Before there was "Making a Murderer" on Netflix, there was "The State of Wisconsin vs. Steven Avery," a short film by the same documentarians.
So what does it show? That’s hard to say, considering nobody seems to be able to get their hands on it.
The Columbia University Film Festival website from 2008 describes the short film as "a documentary about an exoneree who strives to hold law enforcement accountable for taking eighteen years of his life."
An attempt to reach the filmmakers through Netflix's public relations office was not returned. Meanwhile, the head of the fest for Columbia University didn’t return a request to see it either.
The director of Industry Outreach and Columbia Film Festival Film Program – where it screened in 2008 – did not return a request to watch "The State of Wisconsin vs. Steven Avery" or obtain the script. Meanwhile, a message sent to an email address listed for one of the filmmakers on the 2008 documentary's website bounced back.
Former prosecutor Ken Kratz said he asked to watch the short doc as a condition of speaking to the filmmakers when they contacted him in 2013 to say they had struck a deal with Netflix. They refused, Kratz said, so he didn’t do the interview.
He thinks the earlier short film, which was made a year after the trial, would shed light on the filmmakers’ "agenda." Although they largely framed the later Netflix series around the Avery family and Avery’s defense team, the documentarians have denied creating an advocacy piece in media interviews. They say they tried to present the main pieces of the state’s evidence in the documentary, which Kratz disputes, and they say the former prosecutor wouldn’t talk to them.
"You didn’t see them following the prosecution around," said Kratz. "What does it show? It could show their real agenda. If it’s straight down the middle, then I will be the first to apologize."
The short film ran 27 minutes long versus the 10 hours that Netflix devotes to the topic. It was directed by Laura Ricciardi, one of the two filmmakers behind "Making a Murderer." The other documentarian, Moira Demos, produced it along with Ricciardi, as well as served as co-editor and director of photography.
The filmmakers were graduate students when they read an article on the Avery case and headed to Manitowoc to obtain scads of riveting behind-the-scenes footage as the case was proceeding through the criminal justice system.
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.