Netflix’s true-crime documentary Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Serial Killer gripped viewers from the moment it dropped on the streaming site at the end of 2019.
The popularity only increased during the beginning of the lockdown period, with fans tuning in to learn about one of the world’s most infamous internet criminals, Luka Magnotta – who gained infamy for circulating videos of himself killing cats online, before then murdering Chinese international student Jun Lin.
Magnotta’s fame is something the creators of the series struggled with during the early stages of production, as they worried about giving him a platform when that’s essentially what fuelled the horrific murders he committed.
Speaking at the BAFTA session on the Making of Don’t F**k With Cats, producer Felicity Morris said: “A lot of the conversations that Mark [Lewis] and I had with them [the contributors] at the beginning were like, ‘What are we doing giving him [Luka] a Netflix platform for his story?'”
The show’s director Mark Lewis says they had to address complicity from early on with Deanna Thompson and John Green – the two internet sleuths who successfully tracked Magnotta down.
He explained: “I think in conversations with Deanna and John Green, we arrived at what we thought was a comfortable position looking at the complicity with everyone who reads a crime story in the newspaper and who reads a crime novel. Crime and murder is something that we’re all fascinated in, and in a sense it was part of the story that we’re all – whether filmmakers or viewers – sort of complicit in this fascination with true crime and murder.”
He continued: “That was one of the reasons behind why Luka had turned to murder, because he knew there was this audience, so suddenly there was this very dark, but extraordinary story behind the film and we decided that we had to tackle that head on.”
Lewis says acknowledging the responsibility viewers, filmmakers and amateur detectives have led to them coming up with what they called their “complicity ending” where Thompson “opened herself up to us and all the twists and turns of her hunting this guy”.
He added: “She then asked that central question at the end – were John Green and her, the sleuths who tracked him down for months, in part responsible for pushing him forward to do darker things? And are we, as filmmakers and audiences who watch crime documentaries also in part complicit? We decided to tackle it completely head on and I think this was the right decision.”
While Lewis admits it was difficult to escape the “sensationalist” story, which heightened Magnotta’s fame, he insists that was never their intention.
He continued: “We were always very conscious that we didn’t want this to be serial killer porn and we didn’t want to be sensationalist in that way, though it is a murder that was very sensationally covered in the press at the time. We didn’t want it to be like that because we thought we had something more interesting to say about our relationship with the internet, about the rise of internet vigilantism which is really a kind of force and is here to stay, about complicity, about our quest for celebrityhood and all those kind of things.”
Instead, they focused on telling the story from the voice of Thompson and Green, with the hope that themes would come out of it “organically”.