In ‘Crime Scene,’ Joe Berlinger Investigates True-Crime Obsession - New York Times

Asked how he reconciles his more high-minded ideals with the true-crime genre’s imperative to entertain, Berlinger pointed to the fact that “Cecil” tackles subjects that go beyond the corpse at its core, including cyberbullying, homelessness and mental illness. But he also knows true-crime viewers are tuning in for the more lurid details, and sometimes that gives him pause.

“I do ask myself, if, God forbid, something happened to me or my family, would I want someone to tell that story?” he said in a follow-up email. “If I’m being totally honest, I would only want that if the telling of that story had a larger purpose than just ‘entertainment.’”

Is Berlinger having it both ways? Perhaps. But so is any news article about the series, as the layers of meta-critique pile up. With “Cecil,” he argued, playing to that true-crime imperative is exactly why it works.

“In some ways, we’re being very self-reflexive in using the conventions of true crime to seemingly tell a true-crime mystery,” Berlinger said by phone. “Then, we turn it on its head at the end.”

He added: “I thought it was appropriate and interesting to choose a crime that actually isn’t a crime, with a perception that something nefarious happened but, in fact, it wasn’t a crime at all.”

That’s certainly one way to tweak the true-crime genre. Just remove the crime.

‘Confronting A Serial Killer’ Starz Docuseries Details Samuel Little, The Most Prolific Murderer In US History - Deadline

A five-episode docuseries about the unprecedented relationship between author and journalist Jillian Lauren and the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little, will bow on Starz this spring after a premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. The story will detail Lauren’s race against time to identify Little’s victims. The series will be executive produced and directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger. 

Through the perspectives of Lauren and several female investigators, survivors and victims’ family members, Confronting a Serial Killer shines a light on systemic issues in the criminal justice system. The docuseries is produced by Lionsgate Television, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, and RadicalMedia.

The series will make its world premiere at the annual SXSW Film Festival in March, Confronting a Serial Killer will premiere this spring on Starz in the U.S. and Canada, and will air day and date on the Starzplay international streaming service across Europe, Latin America, and Japan.

“It was important to me and everyone working on this project that we put into focus the truly devastating impact that bias in our justice system can have on underrepresented groups, particularly women of color,” said Berlinger. “We follow Jillian in her dogged pursuit of justice for some of Sam’s victims and the loved ones they left behind, giving those that had largely been forgotten voice, name and identity.”

Netflix Announces Elisa Lam Docuseries ‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’ - Variety

Netflix has set new docuseries “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” about the mysterious disappearance of Elisa Lam, for a Feb. 10 premiere, Variety has learned exclusively.

The four-episode season comes from executive producer and director Joe Berlinger, who sets out to deconstruct what really happened to college student and tourist Lam, who stayed at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles in February 2013. When Lam vanished, leaving behind all of her possessions, including her wallet and ID in her hotel room, it ignited a media frenzy and mobilized a community of internet detectives who had suspicions about the last-known security camera footage released of her, as well as of some of the other people staying in the hotel. The docuseries features interviews with hotel employees and guests, as well as with some of those who investigated the case.

“As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles,” said Berlinger. “So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realized there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa’s disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location’s role in encouraging or abetting crime — or the perception thereof.”

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 Director Joe Berlinger Looks Back on Its Legacy and the "Death of Truth"

Much like the original Blair Witch Project conflated fiction as fact, Book of Shadows' fiction unintentionally became fact. In 2014, for example, two young girls stabbed their friend in hopes of warding off the figure "Slender Man," who was born on the internet in a photo editing contest as storytellers began passing off terrifying tales as reality. More recently, it only takes a brief glance at social media to see how many people buy into conspiracies surrounding politics, viruses, or even that the Earth is flat.

In honor of the film's recent 20th anniversary, caught up with Berlinger to talk about the legacy of the film, its growing fandom, and witnessing the "death of truth" become a reality. ...

Joe Berlinger Teams With The Atlantic And RadicalMedia For Conspiracy Theory Docuseries ‘Shadowland’ - Deadline

Shadowland is a recurring timely docuseries based on the critically acclaimed multi-article interactive project from The Atlantic. As American history continues to be filled with false narratives believed by so many people, Shadowland investigates conspiracy theories capturing the public imagination and explore the life-changing impact they’re having on supporters and those caught in the crosshairs, to discover whether truth as we’ve known it can survive in the 21st century. ...

“As a documentary filmmaker, I’ve devoted much of my professional life to exposing corruption and false narratives and have watched in dismay over the last year as truth itself has come under attack in our country like never before,” said Berlinger. “After devouring The Atlantic‘s revelatory reporting, I knew Shadowland would be the perfect framework for a series that could help counteract the forces that are tearing this country apart and jeopardizing our democracy. I’m delighted to be partnering with The Atlantic, a news outlet I have long admired, on this era-defining subject.”

'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2' at 20: Director Joe Berlinger reflects on his troubled sequel (exclusive) - Yahoo Movies

Entitled Book of Shadows (a reference to a witch’s book of illusory incantations), Blair Witch 2 swapped the Maryland woods for a claustrophobic urban loft where a group of Blair Witch- obsessives slowly start to unravel after a night in the area’s supposedly-haunted hills. As the lines between reality and fiction merge, Berlinger invites us to question whether his characters are actually being psychologically tormented by a supernatural presence or if their collective fascination with Burkitsville’s witch has made them unknowingly carry out the devil’s work. “My original idea was that these kids actually were the killers but they had become so deluded by hysteria, they were not able to see the truth because they had been fed false information. It was about the danger of blurring the lines between fiction and reality.”

Interview: Joe Berlinger On Telling the Story of ‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’ - Awards Circuit

Joe Berlinger has been producing and directing true crime stories for decades. He has two Emmy awards, for his series “Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America,” and “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.” The third installment in his “Paradise Lost” series, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” also earned him an Academy Award nomination.

In 2019, Berlinger directed the Netflix series “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” His work on the series led to the narrative feature, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” in which Zac Efron played the infamous serial killer. That film premiered at Sundance before it went to Netflix.

The director and producer knew the story of Jeffrey Epstein needed to be told. He set out several years ago, long before the arrest and subsequent suicide of the billionaire, to make a documentary. Originally planning to direct the series himself, the more his team learned about Epstein’s crimes and his victims, the story began to take shape. Ultimately, he asked Lisa Bryant, a producer on many of his projects, to direct. Berlinger served as showrunner and the two worked together to bring to light the fascinating and terrifying account.

This week, we spoke with Joe Berlinger about his work on “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” why he was drawn to tell the story, and whether he believes there will ever be justice for their victims.

Critics Choice Real TV Awards: "Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich" wins Best Crime/Justice Series - Hollywood Reporter

The Critics Choice Real TV Awards honor excellence in nonfiction, unscripted and reality programming across broadcast, cable and streaming.

Crime/Justice Series

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix) (WINNER)
Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (HBO)
The Innocence Files (Netflix)
The Pharmacist (Netflix)
Trial by Media (Netflix)
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (Netflix)

‘Filthy Rich’ Trailer: Jeffrey Epstein Accusers Warn ‘Monsters Are Still Out There’ - The Wrap

Netflix released the first trailer for the “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” the new docuseries from director Lisa Bryant, on Wednesday.

The four-part series, which lists “Conversations With a Killer” director Joe Berlinger among its executive producers, examines Epstein’s crimes through firsthand accounts from the financial tycoon’s accusers. “The monsters are still out there,” one of the accusers warns of the network of people who enabled Epstein’s crimes. “You took our freedom, now we’re going to take yours.”

With Hollywood Productions on Hold, Documentary Filmmakers Keep Going - New York Times

Joe Berlinger, who made the acclaimed 1992 documentary “Brother’s Keeper,” has been racing to complete the first docu-series on Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who committed suicide last year in a Manhattan jail cell after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.

Mr. Berlinger, the producer of the Epstein series, has been working remotely with the director Lisa Bryant ever since New York officials enacted stay-at-home orders in March. His team took what they needed from the RadicalMedia office in Manhattan and got to work on color correction, graphics, sound mixing and scoring in their apartments. The series, “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” will be available on Netflix this month.

“We felt it was important to be the first one out of the gate,” Mr. Berlinger said.

For other projects, Mr. Berlinger started the editing process before filming was done. That unconventional approach has allowed him to stay on schedule.

“When you start editing before you finish shooting, it’s not always ideal,” he said. “But we have several series where we shot enough material that we came up with a game plan to keep working.”