'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile' Director on '70s Influence, Documentary Style and Ted Bundy

In making the Netflix Ted Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, director Joe Berlinger faced a giant challenge: making those who knew little about Bundy believe that every beat of his wild, unusual life and imprisonment was real.

For the film, a fictionalized account of Bundy's relationship with Liz Kloepfer, Berlinger decided to use a documentary-like influence just to make those crazy details—like Bundy escaping prison twice, acting as his own lawyer at his murder trial and getting his wife pregnant while on death row—seem believable.

The strategy was clear: Make a film that felt like a documentary to drive home the point that everything in the film did happen. While Berlinger took a few creative liberties—like that last shocking scene of Bundy and Kloepfer—the historical events were re-created as accurately as possible.

Berlinger found his way to add a 1970s influence while keeping the film feeling realistic and styled by using vintage, anamorphic lenses to shoot the movie. "They're lenses you would have been able to use in the time period," he told Newsweek. "Instead of using production design to make an overly saturated, overly stylized version of the '70s, I wanted to give that '70s vibe more through the kind of glass, the lenses, we used. To use lenses that would have been available only then, not today."

Period films often put too much attention on other details, according to Berlinger. "Production designers and art directors on certain period movies—it screams the period. Like, everyone is wearing bell bottoms, when in fact not everyone in the '70s wore bell bottoms," Berlinger said. "Sometimes people wore the same 501 jeans that are available today. So instead of overdoing the art direction or the production design, my choice, with my cinematographer Brandon Trost, [was to] shoot the movie using vintage, anamorphic lenses."

There was another obvious reason why the film fell into a documentary influence. Shooting Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile took only 28 days. To produce quality content quickly, Berlinger wanted to use a more casual camera affect, one seen in roving cameras and more handheld-like filming.

"That was a choice: to not make it be a documentary but to give it a documentary kind of feel," said Berlinger. "One way of making sure the audience felt like this was a real story was to ground the film in some level of documentary authenticity while still giving it a sense of style."

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is now streaming on Netflix.