Interview with Nigel Bellis

We welcome Nigel Bellis to TheCrimeHouse! Nigel is the Co-executive Producer and Series Producer of Investigation Discovery’s “Wicked Attraction.”

Welcome to TheCrimeHouse! Could you first share with us a little bit of information about the show, “Wicked Attraction” for those who might not be familiar with it?

Wicked Attraction is now in its fifth season for Discovery I.D. The series features stories where more than one person has been involved in a murder. Usually this is couples, but sometimes a group of individuals. Wicked Attraction explores – assisted by psychologists, former FBI profilers, and other human behavioral experts – the mindset of those who are carrying out these crimes. The series uses dramatic reconstruction, news archive, location interviews and video to tell the story. The local police, prosecutors, crime writers, reporters, defense attorneys, family members and sometimes the killers themselves assist the recounting of events.

Why did you choose to work on a true crime show?

This is my fourth season producing the series. I find murder a fascinating subject. People kill – as this series demonstrates – for a very wide range of reasons and in all manner of ways. Creatively it offers the chance to make mini movies, and to work with a skilled team of TV professionals, where the aim is to captivate the audience throughout. It’s challenging TV to get right in terms of tone, drama, and the way that the story unfolds. I also enjoy ensuring that our episodes have something new to say – perhaps through an interview with someone involved who hasn’t spoken on camera before, or through some police video or interview tape that hasn’t previously been shown. Another example is that a lot of viewers are unlikely to be aware of Phillip Garrido’s earlier serious crimes which we feature prominently in the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping episode.

The Jaycee Dugard Story premieres on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 9 PM (ET) in the U.S.

How do you choose what criminal cases to do episodes about?

They have to sustain an hour of television. Some cases involve more than one murder at different times. Where there is a single murder the story needs a number of key elements, such as a build up to the crime itself, interesting life stories of everyone involved, or perhaps a real ‘who did it” mystery angle. In the case of Jaycee Dugard a key challenge was in deciding which events to focus on in a story that spans so many years.

How do you feel working on a show that deals with such horrendous crimes?

How do you feel? I’m assuming you mean on an emotional level. I never cease to be moved by the interviews from family members of victims which can be extremely powerful even when having seen them many times during the editing process. We take pride in our sensitive handling of re-enactments. It’s usually down to me as to what we show and what we don’t recreate. We want these moments to be credible and powerful, but not gratuitous in terms of showing the actual murder.

Some cases do cause me sleepless nights, especially when I’m alone and the wind is howling outside. I make sure my doors are locked!

How do you find the experts featured on the show?

We tend to use the same experts now from previous seasons of Wicked Attraction, although if a crime writer has written about a new case we are always interested in considering featuring them.

Is there a certain episode that has touched you more than the others?

An elderly couple buried alive and another case of two men who drove around California kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering young girls were especially difficult for the whole team to deal with.

Why do you think “Wicked Attraction” is so successful?

I think Wicked Attraction is successful because the show has a certain voice, style and visual look – and predominantly we tell interesting stories in a compelling way. After a while you get a true sense of what works and what doesn’t in the crime genre.

How long does it take to finish an episode (from the decision is made to do a particular case until the episode airs on TV)?

It takes four months to make an episode and usually there is a month or two before it is transmitted here in the USA. We produce 13 episodes each season.

Do you have a favorite crime novel, TV show (except “Wicked Attraction”) or movie?

All three Godfather movies, Casino, and Goodfellas are classics in my view that I enjoy re-watching from time to time, and I am currently enjoying the Inspector Lewis fictional crime mysteries from the UK. I don’t tend to read crime novels, but I am slowly wading through In Cold Blood – because I’m interested in seeing why it is regarded as a literary masterpiece.

Anything else you would like to share with TheCrimeHouse and our visitors?

My proudest moments are when we receive a letter from a family member of a victim thanking us for portraying the story both accurately and sensitively. Sometimes they also write saying that our portrayal of events has brought them a sense of closure, as this was the first time they had been able to see, understand, and digest all aspects of what transpired and why.

I’d also like to thank your readers for their interest in what we do and how we do it, and look forward to bringing them a new season of Wicked Attraction in the Summer of 2012!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.

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