Sunday February 28, 2016

Prologue: 'Do it, David. Do it. '

SKS host David Ridgen in the field

SKS host David Ridgen in the field (Owen Ridgen)

Listen to Full Episode 6:39

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Host David Ridgen's decision process, contemplating the creation of Someone Knows Something:

The call

When CBC called me to talk about this podcast, I'd just begun shooting a feature film up in an old Ontario mining town. We were using a series of abandoned farmhouses as our sets and what the farm families left behind as our props.

The film's a drama I've written that takes place in this kind of dilapidated future where a group of homeless people stumble through a situation where they have to help someone when they have no means or resources to do it and, in fact, they have no understanding of what the actual situation is until the very end. Classic puzzler/horror, I guess.

Without giving it all way, it's a story where a character tries to escape from abductors. They try to liberate themselves and get away from the people who took them. And not end up sprawled in the woods, or a ditch, or pushed into a fridge, or somewhere. A shallow grave.

Anyway, CBC wanted to talk podcast because, I'm assuming, years before I'd made a series of documentaries about cold cases at CBC. Some in the United States and some in Canada. All of them haunting and haunted by malicious humans, hard images, crime scenes, aching family members and the boxes of documents that still line the walls of my Toronto semi-detached like a kind of desperate insulation.

And in these and all cold cases, none of the victims got away. Any power or life was taken away from them. They never get to see autumn light or listen to Dylan (or Drake) or binge on anything, or anything else involving breathing the air.  

And being immersed in that as I was, it's hard not to despise humanity for what we can do. How we think. Our nature. Our selfishness.

I hated it.

Close to the end of my investigations, I'd spontaneously erupt in tears during meetings. Just came out of nowhere. I'd have crime scene images present themselves suddenly during months of non-sleep. The exploded flashlight bits from Wayne Greavette's filthy murder by a coward I'd still like to meet face to face. Black and white police photos of Dennis Melvin Howe's apartment from the Sharin' Keenan case. The body of Kathryn-Mary Herbert found under a rotten outhouse in the woods blurred for TV but not for my brain.

I'd go into full panic mode if my son was a minute later than I expected from school. And just stay away from people as much as possible. Not healthy, I know. Just a beginning compared to what families and detectives go through. But this is me and it's me you gotta deal with on this.

So being brutally honest, as I am prone to, getting back into cold cases with a podcast series didn't feel like the best thing for me.

Not a no-brainer.

Come back and do a series Dave.  

No, I'd rather work it all out in a no-budget feature film in abandoned houses. Haha.

But I obviously thought about it.

Long story short...

...before saying yes to the podcast - and CBC was looking for a first season run of several cases - I called every family I have worked with on a cold case and asked them if they thought what we did together was worth anything. Looking through the cases, the documents, the photos, talking to people they'd always wanted to talk to. Opening that wound to heal it more was the theory. Throw him in the elevator. He's claustrophobic!

And I believe in that.

Some of the work led or I guess helped lead somewhere. Got an indictment and conviction in a Federal U.S. court of a Klansman for a double murder in 1964 Mississippi. A grand jury on another Klan case in Louisiana. Arrests of alleged perpetrators in two other cases here in Canada. New information in others. Family got to dig into the muck and grime of places they never thought they would or could.

And I am sure it sucked the pipe for them.

But doing nothing, is that better? That was my question. I guess I wanted to hear them tell me I was a shameless muckraker taking advantage of families and their grief to get explosive stories to air.  

But instead, they all just said I should do it.

Do it, David. Do it. Do it, you're an idiot.

So I said OK.


Show notes

David Ridgen's 2011 film, Reconciliation in Mississippi, documents the process of reconciliation between African American Thomas Moore and Charles Edwards, a Ku Klux Klansman who helped brutally murder Thomas's brother Charles and his friend Henry Dee in 1964. 

Reconciliation In Mississippi17:09