Interview With Documentary Filmmaker James Buddy Day For New Epix Docuseries, ‘Fall River’

Fall River, Massachusetts has seen its fair share of murder and mayhem. Once the hometown of Lizzie Borden, the city is no stranger to the brutality of humans. In 1979, three women were slaughtered in Fall River, spawning a manhunt and igniting Satanic panic. The new Epix docuseries, Fall River, tells this story. I spoke to Director James Buddy Day about his fascination with true crime, his interview with Charles Manson, why he chose this story, and what’s up next.

PopHorror: I watched Fall River, and it was so good. It’s so intriguing. I had never heard of it, so I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to watch.

James Buddy Day: Thank you very much. I was reading your website this weekend, because I’m a big Friday the 13th fan.

PopHorror: Oh, awesome!

James Buddy Day: I was reading an article about the Final Girls. I can’t say why, but I was interested in Friday the 13th this weekend.

PopHorror: Well, I’m glad you liked it! I was reading through the work that you’ve done, and you have an extensive listing of some very compelling documentaries. What is it that initially sparked your fascination with true crime?

James Buddy Day: You know, I’ve just been interested in crime since I was young. My parents had a library in our house, and it was just stocked full of true crime books. I remember reading Helter Skelter in high school. My mom was really into true crime and my grandfather, for some reason, was really into true crime, too. I actually don’t know why, but they were.

PopHorror: It’s a family thing!

James Buddy Day: And all those paperback books, you know? They used to write tons of those paperback books. I just read them all. I was always so fascinated. Before I was a filmmaker, I worked in healthcare in mental health and was always really interested in mental health. And then I did some postgraduate work and studied sexual violent offenders and stuff like that. But it’s something I’ve always really been interested in and then kind of dabbled in throughout my career. And then I was making a series in 2014 for reals. It was called The Shocking Truth. We take horror movies and tell the real story behind that horror movie.

PopHorror: I like that!

James Buddy Day: Yeah, it was a short lived series. It was on for two seasons, but it did pretty well. And so, we did like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and we’d be like, “And here’s the real crime that inspired it.” We did Jaws and a whole bunch of stuff. And then I was doing one of those episodes, and I met a guy who was like, “Yeah I’ve been talking to Charles Manson.” It was just like a random guy. And he was like, “I’ve been talking to Charles Manson.” And I was like, “What do you mean? How have you been talking to Charles Manson?” He said, “I knew this guy…” It was like a telephone thing. I used that connection to reach out to Charles Manson, and Charles Manson started calling me. So I got to know Charles Manson. And then I made a documentary with him, I guess. I was gonna make a documentary with him and then he died. But I was the last person to interview him. 

PopHorror: Oh wow!

James Buddy Day: Yeah. I ended up going very deep into the Manson story. I made three documentaries about it. I made one about him and one about his grandson, and I made one with Squeaky [Lynette Alice ‘Squeaky’ Fromme] and Sandy Good. Then I wrote a book about it. So that kind of really launched me into doing true crime exclusively.

PopHorror: What a launch!

James Buddy Day: Since then, it’s one thing after another. 

PopHorror: That’s really cool. Can you share with our readers how you were introduced to the series of murders in Fall River?

James Buddy Day: Yeah, I just read an article about it. And you know I’m very into the true crime world so… I read an article about these Satanic murders in the home of Lizzie Borden, and a Satanic cult, and sex workers. And I never heard of it. I was kind of like, “How had I never heard of this?” And over the years, I kind of realized that if you’re from Massachusetts, you’ve definitely heard of it, or if you’re not from Massachusetts, you may not have heard of it. Carl Drew had a website at that time where he just kind of described that he was innocent, and I thought that was interesting. And I thought, “Okay.” This is a convicted Satanic cult leading guy, and a convicted Satanic cult leader is someone I want to speak to. So I reached out to him and it kind of went from there.

PopHorror: It was very intriguing. I don’t live in that area, so I definitely had never heard of it. But I like that you picked it up and that more people will get to see it, because it’s such an intriguing story and has so many levels to it. I think it will be really, really good for people to see. 

James Buddy Day: Yeah, yeah, I felt the same way. I hadn’t heard of it. The deeper I got into it, I was like, “Oh, there’s so many perspectives and it’s so interesting. And there’s so many themes here about justice and Satanic panic and how women were treated in the 70s and 80s.” So so many interesting things. 

PopHorror: What’s your dream project, Buddy? What’s that one story that you want to tell?

James Buddy Day: Fall River! In terms of true crime? I’m drawn to… I like to look for things. I’m just an obsessive person, so I love finding something that I can obsess over —just like in a good way—and just learn everything there is to know about it and go down every rabbit hole and meet everyone. When I did the Manson case, which I did for years, I met absolutely everyone and started meeting all these crazy characters and people with their perspectives. And then I did that with Fall River. I just tried to meet anyone in the victims’ lives. Anyone that knew Robin [Murphy]. I just tried to get my hands on every piece of paper that had anything to do with the case. and I just find that so fulfilling and interesting. The thing with, when you’re looking at your crime, you have these detectives and they’re juggling all these cases. They’re overworked. Then when I take on a project, and I do nothing but that one story. I can do nothing but that one story for years. I have all the time in the world. So I can go a lot deeper than some of the investigators. So in terms of like a dream project… Yeah, I love stories of human nature that take you into interesting places.

PopHorror: I am the same way. Once I find something that interests me, I have to find out everything about it and I go down so many rabbit holes on like, “How did I get here?”

James Buddy Day: Exactly! I was reading your website because I was watching all the Friday the 13th movies and I was like, “I’ve got to find out what happened to Amy Steel! Where is she? Why didn’t she make more movies?” As soon as I get onto something, I ask so many questions. I have to know!

PopHorror: What’s next for you, Buddy? Is there anything that you’re currently working on?

James Buddy Day: Yeah, working on a lot of stuff. I have several projects in development that I can’t really talk about. I have some really intriguing true crime stuff that I’m working on at a few different networks that I’m developing right now. In terms of stuff I can talk about, I just finished working with Blumhouse on a series called Florida Man Murders for Oxygen. We have a new batch coming out later this year, not exactly sure when. Then I’m working with Blumhouse on this new documentary series about Brittany Murphy. It’s going to be on HBO Max with Director Cynthia Hill, and we’re really excited about it. It’s almost finished filming. I’m not sure when it comes out, but they’ve announced it and stuff. It’s gonna be great; it’s going to be awesome. And then developing some other projects with Blumhouse. You know, I just aspire to tell more great stories. I’d love to make a horror movie one day.

PopHorror: A lot of true crime shows are watched in this house, so I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what’s coming up.

James Buddy Day: That’s what I think is really cool about Fall River is that it’s a crime that most people have never heard of. But it’s a big, big crime that you can really get lost in. There’s so many interesting characters. We cover a lot in the four hour. But there’s more.

PopHorror: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I just have one last question for you, Buddy. What is your favorite scary movie?

James Buddy Day: It’s so hard to pick. My favorite scary movie of all time is definitely a Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In terms of just like pure scariness, it’s the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, gritty and raw. Like the way that movie opens is incredible. It’s so gritty and raw, and the effects are so real, and the story is so disturbing, especially for when it was made. And it still holds up. If you were to watch that movie now, it’s just as scary.

Thank you so much, Buddy, for taking the time to speak with us today. Fall River drops on Epix on May 16, 2021.

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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