Emmys: 'Making a Murderer,' 'American Masters' Directors on How Docs Offer a "Fascinating Truth"

7:00 AM 8/19/2016

by Anna Lisa Raya

The forces behind the five nominated series sound off on the responses they've received and the impact they feel they can make with their medium.

Steven Avery in the Netflix original documentary series Making A Murderer - H 2016
Courtesy of Netflix

  • Woman

    Finding Inspiration

    "It came from a book called Sex and World Peace, which disclosed two things: One said violence against females is actually the more reliable indicator of all other violence — more than absence of natural resources or more than religion. Violence against females tends to be what we see first and normalizes the idea of [other forms of] violence, including military violence. It also pointed out, as the United Nations has, that now for the first time violence is so severe that there are fewer females on Earth than males." — Gloria Steinem, host

    Read the THR's full Q&A with Steinem here.

  • American Masters

    Changing the Discourse

    "When we filmed Loretta Lynn, she told us of her close relationship with Patsy Cline, who at one point gave her some special underwear. The panties became part of the Loretta Lynn Museum, but because it's now overstuffed with other memorabilia, the museum curator couldn't find them. After the broadcast, we heard from viewers who wanted to know more about the panties. … I don't think documentaries change the discourse so much as inform the discourse. Whether a series is on food, crime, politics or groundbreaking artists and their impact on our society, great docs offer you a fascinating truth, not an argument for why things need to change. Arguments get stale and can be refuted, but the truth is endlessly compelling." — Michael Kantor, executive producer

  • Chef's Table: France

    Celebrating Creativity

    "The most rewarding feedback we've gotten is from people who tell us, 'I am not a foodie, but I love the show.' Our goal is to tell inspiring stories about creative people who happen to be chefs, so when people who don't necessarily care about food are still drawn in by our characters, that makes us very happy. … Documentaries are a powerful tool for sharing perspectives and changing minds. The most effective approach is through compelling characters, and I'm proud to be in the company of filmmakers that are doing just that." — David Gelb and Brian McGinn, executive producers

  • The Seventies

    Creating Context

    "A response we often receive to The Seventies, as well as The Sixties for that matter, is, 'I didn't know that!' People seem to respond to our use of rare footage and to our interviewees, who possess unique knowledge and insight, often creating historical context for today's headlines. It was surprising to be reminded of what a difficult time the '70s was for America: gas lines, the energy crisis, our only presidential resignation and the difficult ending of an unpopular war. … Documentaries can certainly alter the discourse on a particular subject by educating and informing opinion as evidenced by many of this year's nominees." — Gary Goetzman, executive producer

  • Making a Murderer

    Seeking Justice

    "It has been fascinating to hear how different viewers key into different aspects of the series. Some talk to us only about the evidence in the case and the question of guilt and innocence, whereas others ask us about the families and want to know how Steven [Avery]'s parents are doing. It is especially interesting to us when viewers tell us about their experience watching Making a Murderer and offer us a sense of the journey they went on. That is incredibly rewarding to us and we consider it a gift the viewers are giving back to us to share that with us. One filmmaker told us about an argument he had with a friend halfway through episode three about whether the series was a true story or fiction. We have also heard many people tell us that they think that Steven [Avery] most likely is guilty but they also think he should have a new trial because the process was not fair. This is particularly interesting to us because we understand it to be a sign that people are thinking more deeply about the meaning of justice. Documentaries are positioned to introduce viewers to people and worlds they might not otherwise have access to. The viewing experience can be transformative. This is especially true for documentary series because the longer format allows filmmakers to dive deeper into a subject matter or into a world and provide a more complete view of whatever is being explored. So much discourse these days is reliant on information being controlled. Documentaries can be the antidote to this by offering alternative points of view, a wealth of new information, or by drawing new audiences to a conversation. We have seen this happen with Making a Murderer and are proud that meaningful dialogue is happening around criminal justice reform." — Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, directors