Interview with the Women Behind the Netflix Series “Unbelievable”

Posted on September 17, 2019 at 8:00 am

“Unbelievable” is the stunning new Netflix limited series based on the real-life case of a young woman who told the police she had been raped, and then, when they decided she was not telling the truth, she was charged with filing a false report.  Three years later, due to the dedication of two police detectives in another state, the rapist was arrested, with incontrovertible evidence showing that the young woman had been telling the truth.

The series is based on an award winning article from Pro Publica.

For the Alliance of Women Film Journalists website, I interviewed three women behind the series, producer Sarah Timberman, writer/director Susannah Grant, and director Lisa Cholodenko.

An excerpt:

What made you decide that this needed to be a series rather than a feature film or, or a small screen rather than big screen?

Grant: It was less size of screen and, and more scope of storytelling that is made possible in eight episodes. We briefly, maybe I was the only one who briefly thought about the two hour form just because I’ve lived there for a while. But there’s just so much to unpack in this story and so many interesting ideas to flesh out. You just never would have had the time to really play out in a feature film. Just that first episode is almost an hour and you need every minute of it. You feel the impact of both the medical exam and then the police examination and it’s the real time quality of the first episode that I think is part of its strength. And I think if you had to truncate that and fit it into 10 minutes of a film or 15 minutes of a film it wouldn’t have the same impact. Really early on there were just so many things that we were excited about exploring within it. They’re all introduced in that great article. I think it became pretty clear and the reach of what Netflix is able to do with their limited series tremendous. We will be in 190 countries on Friday. There was a nice review that praises the show for showing, not telling. You couldn’t express the tenacity of those two detectives in a feature film. I think that dead ends that they hit are as interesting as finding the rapist. The false leads are as interesting as the things that become legitimate and you couldn’t possibly go down all those avenues if you’re trying to tell the story in a film. Life doesn’t fit into that kind of narrative structure and this piece reflects life.

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