Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story
The filmmaker Jessica Dimmock brings the real, painful family story after the Steven Stayner kidnapping in Captive Audience. For the first time the Stainer family speaks about the emotional experience. Including the late Steven Stayner’s daughter, Ashley Stayner.
This is the story of how a story gets told, and how the media’s magnifying glass impacts the characters caught in the narrative. Siblings Ashley and Steven Stayner Jr. never knew their famous father Steven, the child victim of a shocking California kidnapping. In 1972, seven-year-old Steven went to school – and never came home. His mother Kay struggles to keep the media interested in the case, and to hold her family together. Then, after seven years, a miracle: Steven returns. The media can’t get enough of the story, and frantic news crews descend on the Stayner home – but this isn’t the fairytale ending it appears to be.
Now fourteen years old, Steven struggles to adapt, and his family grapples with life under the media microscope. Steven’s older brother Cary has mixed emotions: happy to have his brother back, but jealous of how the media has turned Steven into a hero. When Steven’s kidnapper goes on trial, painful truths are made public, and the media coverage takes a dark turn, sending Steven on a downward spiral. Just as he starts to pull his life together – with marriage, kids, and a hit TV movie about his story – the Stayners endure another tragedy. And soon, they’ll be famous all over again, for a very different reason.
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Fast forward to 1999, when four women are brutally murdered in nearby Yosemite. Ashley Stayner was fourteen years old at the time, and recalls being riveted by the months-long investigation – until she learns that someone close to home has confessed to the crimes. The story thrusts the Stayners back into the spotlight, forcing us to ask how our appetite for these stories drives a demand the media is eager to satisfy.
Last week I was connected with Jessica Dimmock and Ashley Stayner to talk about the making of Captive Audience. Dimmock spoke about the unheard footage she got access to and how she used actors involved to reenact the material. Stayner discussed why she wanted to share her story and how she approached her family to be a part of it. Stayner opened up about her personal experience growing up not really knowing her day. They both commented on how the media may have affected the family in a negative way and more.
The three episode docuseries of Captive Audience premieres April 21, 2022
Source: LRMExclusive, Hulu