Middleton documentary makers run into immigration trouble
A Canadian television crew has been stopped from filming a documentary in Bermuda this week about the Rebecca Middleton murder.
A five-strong crew from the ‘Murder in Paradise' series — which airs on the Discovery ID channel in the US and Slice Network in Canada — was due to arrive here on Saturday but was told the day before that permission had been rescinded.
Executive producer Jacqueline Bynon told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “We were really quite surprised and really disappointed and would like to know if we can just figure out what the issue is. We'll rectify any kind of permit thing. We'll do whatever we can.”
She said all of the crew had letters from the Department of Immigration, signed by the acting Chief Immigration Officer, advising them that they had permission to come and film on the Island.
But late on Friday afternoon, local agents Moongate Productions contacted the producers to say permission had been denied.
“We were under the impression we were good to go early last week,” said Ms Bynon. “We had tickets purchased [and] we were finalising details on Friday to go out the next day.
“We went through the proper channels, because we always do. [But] apparently, the Government office to whom one applies, to my understanding, it recently changed.
“We weren't aware that it changed hands, so I guess we didn't receive the proper permission for filming. Right now, we are trying to rectify the situation. That's as much as we know.”
She said lawyers for the Canadian production company, Cineflix, were working to resolve the issue and there were no plans to shelve the hour-long show, which will include interviews with Rebecca's parents.
“It will look at the case,” Ms Bynon said. “It's part of a series that's in its second season. It's exactly what the title says. It's about people who go to beautiful places and then sometimes things can happen.
“Some are cautionary tales. Some are just mysteries. They all happen in places where things like this rarely happen. Our series is fact-based. We have a really good journalistic track record.”
The production team had lined up interviews with justice campaigner Carol Shuman, author of a book about the murder of the 17-year-old Canadian tourist, and Rick Meens, who was hosting Rebecca on her vacation here when she was killed in 1996.
Producers had also issued a casting call for local actors and extras to take part in the programme.
The call said local actors and extras were needed for “re-enactments” of scenes illustrating the “events described by our interviewees in our documentary on the Rebecca Middleton case” to be filmed this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“This is a paid gig, therefore you must be permitted to work in Bermuda,” the notice read. “These scenes are filmed ‘improv' style (i.e. there is a basic script describing action but no dialogue to memorise).”
Dr Shuman told The Royal Gazette she was due to be interviewed yesterday.
“I support the company's project and am quite certain it will happen,” she said. “Hopefully, Immigration will get the matter sorted efficiently. It is unfortunate that the 5.30pm Friday shutdown of travel happened the way it did. Hopefully, this will be straightened out quickly.”
Mr Meens said: “I too hope this dilemma is sorted out quickly so as the production may move forward. Unfortunately, I have no real explanation as to why the ruling government would want to sabotage the good intentions of the production company and their willingness to further explain what happened to Becky and her case.
“However, it's not as though we've never been in this predicament before.”
Rebecca was raped and killed at Ferry Reach. No one has ever been convicted of her murder, a fact which has sparked negative publicity about Bermuda's judicial system both at home and abroad.
The ‘Murder in Paradise' programme will not be the first about Rebecca's death. A documentary on the botched legal case involving Rebecca's alleged killers was broadcast to at least a million viewers across Canada in 2007.
In 2006, the prime-time Fox News show ‘On the Record' raised serious questions about the investigation in a documentary broadcast across America.
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy is understood to have intervened to halt the latest project on Friday.
Contacted by The Royal Gazette yesterday, the Minister stated: “The information I received showed that no substantive or temporary work permits had been applied for in this instance and, as such, work could not commence.
“The process requires ten working days for a temporary permit. I am unaware of any permissions being given by the Department of Immigration. When permit applications are made, the matter will be reviewed as appropriate.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport added: “The production company can resubmit an application that will be considered by the Department of Immigration in consultation with the new Bermuda Tourism Authority.”
The One Bermuda Alliance told the British Government in 2012 that Bermuda should change its laws to allow the Middleton murder case to be reopened.