At least it’s not home movies

The story of former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s downfall has all the elements of a made for TV movie, and Bryce Zabel hopes his screenplay will be the one to reach living rooms.

“When I first heard about the story breaking, I instantly was riveted by it, having grown up in the Portland area and having observed Neil Goldschmidt’s career,” said Zabel, TV anchor-turned-Hollywood producer.

“It’s a compelling story because of its tragic dimensions: A person who has accomplished so much good in a public and political way has also been responsible for a lot of personal pain.”

Goldschmidt, a longtime Oregon powerbroker, admitted last May that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl three decades earlier, when he was Portland’s mayor. He has since disappeared from the public stage.

Goldschmidt’s secret was unraveled by Nigel Jaquiss, a Willamette Week reporter who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative report.

“There are probably a thousand people in Hollywood who would like to option a Pulitzer Prize-winning story after it has won the Pulitzer Prize,” Zabel told The Register-Guard Newspaper.

But Zabel, a 1976 graduate of the University of Oregon, has been working on the project for 11 months.

In that time, Zabel has interviewed more than 20 people, including state Sen. Vicki Walker, a Eugene Democrat who helped Willamette Week by furnishing Jaquiss with a key court document she had received from a different Portland journalist.

Drawing on those interviews and Willamette Week’s published accounts, Zabel has written a script for the USA Network called “Fall from Grace,” and formed a partnership to make the movie with the Hollywood television production company Von Zerneck-Sertner.

The process isn’t far enough along for Zabel to know whether his project will get the green light, but he’s optimistic.

Willamette Week editor Mark Zusman said he and Jaquiss are negotiating option rights for the film, which would allow Zabel and Von Zerneck-Sertner to use the newspaper’s articles as a basis for the movie and to portray the two journalists in it.