documentary Fictional account. Planned Parenthood was a victim of an Ambush Documentary Fictional Editor of the truth too, and was prosecuted, and so should be Soechtig.

    These are serious issues and don’t need propaganda but protection and shining light on misguided people like Soechtig that can’t admit a mistake such as Katie Couric did and that is only on Soechtig.

  3. Corps2111 says:

    Soechtig and Couric -Just a couple of more LIARS (Both riding on the BLOOMBERG train of idiocy ) imposing personal views and then trying to distribute it out to Americans as an UNBIASED Documentary– Yeah– we are all stupid people here in the U.S Katie and Stephanie and we aren’t smart enough to see what you are trying to impose upon us as being YOUR OWN PERSONAL AGENDA –even if that means CORRUPTLY Editing the story to SERVE YOUR OWN VIEWS AND OPINIONS !! Just a couple of BS Hags!!

  4. Jeff says:

    Ask Stephanie Soechtig about the 4 felony crimes she committed in the movie with her straw purchases?

    This was no “documentary”! It was an anti gun propaganda film! Joseph Goebbels would be proud of this Stephanie!

  5. Max says:

    “So this felt like a really crucial time to stop down and allow the audience a moment to let that question sink in.”

    Then why did the camera take that time to pan the blank faces of the group having no answer ..and not pause on Katie’s face asking the question? Obviously this was meant to leave the audience believing the group was dumbstruck by a challenging question ..which they were not.

  6. Max says:

    So how many Federal gun laws were violated making this film? Making straw purchases is illegal, so where did the weapons go? ..or was this more fabricated editing?

  7. DanH says:

    That she hasn’t bothered to see that there is a difference between the NRA and the VCDL speaks volumes about her research. It also gives a reader an idea how well researched her supposed “documentary” is.

  8. Robert G says:

    everybody knows it was just another gun hate propaganda piece to start with. It would take a real uneducated voter to believe anything in it.

  9. Dunny10K says:

    So this woman doesn’t understand that in making a documentary the first and last goal is authenticity. She blew it and instead of saying yes in this one case i made a mistake but it shouldn’t take away from the larger message, she says well who cares that I lied and deceived because the people i did it to should count

  10. Scott says:

    The director stands by lying through her teeth. That’s what she did. You can’t get around that. Katie asked these gun advocates a question, and many of them responded. Stephanie cut out their responses and thus made it look like they were stumped by the question. That is a lie. Plain and simply put, Stephanie, you now have no credibility, zilch, zippo.

  11. The Truth Hunter says:

    Is it any wonder that Americans actually trust our Congress more than the media when Americans hear about a lying self-righteous liberal hypocrite like this woman? I honestly think I would trust the word of a coldblooded convicted felon more than the word of a liberal journalist nowadays!

  12. kiefo says:

    Like Katie Couric, Stephanie Soechtig is a vile, repulsive, virulent, militant, extremely stupid, America-hating, uber, far left, fringe, whack-job, leftist/feminist, extremist, political activist and fraud.

  13. If this is the only way she can persuade people to believe in her cause her case is pretty weak. I know this type of “documentary” is celebrated in Hollywood and most network news follows this model as well. You can tell she knows she’s a liar, though. That must feel pretty crappy. I’d hate to have to lie to get people on my side.

  14. Lee Ying says:

    You’re nothing but a self-righteous liberal hypocrite, Ms. Soechtig! If a conservative group made an “edit” to a film like you did, then you would raise absolute hell on earth about that, and you know it! You know what, Ms. Soechtig? In life karma can be a real pain in the places that the sun doesn’t shine. In life what goes around comes around, Ms. Soechtig!

  15. The Patriotic American says:

    When both these women are working at McDonalds. Will I stop being overly critical that the Left-wing has thrown all fairness,freedom, liberty and justice out the window…But, right now…As an independent / Constitutionalist lawful US voter…I don’t believe it for once…They be back after a massive spindoctoring… the left-wing can’t lose any of its agitprop enablers…

  16. BillUSA says:

    Of course you stand by your edit you Communist.

  17. Froggieonthehill says:

    Time for Katie and Stephanie to get Zumbo’d” And Stephanie can stand by anything she wants to but it doesn’t mean the “Pause” wasn’t misleading and intentional to push the lefts agenda of gun confiscation and removal of the 2nd Amendment

    I also wonder how many movie theaters this garbage film has been shown in and how much money was made on this film? I guess to be correct I would have to ask how much money did this film and Bloomberg lose?

  18. I am sick of hearing people make the statement “I stand by [insert crap idea]”. Standing by an action means that you are willing to take the penalty of your actions. In this case the editing was fraudulent in terms of journalistic quality. We now need to associate the name Stephanie Soechtig, with fraud.

  19. nobody important says:

    I’m personally in favor of some gun control, but the excuse made for that edit is utter bs.

    • The Patriotic American says:

      I are you kidding me …What part of “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED ” don’t you understand…There is NO such thing as “Pre-crime”. Furthermore, Murder is a Capital Crime…It is already against the law…How that’s that left-wing fuzzy logic holding out….

  20. millerfilm says:

    You know, when you make a documentary critical of the gun industry, you’re cutting yourself off at the knees when you pull this kind of editorial crap. The second I see “Katie Couric” on anything, I immediately dismiss it, since she is anything but a journalist. She’s merely a TV personality, at best. But, when you have an issue as important as Guns in America, a high-profile documentary on it, pro or con, deserves actual journalists who actually know what the (bleep!) they’re doing. These two aren’t that.

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