According to Rasha Drachkovitch, CEO of Los Angeles-based 44 Blue Productions, ‘entertaining’ and ‘edgy’ are the key words to sum up MSNBC Investigates, a show the prodco is currently producing for the MSNBC network. ‘We’re looking for stories that fill the void between the big tabloid stories,’ he says. ‘They must be adrenaline-filled hours. ‘At press time, most of the series (comprised of 10 x 60-minute specials), is in the pre-production stage, but shows will begin to appear this fall. Drachkovitch reveals that a mental asylum, a special boot camp for offenders, Death Row, New Orleans Vice and FBI profilers are among the many subjects to be investigated.
‘We’re interviewing members of the FBI’s special profiling unit,’ Drachkovitch says. ‘These people crack the big serial killer cases by coming up with highly detailed psychological profiles of killers. It’s a challenge because we want to see how they break the clues – but they’re slightly resistant since it’s a trade secret. However, we’re confident that they’ll talk.’
‘When you’re dealing with a serial killer, how do you formulate these people in your mind?’ muses supervising producer Lasta Drachkovitch (Rasha’s sister). ‘We’ll talk to a very famous Chicago profiler who has been involved with some of the country’s biggest cases. They don’t want to visit the crime scene, and they don’t want anyone to speak to them about the case because they want their mind completely clear. Everything absorbed by these guys must be totally new.’ Lasta hopes to interview Dr. Helen Morrison, a famous Chicago-based profiler who performed an autopsy of the brain and body of executed serial killer John Wayne Gacey. ‘Gacey and his family had apparently willed his brain to this doctor,’ she says. ‘So she performed an autopsy on the brain and discovered that it wasn’t too different from anyone else’s. What causes someone to become a serial killer? I don’t know, but the show will hopefully answer that question.’
Lasta is also gearing up to investigate Restorative Justice, a program in which killers confront the families of their victims. ‘They bring the killers and families together in the hope that healing will take place. A number of these meetings, which are proving to be very popular across the u.s., have been very successful. But, it must be difficult to persuade a bereaved family member to sit face-to-face with the person who’s directly responsible for the death of their loved one. One woman, however, met with the killer responsible for her daughter’s death and tried to prevent his execution – she just didn’t believe in capital punishment.’
With a budget of about US$150,000 per episode, the company’s latest venture was greenlit by Michael Cascio, vice president of programming at MSNBC, who had taken an immediate liking to 44 Blue’s 4 x 1-hour specials on America’s toughest prisons. ‘The series was called Lock Up, and ratings doubled,’ Rasha recalls. ‘The network was very pleased with the results – especially since this was the first time they had worked with an outside production company.’ The four episodes, which aired earlier this year, explored life inside New York’s Riker’s Jail, Northern California’s Pelican Bay, Illinois’ Joliet and Colorado State Penitentiary. ‘We took a camera crew and spent about two weeks in each prison. The most extreme prison was Pelican Bay, which is undoubtedly the toughest institution in America. It’s simply a bad place, which is populated by criminals serving 250 years for mass murder. It’s filled with cold cement, isolation and tension.’ Simon Bacal