On March 3, 2010, Madison Hamburg’s life modified perpetually. His mom, Barbara, had been brutally murdered exterior her Connecticut dwelling. Legislation enforcement first suspected the crime to be considered one of ardour in what inexplicably grew to become a chilly case. Madison, who on the time was a university sophomore, started to analyze his mother’s dying, at first solely intending to make use of his digital camera footage for a documentary class group undertaking. But as he instructed me throughout a telephone name, the undertaking grew from a deliberate quick to embody one thing so large this his professor “basically promised that he’d give me an ‘A’ if I promised that I’d never stop working on it.” Effectively, Madison stored his phrase, which led to extra years of interviews and numerous hours of footage. This has resulted in his directorial debut in what’s now an HBO four-part docuseries, Homicide At Center Seashore.
I’ve watched everything of this docuseries, and let’s simply say that there are a number of twists that even Madison didn’t see coming. Speaking with him concerning the undertaking was fairly an expertise, too. And I point out this subsequent half just for context on the gravity of the state of affairs: on the day I spoke with Madison, I additionally interviewed a high-profile actor. We’re speaking a few Golden Globe-and-BAFTA-winning gentleman who’s acted in dozens of profitable motion pictures. After the day was stated and performed, I spotted that, unusually, I used to be really extra nervous about interviewing Madison Hamburg than the A-list actor.
It felt daunting to talk with the younger filmmaker who might have really ended up interviewing his mom’s killer. He uncovered and dove into dangerous conditions throughout his seek for the reality. He turned over stones that loads of us most likely couldn’t abdomen. It’s mind-boggling to fathom how Madison stored it collectively for everything of this undertaking. And to this date, Barbara Hamburg’s homicide stays unsolved. Did it have one thing to do along with her estranged husband, whose monetary dealings have been extremely suspect, or can the homicide be tied to a pyramid scheme (identified because the “Gifting Tables”) for which a number of fellow members have been convicted in a Ponzi scheme after Barbara’s dying?
A number of what transpires on this docuseries feels surreal, together with being heartbreaking, however Madison rolled digital camera on all of it. He additionally persevered in bringing his mom’s story to audiences, lastly discovering a breakthrough a reference to the late-Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia screenwriter and longtime collaborator, Ron Nyswaner, who got here on board as an government producer. That led to Nyswaner telling Madison (as he associated to me), “Jonathan Demme changed my life in one phone call, and I’m gonna try to do the same for you.” Madison then relocated to L.A., the place he edited the undertaking and finally partnered with Jigsaw Productions earlier than touchdown a take care of HBO.
Altogether, Homicide On Center Seashore is Madison’s try to unravel the thriller of his mom’s dying whereas absolving a number of those who he loves and in addition hoping to restore his fractured household. It’s a heck of a watch that may hold you guessing till the top and past. Forward of Sunday night time’s HBO premiere, Madison was gracious sufficient to inform us the way it all got here collectively (and the way he stored it collectively).
After watching you interview so many individuals for this docuseries, it feels odd to be asking you the questions. Is it unusual for you, too?
I believe that as a way to create the alternatives as a way to make this, I’ve answered questions for some time now, so it’s not too bizarre for me. I believe I’ve a special context, clearly, being the one who was asking questions.
HBO’s been beefing up their true-crime library. How did you pitch your particular undertaking?
Effectively, what was actually laborious was the angle. As a result of with true crime, the knee-jerk thought is how “big was the story?” and “how brutal was the murder?” and what’s the angle right here? However we have been actually pitching a narrative of identification and telling a narrative by way of the sufferer and household’s perspective, so it was a extremely laborious factor to pitch, and that’s kind-of exterior the conventions of true crime. And I’m so grateful that Lisa Heller, who we pitched to at HBO, noticed that potential. The remainder is sort-of historical past.
A number of this undertaking grew to become about studying who your mom is, and about attending to know your father. Was there something specifically that shocked you most?
Thanks for recognizing that. I believe that after I began this, I didn’t actually know what I used to be in search of, however what shocked me probably the most was that my mother was a… human being and an individual.
Yeah, as youngsters, we are inclined to view our mother and father as nearly mythological creatures, if that is sensible.
Yeah. And when she died. I didn’t know the stressors that she was defending me from, and the life that she had and kind-of the greyness of her morality. So, I didn’t actually know Barbara. The movie turns into rather a lot about discovering who she was and that influencing my very own identification. So, the largest factor that shocked me, which sounds sort of foolish [laughs], is that my mother was not simply “Mom.” She was an individual.
You made some actually gutsy strikes with hidden recording gadgets over time. Had been you ever afraid of getting busted by a topic?
Uhhhh, sure! However after eight years, you kind-of overlook it’s there. It’s robust. You wanna be nonchalant about it but in addition have to have the questions prepared and be very strategic. I bought higher at it over time and realized the legalities of it, much more clearly over time, however yeah, I believe that one factor that shocked me is that there are specific individuals who simply kind-of like put up with the actually sharper, intense questions that I used to be asking and weren’t conscious that I used to be recording. And so they by no means thought to ask that, if I used to be. A part of me all the time felt like they might have been recording themselves or, I don’t know! It’s robust. That was a extremely robust factor… I all the time checked out these moral choices prefer it was for the larger good. And there’s loads of deciding whether or not or not issues are value it.
On a bigger scale, there’s a degree close to the top while you have been questioning whether or not what you have been uncovering would endanger your life. Was there ever a degree while you actually thought you need to be wanting over your shoulder?
Yeah, the making of the documentary was like an 8-year double life that I used to be dwelling. I didn’t inform loads of my pals about it. Lots of people that I labored with didn’t even know what had occurred to my mother, so digging into leads in areas that might have led to my mother’s dying is horrifying. When you’re a serial-killer assassin or a sociopath assassin, often a homicide is an answer to an issue performed by people who find themselves in determined conditions. And now that it’s public, I really feel rather less scared for my very own security as a result of I don’t know that coming after me would essentially resolve an issue anymore.
One of many wilder elements of this undertaking is that there’s an honest likelihood that you simply really interviewed the one that murdered your mom. How acutely aware have been you of that chance?
I’ve been fairly cautious to not decide any theories or simply not say, “I think this person could have done it.” However after all that ran by way of my head, and that’s a part of what I got down to alleviate, these underlying distrusts, you realize, not with the ability to belief members of the family and individuals who must be a part of my household construction and help system, utterly 100%. And making an attempt to exonerate them, so I can have some semblance of regular household connection.
To this date, the case stays unsolved, however you obtained a late-breaking information dump following a profitable Freedom Of Data Act request. You’re nonetheless digging by way of these information, however are you seeing any hope for a decision?
I’m a buddy and member of Survivors of Murder, which is an incredible help group in Connecticut for individuals who have family members who’ve been murdered. While you’re going by way of something like this, it’s extraordinarily tough for household as a result of the transparency with legislation enforcement in Connecticut is actually… opague. It’s straightforward to lose that belief, however as a member of the family who’s going after “who the murderer is,” it typically could be like a idiot’s errand, however what the extra rapid problem that you would be able to face is taking it up with the method, and ensuring that was performed appropriately. Particularly these days, it’s very laborious to get away with homicide, so with long-term chilly circumstances and unresolved murders, extra possible than not, one thing went incorrect within the course of. And as a member of the family, being aware about that’s extraordinarily gratifying.
With the Unsolved Mysteries revival resulting in ideas, one can solely hope that this sequence will do the identical.
Sure, and in addition, at the very least for me, since I’ve investigated this for thus lengthy, [the new records] make my work… it gives a degree of transparency. I suppose I by no means had any finality to my mother’s dying. I got here dwelling and didn’t see her. No person instructed me any particulars of the crime, and so it was like a film the place abruptly, my mother’s useless, and everybody’s simply saying it to me, however no person’s telling me how. I didn’t have that sense of finality, and I believe that going by way of the steps and in addition seeing a few of what the police have been doing, it makes my world a little bit clearer. That existential sort-of disaster has began to fade away.
We’re out of time, Madison. I hope that legislation enforcement ends up shifting on this case, for you and for your loved ones.
Thanks a lot. I actually hope so, too.
HBO’s ‘Murder On Middle Beach’ debuts on November 15 at 10:00pm EST.