During our recent webcam chat (watch above), Meredith Vieira reveals that her involvement as executive producer on the documentary “Tower,” which recounts the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas in Austin, came from a very personal place. “I covered Virginia Tech,” she explains, recalling the 2007 massacre that left 32 people dead. “I was very, very moved by what I saw, and it stayed with me. So I was attracted to the story, since this was the first mass shooting on a campus.”
Director Keith Maitland‘s film combines first-person testimonies, archival footage, and rotoscope animation to recreate the day Charles Whitman climbed atop a tower and murdered sixteen people with a sniper rifle. Vieira admits that she was resistant at first to the animation. “I thought, how is this going to work? It’s such a serious topic.” Ultimately, she divulges, “I came to learn and appreciate how important the animation was in this film. Keith was trying to tell a story that happened 50 years ago, and there isn’t a lot of archival footage.” She adds, “I realized that was really the only way to tell the story, to bring you back in time to that moment.”
Vieira has won four Daytime Emmys out of 26 nominations: two for Outstanding Game Show host for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (2005 and 2009), one for Excellence in Morning Programming for the “Today” show (2007), and one for Outstanding Special Class Program for the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“Tower” made the Academy shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, where it competes against “13th,” “Cameraperson,” “Command and Control,” “The Eagle Huntress,” “Fire at Sea,” “Gleason,” “Hooligan Sparrow,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “The Ivory Game,” “Life, Animated,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Tower,” “Weiner,” “The Witness,” and “Zero Days.”
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Tower” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.