Stylist talks exclusively to the film-making duo who created the documentary series that’s had us hooked
It’s the 10-part Netflix series that’s turned us all into amateur sleuths but Making A Murderer was also a labour of love for filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi. The two were dating and studying at film school in New York when, in 2005, the story of Steven Avery caught their eye. The trailer-dwelling Wisconsin man was exonerated and released from prison after serving 18 years for sexual assault, only to be arrested again and convicted for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.
“We chose Steven as the subject but we always envisaged that the documentary would transcend his story and be a vehicle for us to explore the reliability of the justice system,” Ricciardi tells Stylist. “We didn’t need to believe in his innocence – we didn’t know then, and we still cannot be certain – but we firmly believe that only good can come of a dialogue about the ways in which the system fails people.”
Partners in crime
And so Ricciardi and Demos borrowed a camera and left New York for Manitowoc, Wisconsin. “Laura had previously been a lawyer, which was a huge help understanding the case,” says Demos. “And I had a background in film production and had worked as a documentary editor. We laugh about how crazy it is that the two of us could pull this off, but then again, perhaps we are the only two people who could pull this off, given our shared interests.”
“Living and working together on this film was intense, but I don’t think we’d have made it if we weren’t together,” adds Ricciardi. “At times it was a real struggle, and we self-financed the project (by taking occasional legal and freelance work projects) from 2005 until 2014, when we entered a deal with Netflix. For most of those ten years, we were on our own. If we hadn’t had total trust in each other, Making A Murderer wouldn’t have happened.”
During filmmaking, Ricciardi and Demos formed a close relationship with the Avery family, getting unprecedented access. But now, they find out about case developments at the same time as the rest of us, via the news.
“We honestly had no idea how it would end up but it’s great to see the case getting the attention it is,” says Ricciardi. One thing’s for sure – the next time Steven Avery is in the courtroom, the whole world will be watching.
Making A Murderer is available on Netflix now
Words: Anna Hart