February 20, 2003
Fates of the innocent and guilty collide in a small New England town when pyrotechnics from an 80’s rock band spark America’s deadliest rock concert.
The Guest List is an epic human-interest story planned for release as a six-part SERIES. The DOcumentary explores the aftermath of the horrific, but much forgotten, Station nightclub fire. On February 20, 2003 America’s deadliest rock concert began in West Warwick, Rhode Island, when the band, Great White, ignited pyrotechnics inside a run-down roadhouse. The resulting conflagration killed 100 persons and grievously injured many others. It could fairly be said that music and rock culture drew one hundred innocent people to their deaths in the Station Fire. The Guest List explores how that same music and culture became sources of healing and comfort, at least for some, in the years thereafter.
Many victims of the Station Fire had been seduced by the siren song of rock celebrity. They met Jack Russell in the local Denny’s, a nearby motel or at a tattoo parlor, where he generously added their names to the show’s guest list. For many of those passionate fans, what appeared to be their very luckiest day turned out to be their last. Weeks after the fire, the actual charred, handwritten guest list was recovered from the club’s ashes.
The film contrasts Jack Russell’s post-fire journey, in a search for redemption, with survivor Joe Kinan’s rebirth, courage and inspiration. Along the way, we meet other survivors and victims’ families who have memorialized their loss through pursuits ranging from an exhibit of commemorative body art to re-immersion in the rock culture that initially brought them and their loved ones to the Station nightclub. Throughout this journey we discover what many feel was legal injustice within local and state government.
The series addresses timeless themes of personal responsibility, acceptance forgiveness and redemption. Its central characters struggle to cope in the aftermath of tragedy – some gracefully, and some less so. It is an object lesson in the tragic potential of poor decisions. Young people will always be attracted to live concerts. And bands, promoters, and concert venues remain tempted to cut corners for cheap spectacle. The Guest List remains timely, years after the station fire tragedy, because nightclub fires remain a hazard. The Guest List is based in part on John Barylick’s narrative non-fiction work, killer show, the station nightclub fire, America’s deadliest rock concert.
Director David Bellino has obtained unprecedented access to Jack Russell in the years following the fire, as he was simultaneously accepted into Joe Kinan’s extended family. The result is poignant footage contrasting these two very different life stories. Not only was a news videographer inside the club on the night of the fire, but news crews were on-scene within minutes. Between that contemporaneous news video and Bellino’s human-interest exploration of the fire’s aftermath, The Guest List is a strikingly visual story. No one who watches The Guest List will enter a concert venue again without first checking for the exits.