Pasadena, Calif. -- Making a Murderer directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos were quick to defend their hit Netflix documentary from the recent outpouring of press coverage that has pointed to the filmmakers’ potential bias in covering Steven Avery’s trial and conviction for murder in a small Wisconsin town.
“We are documentary filmmakers not prosecutors,” Ricciardi said during Murderer’s session at Netflix’s portion of the TCA winter press tour Sunday.
“It would have been impossible for us to include every piece of evidence that was submitted to the court or attempted to be submitted,” referencing claims that the duo omitted pertinent evidence about DNA and background information about Avery’s alleged abuse of ex-girlfriends out of the production.
“We took cues from prosecution. Of course we left out evidence. We were not putting on a trial, but a film,” Ricciardi said.
“This is a social justice documentary,” Demos said. “[We] don’t have a stake in his innocence or guilt.”
When asked more specifically about the news reports of domestic abuse allegations from his ex-girlfriends (which are allegedly backed up with police records), Ricciardi likened it to the media backlash Avery faced ahead of his murder trial.
“What we’re seeing now is history repeating himself,” she said. “The media is demonizing this man in order to prove his guilt.”
“We showed Steven Avery warts and all. Just because someone is coming forward with a narrative … doesn’t make it factual or true.”
“How is any of this relevant to him receiving a fair trial?” Demos added.
Given the immense buzz surrounding the documentary, it seems like everyone is watching Making a Murderer, but, interestingly, Avery is not among them.
"He asked the warden and social worker if he could see it, and his request was denied," Ricciardi said.
While the directors wouldn’t confirm a second season, they have had several recorded conversations with Avery “with an eye toward future episodes”.
“This story is ongoing. These cases are open. It’s real life,” Demos said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We are ready to follow these. If significant developments, we will be there.”
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos spoke earlier in the day about the possibility of another installment of the engrossing Avery saga.
"The story is still unfolding so we'll certainly take a look at it," he said.
Following the session, Lisa Nishimura, VP of original documentary and comedy programming, Netflix, would not say whether any sort of working relationship has been formalized for future collaborations with Demos and Ricciardi. But she noted they’ve been working very closely for almost three years on the project.
Nishimura says she met the filmmakers in 2013 and praised their commitment and rigor in completing the project over 10 years. Netflix has been involved almost three years, she said. Demos and Ricciardi are “in the family,” so to speak. “We tend to create a very close collaborative relationship with all of our filmmakers,” Nishimura said.
As for how the success of the series in the four weeks since its release may inform programming decisions going forward, Nishimura said Murderer is the first of Netflix’s docuseries that was serialized. Well-received previous episodic docuseries Chef’s Table was more of an anthology. “There’s some merit to the notion of serialized engagement whether it’s narrative or documentary that is exciting to us,” she said.
Melissa Grego contributed to this report.