A movie about one of the most horrific moments in TV history has become the talk of the Sundance Film Festival

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kate plays christineSean Price Williams

Ten years ago, when Robert Greene learned the story of Christine Chubbuck — a 1970s TV reporter in Sarasota, Florida, who was the first person to commit suicide on live television — two things instantly came to him: "How do you make a film about someone who kills themselves?" and "I need to see the footage."

In an era when the most mundane moments of our lives are captured and immediately put online for the world to see, Greene was shocked to find that not only was there zero footage of the Chubbuck suicide online (supposedly Paddy Chayefsky was inspired to write the Howard Beale character in "Network" based on Chubbuck's suicide) — there was zero video of the reporter period.

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"She went on television to commit suicide so people would see it and that has been lost," Greene told Business Insider. "There's such pathetic irony to that."

Christine_Chubbuck wikipediaSean Price Williams

As the years passed and Greene began making movies that walked the line between nonfiction and fiction — like 2012's "Fake It So Real," which looks at the independent professional-wrestling circuit, and 2014's "Actress," an intimate study of character actress Brandy Burre ("The Wire") — Greene couldn't escape the Chubbuck story.

With Chubbuck essentially a pre-internet folk story — as years had passed since Greene learned of the suicide and the footage of the incident still hadn't surfaced — he decided to start the Chubbuck project, but with a unique angle.

"I never wanted to make a straightforward story," Greene said. "The title of the movie actually became the full idea."

See more photos from this year's Sundance Film Festival:

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A movie about one of the most horrific moments in TV history has become the talk of the Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Kristen Stewart attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
Actor John Krasinski walks in Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah, January 24, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Model Chrissy Teigen (L) and musician John Legend attend 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actress Kate Beckinsale attends the 'Love & Friendship' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Jena Malone attends the Eddie Bauer Adventure House during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Village at The Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Eddie Bauer)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan and actor Nick Hamilton attend the EcoLuxe Lounge at Sundance16 on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: TV personality Jill Zarin attends the EcoLuxe Lounge at Sundance16 on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: (L-R) James Jordan, Sara Rodier, Jared Harris, James Le Gros, Kristen Stewart, Kelly Reichardt and Lily Gladstone attend the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Justin Long attends the Eddie Bauer Adventure House during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Village at The Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Eddie Bauer)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Ellen Page is seen around town at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Jared Harris attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor James Le Gros attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Kristen Stewart and director Kelly Reichardt attend the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Jared Harris attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
Actor Thomas Middleditch walks in Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah, January 24, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim attends the We are UK Film Party at Sundance 2016 on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for British Film Commission)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: DJ Questlove attends Michael Jackson's Journey From Motown To Off The Wall' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Marc Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Kim Raff/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Director Spike Lee attends Michael Jackson's Journey From Motown To Off The Wall' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Marc Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Kim Raff/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Director/actor John Krasinski (C) attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Missi Pyle is seen during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/GC Images,)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Riley Keough attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Sara Rodier attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor/comedian Gilbert Gottfried attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Courtney Sixx attends the EcoLuxe Lounge at Sundance16 on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Ethan DeLorenzo and actress Jena Malone are seen during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/GC Images,)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Dallas Bryce Howard (L) and Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper attend 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Parker Sawyers, Richard Tanne, Tika Sumpter and John Legend attend 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Charlie Day attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Model/actress Brooklyn Decker attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Writer Norman Lear (L) attends Applegate's 'Reel Food' Cafe featuring Wholly Guacamole during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at The Village at the Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Applegate)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Nurgaiv Rys, Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Almagul Kuksygyen attend the 'Eagle Huntress' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Producer Stacy Reiss attends the 'Eagle Huntress' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Actor Jesse Metcalfe and Cara Santana are seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Lily Gladstone attends the 'Certain Women' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Director Richard Tanne speaks on stage during the 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Chrissy Teigen, Mike Jackson, John Legend attend 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Donovan Leitch Jr. (L) and musician Yoshiki attend the Eddie Bauer Adventure House during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Village at The Lift on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Eddie Bauer)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Adrian Grenier is seen during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/GC Images,)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Actress Allison Janney is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actors Casey Affleck and Riley Keough are seen during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/GC Images,)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Morgan Spurlock attends the 'Eagle Huntress' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Actor Harry Hamlin is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway attends the 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Bryce Dallas Howard attends the 'Southside With You' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Songwriter Beth Goldwater attends the 'Film Hawk' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor John Krasinski is seen around town at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Charlie Day is seen around town at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Barry Keoghan attends the 'Mammal' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Library Center Theater on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Sharlto Copley is seen around town at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actress Rachel Griffiths attends the 'Mammal' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Library Center Theater on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 24: Actor Nick Kroll is seen during the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/GC Images,)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: (L - R) Todd Allen, Global Vice President, Stella Artois, Water.org Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White, and Sean Bailey, Sundance Institute Board member participated in a panel session hosted by Stella Artois on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah, regarding the current global water crisis and what needs to be done to end the long water collection journeys many women in developing countries have to make each day. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Stella Artois)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Singer Josh Groban is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Singer Joe Jonas is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actress Angelique Cooper and Per Wickstrom attend EcoLuxe Lounge at Sundance16 - Day 1 - 2016 Park City on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for EcoLuxe)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Kendra Wilkinson is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 23: Singer John Legend is seen on January 23, 2016 at The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by JMA/Star Max/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Actress Kate Beckinsale attends the 'Love & Friendship' Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Nathalie Emmanuel is seen around town during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: Diane Ladd is seen around town during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
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"Kate Plays Christine," which premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival amid much conversation about it, is a part-documentary, part-fictionalized narrative that explores Chubbuck through actress Kate Lyn Sheil ("House of Cards"), who plays Chubbuck in scripted scenes depicting key moments leading up to her suicide while also chronicling Sheil's journey in Sarasota by talking to people who knew Chubbuck.

Greene captures the similarities between the women — Chubbuck's frustrations about not being taken seriously as a journalist in a male-dominated industry; Sheil's concerns about being pigeonholed into one type of character — while also delving into Sheil's struggles to truthfully represent Chubbuck in the scripted scenes with little to no source material. (Ironically, Sheil is not the only actress playing Chubbuck in a Sundance movie; Rebecca Hall plays her in the film "Christine.")

Kate Lyn Sheil Jamie McCarthy Getty finalSean Price Williams

"Kate is the film," Greene said. "Kate is someone I'm friends with but also someone I find very interesting to watch on screen because I don't know where things come from, and as a documentary filmmaker, I'm fascinated by that."

Sheil admits, however, that her truthful performance is not without some dramatics for the camera.

"It's simultaneously genuine and completely fabricated," Sheil explained to BI of her performance in the film. "It's me knowing what Robert was trying to do, being frustrated by that, but playing it up."

For example, in one scene, Sheil tries to do one of the scripted scenes but stops and tells Greene it's not working. When one of her costars gives her encouragement, Sheil lashes out at her. When asked how real that scene was, Sheil admits she would never talk to another actor that way in real life.

But that aspect of performing for the camera was something Greene wanted to explore in the film, since many documentaries are not as authentically "real" as we may think.

"If you have a camera, you have a performance — that's just a fact," Greene said. "Most documentaries are so eager to hide that because authenticity is this gift to the audience: 'I didn't make this up.' But it's a film, it's not reality. One of the things we're trying to do in the film is to take that as a starting point, not an endpoint."

Robert Greene Andrew H. Walker Getty finalSean Price Williams

And then there was the ending of the movie. Did they want to reenact a suicide? What would it give the audience outside of titillation?

Greene and Sheil said they didn't come up with the film's ending until the night before they shot it.

"I didn't want to pull the trigger, but flying down to Florida, the plan was to reenact the suicide," Sheil said.

Going back and forth with ideas, the two, along with the film's cinematographer Sean Price Williams, finally landed on an ending they all agreed on (the ending was filmed on the 41st anniversary of Chubbuck's suicide), which was greatly influenced by a discovery they made in the reporting for the movie.

"The ending to me is everything I care about in movies," Greene said. "The way it came about was a very documentary way. We have a scene and we've talked to people and now it's an absolute collision of fiction and nonfiction."

A melodrama wrapped in an investigative documentary, "Kate Plays Christine" is a unique story that explores depression, female stereotypes, and privacy in a time when all-access is the norm.

It's a movie that will leave you with more questions than answers, and Greene wouldn't have it any other way.

"The point of the movie is this is what it takes to tell this story," he said. "So when the audience is asking, 'Is it real?' 'Is Kate deciding to do that or did Robert tell her to do that?' We're inviting those thoughts because most films don't invite those thoughts and it's fruitful because I think that is the nature of the Christine Chubbuck story."

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