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Joe Berlinger on his Netflix Ted Bundy documentary and the true crime genre - Metro US

Joe Berlinger on his Netflix Ted Bundy documentary and the true crime genre

Ted Bundy documentary director Joe Berlinger
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 10: Joe Berlinger attends 3rd Annual Critics' Choice Documentary Awards at BRIC on November 10, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
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Filmmaker Joe Berlinger finds himself in a unique and, he stresses, an entirely unintentional position. On the 30th anniversary of the execution of mass murderer https://www.metro.us/topics/ted-bundy” target=”_blank”>Ted Bundy, https://www.metro.us/topics/netflix” target=”_blank”>Netflix will release his new docu-series https://www.metro.us/entertainment/tv/ted-bundy-tapes-netflix-release-da… target=”_blank”>Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. A few days after the Ted Bundy documentary starts streaming, Berlinger's first scripted narrative film in a decade—which is also about the infamous killer—will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Joe Berlinger talks his Netflix Ted Bundy documentary

It all sounds like the result of years of planning and development. It's not.

"It sounds like some grand master plan on my part," Berlinger tells Metro. "It was all very coincidental. The tapes landed on my desk in January of 2017. Stephen Michaud had reached out to me because he was a fan of my work. He had these tapes. He had https://www.amazon.com/Ted-Bundy-Conversations-Stephen-Michaud-ebook/dp/… target=”_blank”>written a book years ago based on them, but he realized that nobody was doing anything with the tapes themselves. So I took a listen and I thought that it would make an amazing series. We took it to Netflix and they immediately greenlit it."

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That explains the Ted Bundy documentary, but what about Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile? The independent film—which stars Zac Efron as Bundy and Lily Collins as his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer—was written by Michael Werwie, whose initial script won plenty of recognition before ending up on https://blcklst.com/” target=”_blank”>The Black List's annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays. Berlinger's agent, after hearing about the Conversations With a Killer documentary, told the director he should read it.

"That made a lightbulb go off because he went to his pile of scripts, blew the dust off Extremely Wicked and sent it to me," says Berlinger. "I read it and loved it. I loved the way it made this story, because it wasn't your typical serial-killer movie. It doesn't follow the police as they stumble upon crime scene after crime scene, after which they finally catch the killer. It's through the point of view of the girlfriend and we see Bundy as a believable, loving companion."

How the Ted Bundy documentary revisits the true crime genre's origins

"The ability to use the Bundy story to talk about deception and the masks that people put on, especially those who do evil, was an interesting way into this," he adds. Yet taking on both the scripted and documented versions of the Bundy story also provided Berlinger with something few other true crime filmmakers have had the chance to do. It gave him the chance to tell different versions of the same story, though not at the expense of the subject's victims or the greater losses incurred by his infamy.

This is especially important to Berlinger since many consider him to be a pioneer of the true crime genre that, thanks to the like of the Serial podcast and Netflix's Making a Murderer documentary series, is enjoying a Renaissance of sorts. He recognizes the impact his previous films, like the Paradise Lost trilogy, have had on this subject matter. However, the filmmaker is cautious of adopting a celebratory mood about it.

"I wince at that title as much as I understand why I have it because true crime filmmaking can sometimes be interpreted as wallowing the misery of others, especially the victims," he says. "However, we can trace the explosion of this kind of content to Bundy himself. For me, Bundy is the big bang for the insatiable appetite that audiences have for this type of programming. His trial was the first nationally televised trial. It all happened at this intersection of new technology and people wanting to know more about, and try to understand, this mass murderer."

Ted Bundy documentary trailer and release date

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes streams Jan. 24 on Netflix.

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