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Student Filmmaker Tells Personal Story Of A Friend Killed By A Drunk Driver

Houston audiences this week will get a look at a powerful documentary about the dangers of driving drunk and the impact it has on families. It's the work of a student filmmaker who wanted to tell the story of a longtime friend who died in a Harris County drunk driving accident two years ago.


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In that documentary, you hear the call that came in to the Harris County Sheriff’s Department at 1:31 in the morning on June 25, 2011. 

A terrified woman tells dispatchers about a man causing a disturbance at a home.

911 call: “… He’s going to kill somebody, please stop him.”

The man then left the scene.  A few minutes later, calls start coming in about a horrific accident.

ford mustang after the accident.
Pennywell’s ford mustang after the accident.

911 call: “There’s been an accident …”

Killed in that accident was 20-year-old Aaron Pennywell.  He was one of 167 people killed in drunk driving accidents in Harris County in 2011.

Pennywell had just left a nearby restaurant when he was hit by a van driven by 38-year-old Michael Giacona, a prior DWI offender whose blood alcohol level was three times over the legal limit. 

The time of the call was 1:36.  That’s now the title of a short documentary produced by Caten Hyde,  a senior film and television student at Texas Christian University.

Hyde and Pennywell first met as children when their families lived in Louisiana.  Hyde says he made the film because he wanted to support the ongoing efforts of Pennywell’s parents who emerged from their grief to educate others about the dangers of driving drunk. 

The toughest part was interviewing Kae and Dennis Pennywell about the early-morning phone call they got from the medical examiner’s office, and the moment they finally realized their son was gone.

“Their answers were so genuine and heart-wrenching that it just developed into its own section in the film.  And really, I almost didn’t ask the question just because I didn’t want to cross over any lines.”

A clip from the documentary of Pennywell parents:

20-year-old Aaron Pennywell was a victim of a DWI accident on June 25, 2011.

“So I think Aaron’s legacy will hopefully be that of a help to other people who might be tempted to drink and drive.”

“Because I can’t sit and let another family go through this.”

“They wanted a powerful story and obviously it’s powerful. But I couldn’t ask them softball questions and make a powerful film and they knew that.  The problem for me was preparing questions for them that I knew would bring them to tears.” 

Hyde’s goal now is to get 1:36 before a wider audience. 

He’s submitted the film to about 20 film festivals, and it’s now been entered into three of those events, including the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival

1:36 will show Monday evening along with other short films by Texas filmmakers.