True Crime Documentaries: What Separates The Good From The Bad? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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True Crime Documentaries: What Separates The Good From The Bad?

If you scroll through the front page of Netflix, you’ll see countless true crime documentaries. The genre has exploded over the last few years since Making a Murderer was first released. Since then, Netflix and all of the other streaming services and TV channels, have been churning out all sorts of documentaries about serial killers, bank heists, fraudsters, and all sorts of other stories from the criminal underworld.

Some of these documentaries are a huge hit, like the recent Night Stalker series on Netflix, but a lot of them disappear without a trace. What is it that makes some of these true crime shows into huge cultural phenomena while others fade into the background and get forgotten in weeks? These are some of the main things that make an amazing true crime documentary.

A Crazy Story
A lot of people misunderstand why true crime is so popular and they think that it’s all about violence and gore. There are many critics of true crime who say that it is simply glorifying violence, but there’s more to it than that. People are interested in true crime for the same reason that they’re interested in nature documentaries, especially the ones that show the violence of the animal kingdom. They want to hear stories about the crazy, dangerous things that go on in the world outside of their normal day to day experience. Most importantly, they want to try to understand how and why these things happen. That’s why the documentaries with the craziest stories and the most twists and turns are the most popular ones, rather than the ones that are most violent.

Good Production Value
Never underestimate the importance of good production value. The popularity of true crime means that a lot of people are looking to cash in by releasing cheaply made documentaries that have been rushed out, but these ones never survive. You need good quality photography, excellent documentary music, and clever editing to create a compelling documentary. Obviously, a good story is important but you need good production values to tell that story in an engaging way.

A Bigger Picture
A well-made documentary that tells the story of an insane criminal case will probably do pretty well, but the ones that explode into public consciousness and stick around are the ones that fit into a bigger picture. True crime documentaries that tackle wider themes that are relevant in modern society tend to be far more successful. For example, The Ripper on Netflix, a documentary about serial killer Peter Sutcliffe would have been a half decent series but it was elevated to a new level because it looked at the story in the wider context of the gender equality movement that was inspired by it. These themes are obviously very relevant right now, so the show took an old true crime story and used it to start a discussion that people are very engaged with.

These are the main factors that separate a good true crime documentary from one that disappears, never to be heard from again.

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