‘Wrong Man’ Creator Joe Berlinger on ‘Gratifying’ Supreme Court Decision for Curtis Flowers - IndieWire

“Today’s news was gratifying for me because I spend a lot of my filmmaking and personal time deeply involved in wrongful convictions and advocating for the wrongly convicted,” Berlinger said. “I do think we were part of a handful of the media telling the truth about this case, but it’s a stretch to say our television series directly led to this result.”

Berlinger has spent much of his career documenting difficult cases where defendants have maintained their innocence. Flowers’ case very much fits the bill: The African American man has been tried six times for a quadruple murder at a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi. The two Flowers-focused episodes of “Wrong Man” do a deep-dive into the case, outlining the various issues with the prosecution’s case, flimsy evidence, and thinly-veiled issues of racism in the town.

The Mississippi town’s culture of fear is evident throughout the two “Wrong Man” episodes focused on Flowers. Several of the town’s residents declined to be interviewed on camera or have their faces shown. In one instance, an interview with an African American resident is interrupted twice, once by a white man and once by another African American woman. The white man berates and swears at the interviewee, while the African American woman — implied to be the interviewee’s daughter — shouts that someone could come and do something to the interviewee for agreeing to speak on the record.


Director Joe Berlinger On His Ted Bundy Docuseries ‘Conversations With A Killer,’ And Why “True Crime” Label Makes Him “Wince” - Deadline

But Berlinger states being lumped in the “true crime” genre makes him “wince.”

“That conjures up this image that we are wallowing in the misery of others for entertainment purposes,” he says, adding, “The good true crime is exposing problems in the system, or some level of social commentary, or some thing you want to change. I think the bad true crime is just kind of voyeuristically looking at the worst thing that can happen to a person, which is becoming a victim of a violent crime.”

Conversations with a Killer falls into the good true crime category, Berlinger asserts, because it’s making audiences aware of something they need to know in a time of smart phone apps and misleading online profiles.

“The lessons of Bundy are extremely important,” he insists, “and can’t be overstated enough, particularly in this era of internet catfishing, where people create false identities online, this era where you have to really make sure you check the license plate of your Uber, and make sure you’re not getting into a predator’s car who’s pretending to be an Uber driver…Just because somebody looks and acts a certain way doesn’t mean they’re deserving of your trust.”


Realscreen West ’19: Joe Berlinger on timing, tenacity and his Ted Bundy projects

“I take all of my crime stuff very seriously,” he told Realscreen editor and content director Barry Walsh, who was moderating the talk. “There has to be an element of social justice for me to take something on, and I felt like the lessons of Bundy can’t be overstated enough, especially for a new, younger generation who had never heard of him. Just because somebody is charming and good looking doesn’t mean that they’re trustworthy.”

From there, he got to work on the four-part docuseries Conversations with a Killer for Netflix and also began toying with the idea of a narrative feature, having worked on the scripted side in his career too, and that’s when he landed on a screenplay in the Hollywood Black List of popular but unproduced scripts. Former teen heartthrob Zac Efron soon signed on to play Bundy, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vilewas a go.

While many people assumed the two projects were part of a package deal at Netflix, Berlinger actually took the independently financed narrative feature to the Sundance Film Festival looking to find a distributor, and some fortuitous timing helped him seal the final deal with the streaming giant, as the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution fell on day one of Sundance.

“The doc series dropped on the first day of Sundance and did really well immediately. Netflix did a brilliant job marketing it,” Berlinger said. “Netflix had passed on the feature without even looking at it, initially, because they felt, ‘We don’t need two Bundy projects.’”

As it turned out, Netflix did need both when the film was a hit at the festival, no doubt attracting attention after the series’ success too.


Joe Berlinger Plans To Direct Martin Luther King Murder Mystery As Docu & Narrative - Deadline

Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger has signed on to direct the feature film Slay the Dreamer, and he will also direct and produce a feature documentary on the same subject. Pic is based on the life of Rev. James Lawson, friend and advisor to Martin Luther King. A civil rights icon in his own right, Lawson was instrumental in the Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis. During that strike, Lawson invited King to Memphis to speak to the workers, the night before his assassination. ...

Berlinger just completed two simultaneous projects — narrative and documentary — on serial killer Ted Bundy just days apart in January. Netflix released  Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on January 24 and just two days later, the narrative drama  Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile premiered in Sundance with Zac Efron, Lily Collins and John Malkovich starring. Latter film stars Efron as Bundy, covering his relationship with longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer. Netflix acquired the film at Sundance for a reported $9 million after a bidding war. Berlinger plans a similar approach of complementary projects with Lawson’s story.


‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ Exclusive Trailer: Zac Efron Charms and Terrifies as Ted Bundy - IndieWire

Berlinger also said Netflix excels when it comes to marketing, as seen in the exclusive trailer for “Extremely Wicked” in the video below. A teaser trailer for the movie was released shortly before its Sundance premiere, but Berlinger said Netflix was able to do a much better job at properly capturing the spirit of what the film is really about.“This Netflix trailer zeroes in on the mission of the film, which is to give the audience the same experience of betrayal and deception that Bundy created with everyone around him — friends, co-workers and most notably, longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, whose nonfiction memoir is the basis for the film,” Berlinger said. “The trailer gives the world a glimpse into telling Bundy’s story from Liz’s unique point of view.”


'The Ted Bundy Tapes' and 'Shockingly Evil': Why Joe Berlinger doubled down on the serial killer - LA Times

Now, with both Bundy projects unveiled simultaneously — Netflix announced its acquisition of “Extremely Wicked” following the film’s Sundance premiere and the trending success of its “Ted Bundy Tapes” launch — Berlinger has found himself in the controversial business of Bundy. And audiences are wrestling with their own fascination with the man who confessed to murdering and raping as many as 30 women and girls across seven states in the 1970s.

The question of the hour: Why is Joe Berlinger so obsessed with Ted Bundy — and why can't audiences look away?


Sundance: Netflix Nabbing Zac Efron Ted Bundy Drama 'Extremely Wicked' for $9M - The Hollywood Reporter

Though Sundance officially wrapped Sunday, the dealmaking continues: Netflix is closing in on a deal for U.S. and some international rights to the drama Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring Zac Efron as notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. A source pegged the deal at a staggering $9 million.

Directed by Joe Berlinger — the Oscar-nominated helmer behind Paradise Lost, who excels in the true-crime genre — the film chronicles the crimes of Ted Bundy from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. Lily Collins plays Kloepfer, while Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich, Jim Parsons and Angela Sarafyan round out the cast.

Extremely Wicked sparked a late-fest bidding war that also involved STX and Lionsgate. Netflix will give the pic an awards-season theatrical run in the fall.


Joe Berlinger's 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile' premieres at Sundance to rave reviews:

In my judgment, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is an honestly unsettling and authentic inquiry into the question of who Ted Bundy was, how he operated, what his capture and trial and ongoing infamy has meant, and what, if anything, his existence tells us about our individual relationship to toxic evil. That said, his story is also freaky as hell, in a jaw-dropping you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up way. It now plays as one of those only-in-the-’70s sagas, like the Patty Hearst affair, where the nation was spellbound by a criminal spectacle that seemed to say something about how the very essence of our communality was falling apart. - Variety

Not to say that Zac Efron was born to play Ted Bundy, but the former High School Musical teen heartthrob is more than a bit convincing as the seductive, prolific and diabolical serial killer of young women in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Venerated documentary stalwart Joe Berlinger, who just happens to also have a four-part Netflix docuseries on the same subject, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, currently on view, does a cogent, propulsive job putting the appallingly prolific murderer’s story onscreen, and such material customarily finds an interested public. - The Hollywood Reporter

By interspersing the fictionalized account with archival footage to accentuate the clues that point to what Liz refuses to accept, Berlinger counteracts some of the moments that may seem over-the-top or simply too unfeasible to be real. No killer before Bundy or since managed to get away with nearly as much; the film’s moments of madness that seem the most implausible are, in the greatest tradition of truth being stranger than fiction, the ones that actually occurred. - The Wrap

That sense of whiplash? It’s a feature, not a bug in Berlinger’s film, which walks the extremely fine line between introducing Bundy to the audience through the eyes of a woman who loved him while never shying away from the gravity of his crimes. Despite being primarily told through the perspective of Collins’ Elizabeth Kloepfer (a very real person, as so many weird things in the film are very much real), “Extremely Vile” isn’t a glossy or loving look at Bundy. More sad than salacious, it’s the rare film about a criminal that offers human details without humanizing a man who so many agree was a monster. - IndieWire

Netflix Delves into the Mind of a Monster in “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” - Bloody Disgusting

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes brings the infamously twisted mind of serial killer Ted Bundy into the light for the very first time. The chilling series will invade our psyche with exclusive interviews that come from the “Jack the Ripper of the United States,” himself. This unique and gripping doc series focuses on the man whose personality, good looks and social graces defied the serial-killer stereotype, allowing him to hide in plain sight as he committed the brutal sex-crime slayings of more than 30 women before being caught in 1978. While on trial, Bundy received extraordinary adoration from American women, which made his gruesome crimes doubly haunting, even in an era of anything-goes mayhem.


Sundance 2019: Ocasio-Cortez doc and Ted Bundy biopic headline festival - The Guardian

One of the most buzzed about films to launch in January is the Ted Bundy drama Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile from the Emmy-winning documentary film-maker Joe Berlinger. It stars Zac Efron as the killer but will be told through the viewpoint of his girlfriend Liz, played by Lily Collins.

“It doesn’t really glorify Ted Bundy,” Efron said earlier this year. “He wasn’t a person to be glorified. It simply tells a story and sort of how the world was able to be charmed over by this guy who was notoriously evil and the vexing position that so many people were put in, the world was put in. It was fun to go and experiment in that realm of reality.”