St. Louis: Film in the Center of America
By Shelley Gabert

St. Louis is known for the Arch, The Cardinals and Budweiser beer, but for a local newsman, it’s a murder that has been holding his attention on the city for the past seven years.

When Matt McBride, a paranoid schizophrenic, stabbed his parents to death on Sept 19, 1994, it was just another news story. But over the next several years as Art Holliday, a reporter and anchor at NBC affiliate KSDK, watched the case change state law, he wanted to get deeper into the story. And so three years ago, he set out to make a full-length documentary that would take viewers to the front lines of mental illness and beyond.

“Before They Fall Off The Cliff” also tells of the enormous ripple effects of such events, as well as the changes the case brought to other severely mentally ill people.

“The reason I got into journalism in the first place was to work with a camera. Still photography had been a hobby for years and I’ve always enjoyed writing. Everything I’ve done in my 25-year career has led to this point,” Holliday says.

Holliday initially worked in the project with a former co-worker and with archived footage. He also borrowed a camera to shoot some of his own. Eventually, though, he became frustrated with working around other people’s schedules.

“Here I was making this documentary, which I really believed in, but I didn’t have control of it,” he says. “I decided to take the plunge financially and emotionally and make the investment into equipment that would allow me to truly to be in charge of making this documentary happen.”

A year ago, Holliday bought a Canon XL1 and shots more than 60 percent of the documentary himself. Jon King, an award winning-editor at KSDK, who had edited some promotional trailers of the documentary, became a partner in the project. They bought a Mac G4 with an editing system and the project took on its own momentum.

The third partner was Matt’s older brother, Mark McBride, who spearheaded the effort to pass what is now called the McBride Law, a statue that allows police to involuntarily commit a severely mentally ill person for up to 180 days.

Mark not only offered unlimited access to his family’s story, but he also secured a rare opportunity for Holliday to film inside the hospital where Matt is confined. Holliday was the first broadcast journalist to interview Matt, and his two-part series on KSDK won an award from the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

“Mark was the catalyst for this project,” Holliday says. “He wanted to tell his family’s story to help other people. This isn’t just a documentary for him, it’s his life.”

Shelly Gabert is a freelance writer based in St. Louis





Oakland Tribune gives top film award 
By Chauncey Bailey, STAFF WRITER

Tuesday, July 23, 2002 – OAKLAND — For struggling filmmakers with high hopes, boundless passion for projects but little money or the right contacts, getting the attention of television or movie producers is frustrating. 

However, Kamala Appel of Oakland is working to keep their dreams alive. She runs, a nonprofit group which gives low-budget, works-in-progress a jump start by having industry executives judge story lines, or “pitches.”’s second Annual Film and Video Contest awards reception was held Sunday in Oakland. Dozens of aspiring filmmakers had submitted their short films or documentaries for review. 

The winner was “Before They Fall Off the Cliff,” a compelling documentary by Art Holliday of St. Louis, Mo. He tells the story of Matt McBride, who in 1994 killed both his parents, 13 hours after he left a hospital where he had been treated for paranoid schizophrenia. His siblings have forgiven him as his psychiatric treatment continues. 

His brother, Mark McBride, and Holliday have poured their hearts and their bank accounts into the project — spending more than $100,000. Now they are hoping to get the project “picked up” by a television network or the Public Broadcasting System. Or they may settle for self-distribution. 

“I’m not trying to do a big film or make money,” said Mark McBride, who fought back tears as he spoke during a reception at Vo’s Restaurant on West Grand Avenue. “We need to get the word out about mental illness in this country. This (paranoid schizophrenia) is a brain disease. There is not enough attention being paid to this issue.” 

Holliday said he hopes to have the third “cut,” or edited version, ready in two weeks, and he wants to get it down to 90 to 100 minutes. 

Appel, who has a degree from Harvard, is also on a mission: helping current and aspiring filmmakers move their projects forward. 

“We had entries from all over the world, and we had seasoned professionals from the motion picture and television industries judge and select the three finalists,” said Appel. “ is also a chance for film enthusiasts and aspiring filmmakers to network.” 

Tom Pankratz of San Francisco, who is working on “Limbo Lounge,” a dark comedy about a deceased con man, was a finalist. “You have to practice at your craft, and you have to find people who are as passionate as you are,” said Pankratz, who studied screen writing in college. 

Also present at the ceremony was Karen Davis, who teaches film at California State University, Monterey, and is an executive with the Mill Valley Film Festival, which began 25 years ago. Davis said this year’s festival will be in October. “We normally show about 200 films,” Davis said. will host another film and video contest on Nov. 3 at the Parkway Theater in Oakland. The audience will judge the best entry. Deadlines for submissions is Sept. 30, Appel said. 

For more information on, send e-mail to or call 301-6822

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