MUFFPick: Theodore: The Documentary
“These stories need to be heard and these women need to be remembered over the man. I am sure of that.”
Zac Efron who? Theodore: The Documentary is the REAL Ted Bundy film to get excited about!
We all know Ted Bundy. He is one of the most notorious serial killers in history. And while his crimes are infamous, most would be pressed to recall the names of his numerous victims: Karen Sparks, Lynda Ann Healy, Donna Gail Manson, Susan Elaine Rancourt, Roberta Kathleen “Kathy” Parks, Brenda Carol Ball, Georgeann Hawkins, Janice Ann Ott, Denise Marie Naslund, Nancy Wilcox, Melissa Anne Smith, Laura Ann Aime, Carol DaRonch, Debra Jean “Debby” Kent, Caryn Campbell, Julie Cunningham, Denise Oliverson, Lynette Culver, Susan Curtis, Margaret Bowman, Lisa Levy, Karen Chandler, Kathy Kleiner, Cheryl Thomas, Kimberly Diane Leach, and even more.
Fillmmaker Celene Beth Calderon is looking to change this. In her own words:
“Our intention is not to make yet another cheap true-crime serial killer doc, exploiting grisly details to capture attention. Anyone can find these videos on YouTube if they wish, but people have not heard the personal stories from those who were closest to him, and from those whose lives were forever changed by his crimes.”
In creating Theodore, Celene hopes to show the everlasting impact one man’s actions can have on individuals, families, and communities.
Along with her two producers, Timothy John Psarras and Sean Ravarino McKenna, Celene has put together an awesome crowdfunding campaign with some super rad perks (you know, on top of the knowledge that you will be helping to get this amazing project made) including social media shout-outs, exclusive campaign-only t-shirts, blu-ray copies of the completed film, film credits, autographed film posters, signed copies of “Violent Mind: The 1976 Psychological Assessment of Ted Bundy”, Skype calls with Dr. Al Carlisle (Ted Bundy’s psychologist in the Utah prison), and more!
Check out the teaser below and then get your butt over to their IndieGoGo campaign and consider donating or spreading the word so that this project can get fully funded! Find out more about Celene and this film in our interview below.
This film will be your directorial debut. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you take the plunge into filmmaking.
Celene Beth Calderon: I grew up very much immersed in the entertainment industry and I always knew I wanted to be a performer or entertain the masses. I grew up dancing — and have continued to do so — and I actually still teach/coach today at the studio I originally trained at! But film has always been another love of mine and I was always drawn to it.
The first time I felt like I could be a filmmaker was back in 2015 during the Sundance Film Festival, watching a variety of documentaries. Docs have captivated my interest for over 10 years now and I personally enjoy telling stories. In 2016, I landed my first volunteer gig for Sundance and by the graces of God, I was placed in their Documentary Film Program! At that moment, I knew I was destined to make a film one day. So, the following year I returned and the wheels had already begun turning about the first topic I wanted to tackle as a filmmaker. It was then decided one night during Sundance that I would embark on this journey and it hasn’t slowed down since. And little did I know, exactly a year later, I would be creating my first official film and now, being interviewed about it!
Tell us about THEODORE: THE DOCUMENTARY. What is the story you want to tell? Where did the idea come from?
CBC: I’ve always had an interest in true crime and never really knew why. Years ago, I went on a ghost tour in Salt Lake City and they discussed Ted Bundy and his whereabouts in Utah. I wasn’t too familiar with him at the time, so I began to read about him and his crimes. Reading “The Stranger Beside Me,” I was facinated with how easily Bundy could live in this world as a functioning citizen in the day and a raging murderer at night. And as I would be reading these things, I kept thinking about the victims and their families. How do you ever move on from something so tragic? How do you handle your daughter’s name living in vain under this monster?
I was also influenced by Kim Snyder’s film Newtown, which focused on the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Watching it, I felt such a deep emotion. One that surpassed sadness. But, to see these parents becoming activists and learning how to live each day without their babies — it meant so much more to me than just a film.
Theodore will take you on a journey 40+ years later and show what life is like after being affected by one of the most prolific serial killers in the world. As we learn about some of the victims, we also meet people who knew Bundy professionally, educationally, and personally. One thing people don’t realize is there are cases involving Bundy that are still open and under investigation today. Bundy seems to have this bizarre cult following and I feel it is my job and duty to bring light to what life is really like and the trauma that remains years later in these peoples’ lives.
So many of the existing serial killer documentaries out there are directed by men. How do you feel THEODORE will benefit from having a female influence?
CBC: I’m looking at Bundy through other people’s eyes. This film is not detailing the violence, the sexual assaults, and the “typical” discussions that revolve around this story. Being the first female director to tackle Ted Bundy feels very liberating and as though I am giving a voice to those who aren’t able to speak today or to those who want to tell their stories. When I’m in an interview and looking into someone’s eyes and watching them relive the most horrible moments, it’s not only humbling, but I feel it’s an honor. The trust that is made between the interviewer and interviewee is extremely important through this process. Everyone who is a part of this film thus far are truly heaven sent and I will do my best to tell their stories and bring light to a topic that is ever so relevant today.
Your teaser gives us a little peek at the work you have been doing on this film. What have been your biggest highlights and challenges thus far?
CBC: The highlights would honestly be the people you see in the teaser. Some of them directly reached out to us and have never spoken publicly about their experiences. We are still constantly in touch with each other and hoping to find more people to be a part of this film. There are still more individuals that will be in the film but this first group — they are mind-blowing and as I said before, heaven sent!
The challenges would actually somewhat mirror my last sentiment, meaning for some, they would like to remain private and not participate in the film and I respect their wishes wholeheartedly. It also goes without saying that people who haven’t read up about our film can easily dismiss it due to the style of other films made about Bundy. This is a film that does not glamorize this murderer — we are simply focusing on the victims and trying to find answers about his psychosis through the process. I hope people will look past what has been created and understand this is a new direction for this story.
What excites you about using crowdfunding?
CBC: Seeing all the different supporters around the world!! I was looking at our donators thus far and I’m seeing so many from Europe, Australia, and Canada!! And, of course, knowing that so many people believe in our film and that they’re willing to help us fund it! I am forever grateful to our donators. Thank you so much!
You’re giving 5% of your crowdfunding donations to RAINN. Do you want to explain who they are and why it was so important to support them during the creation of this film?
CBC: We decided early on that we wanted to give back on behalf of the victims. I had heard of RAINN previously, but did a little more research before launching the crowdfunding campaign and knew this was the organization that we’d be donating to. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network organization, known as RAINN, is a nonprofit that offers programs and outreach to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and bring perpetrators to justice. It also operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-866-HOPE) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country. In light of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I felt it was important to support programs such as RAINN. A lot of the Bundy’s victims were sexually assaulted before death, and some of those victims are alive today and still healing from their PTSD.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
CBC: I am a feminist because I know the world needs women and it’s on us to take on the challenges we face on a daily basis. It is also on us to create something beautiful out of our struggles as women and unite. From early on, I always said that I would never be defined by a man and walking into this industry as a woman means that I have to fight that much harder to make my voice heard. However, watching the Golden Globes this past year, I finally felt like I found my wolf pack. I was reminded that we are not going to sit back and let men dictate what we can and cannot do in front or behind the camera and that we are just as capable. We will not be defined by sexual acts, we require equal pay, and we demand respect.
I find myself extremely lucky because I have two remarkable male producers behind me who have spent countless hours helping me create my vision. And again, this is a story about one man who believed he had all the power. I know, and have already felt, the challenges in this industry as a woman, but there is no way in Hell I will be backing down and giving up! These stories need to be heard and these women need to be remembered over the man. I am sure of that.
Who are your favourite women working in the industry?
CBC: There are so many!! But to name a few… Kitty Green, Erin Lee Carr, Kim Snyder, Oprah Winfrey, and even though they haven’t dipped their feet into filmmaking, I have to give a shoutout to Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff of My Favorite Murder. These women are my daily inspirations and I know if they can do it, so can I.
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve received so far?
CBC: “Your film will become your life and you have to take the high’s and low’s every single day.” This process has been a true sacrifice but one that I know will be worth it in the end!
If you could hold any Guinness World Record, what would it be?
CBC: Hmmm…I’m not sure I’d want to hold a record for anything! Ha!
What components make up your ideal sandwich?
CBC: I am the most basic person when it comes to food — Wonder bread, turkey, Swiss cheese, and onions with some mayo and yellow mustard!
Recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers!
CBC: I discussed it above and I know it’s a very difficult watch, but my recommendation — especially in light of recent events — is one that needs to be seen by everyone: Newtown (dir. Kim Snyder).
Lisa Gallagher is the Festival Director of Toronto True Crime Film Festival. She is also the former producer of The MUFF Society’s monthly film screenings in Toronto. She is a lover of cats, carbs, and laying down.