Making a Murderer co-creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos stopped by Sydney this week for an exclusive talk as part of The Sydney Herald Spectrum Now Festival Presented by ANZ.
Hosted by Charlie Pickering, it was a fascinating night of shared enthusiasm for the Netflix true crime series that released over the holidays. Theories were exchanged, Len Kachinsky’s name was cursed and the implications of the series were discussed in-detail.
Along with the revelation that the filmmakers haven’t looked into many of the fan theories out there, they had a number of fun and interesting insights into what went on behind the scenes of Avery’s story:
The reason they chose Steven
While there are thousands of wrongfully-accused whose stories are worth highlighting, the reason they chose Steven was that he offered up an unprecedented example of someone failed by the justice system at every turn. According to them, “we wanted to take viewers on a journey from one extreme end of the justice system to the other”. The series wasn’t intended to take a position on Avery’s case but more exploring and convey the helpless experience of what it means to be accused. It was always envisioned as a story less interested in what Avery did or didn’t do and more about what the prosecution did or didn’t do.
Moving to Manitowoc
Fresh out of film school, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos effectively relocated their lives from New York to Manitowoc to cover Avery’s case and produce the series. The pair initially made a trip to Manitowoc to test the waters but almost-immediately they knew that Avery’s case was a story they wanted to see through to the end. Moving to Manitowoc opened a lot of doors for the filmmakers – it sent a message to locals that they weren’t swooping in for the story but setting down to cover the story properly.
The Making a Murderer team collaborated with other media outlets on the case from day one. They even ended up negotiating camera access inside the court with the judge on Avery’s case alongside them. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos later noted that around the time of the pre-trial, Aaron Keller ran a story about the inconsistencies in the state’s case. After it aired, he was called to the sheriff’s office for a private meeting to discuss the inconsistencies. The pair noted that following this meeting he never ran a story like that again during his time covering the case and let the audience draw their own conclusions.
Lines in the sand
The Making a Murderer crew were lucky enough to gain permission from the court to use a ceiling-mounted remote-control camera within the courtroom. However, limitations were set on their use of the camera after turning the camera during the opening arguments of the trial proved distracting.
Narrating the series themselves wasn’t an idea that Ricciardi and Demos entertained because they wanted to leave room for the audience. They felt that if they narrated Avery’s story, it would impose on it. According to them, this approach “reflects the type of relationship we had with our subjects and the type of relationship we have with our viewers”.
Three Angry Jurors
A detail the series didn’t include was that two of the jurors were closely-related to people working in the Manitowoc Sheriff’s office, one of which was the son of a Manitowoc Deputy. This was something that was apparently raised with the Judge but ultimately dismissed.
Regarding the theory that Steven Avery argues targeted Teresa because he requested her specifically photograph his car before her disappearance – the pair explained she was the only auto-trader photographer in the county and all the local autoshops worked with her.
The season of true crime
When it released, a lot of comparisons were made between Making a Murderer and hit podcast Serial. However, Despite their similar themes and ideas, the Making a Murderer team didn’t have time to listen to Serial until well after their series production had finished.
One of the saddest details of the Steven Avery story was watching the unity that had held through his first 18-year conviction fracture. When Ricciardi and Demos first met Barbara and Brendan Dassey, they had yet to be pulled into the case and that development really drove a wedge between the different branches of the Avery family.
A Second Season?
Regarding a second season, the pair seemed optimistic – though their commitment to this is dependent on whether or not they feel comfortable returning to Manitowoc. They’ve yet to return since the series premiered but word is that some Manitowoc residents feel like the filmmakers have been airing their dirty laundry.