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5 Questions With Filmmaker Joe Berlinger About Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders

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SundanceTV shines new light on an infamous true crime case with Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders. A reexamination of the 1959 murders in Holcomb, Kansas that inspired Truman Capote’s nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, the two-part docu-series contains some startling revelations about the brutal crime that shocked the nation.

Executive producer and co-director of the series Joe Berlinger, the acclaimed documentarian behind the Paradise Lost trilogy, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and other award-winning films, joined SundanceTV for an exclusive two-part podcast interview about the Clutter family murders. On the podcast, Joe shares his thoughts on the residents of Holcomb today, how In Cold Blood inspired his own career and what he hopes audiences will take from the show. Get a peek at part of the interview below, and listen to the full interview on iTunes and Google Play. Plus, subscribe to the podcast to be notified when part two of the interview is available.

Q: What drew you to make the first major documentary about the Clutter Family murders?

A: Since I was a teenager I have been obsessed with In Cold Blood, both the book as well as the movie that came out shortly thereafter. It was the first book where, after reading something that you had to read in high school, I went and read it again over the summer. There’s something about that book that spoke deeply to me. I really believe that In Cold Blood deeply informed who I am as a filmmaker and set me on a certain path.

Q: Why did some of the surviving Clutter family members decide to talk now about the case? How did you approach them for the series?

A: I give a lot of credit to my amazing team. Kahane Cooperman and Allison Berg really worked very hard on that particular aspect. Together we were able to convince all the participants that this is a very serious project. It’s the 50th anniversary of the In Cold Blood film. It’s a story that’s still fascinating to people and we were going to be the one project that wasn’t going to be deep diving into Capote. This was going to be the documentary that really told the Clutter story. The impact on them, the impact on the town and the aftermath of this horrible crime really has never been detailed before. I think we were able to convince people of the integrity of the project.

Q: Was there anyone you met in Holcomb that you connected to? Any favorite interviews? 

A: I appreciate everyone who gave their time and participated in the film. Some people talked to us reluctantly, others were more open. I think everybody felt like there was something to talk about if we focused on the aftermath of the crime and the aftermath of the book. I think that’s what we haven’t seen before.

Q: How was it for the cast of In Cold Blood to revisit their work in the film?

A: In so many ways, In Cold Blood the movie really was a genre changer. Scott Wilson (Dick Hickcock) and Brenda Currin (Nancy Clutter) spoke of the deep impact that the story itself had on them, how the film was made and actually being in the home where the murders took place. Even though it’s 50 years later, this film is very much an experience that haunts them.

Q: Is there anything you hope people get from the series?

A: We’ve tried really hard to create a series that has new information. We haven’t really seen a deep dive into the underlying crime, into the community, into the impact on the family itself. It’s one of those stories that people think they know.

Listen to part one of the interview with Joe Berlinger. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play. Subscribe to be notified when part two becomes available.

Stream full episodes of Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders online now.