A documentary focusing on the alleged horrific crimes of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein has officially been scrapped. However, Netflix has decided to test the waters with the controversial subject matter by producing a four-part docuseries centering on the wealthy financier.
Founder of an investment firm, Epstein projected a lavish lifestyle by owning mansions and having ties in high profile social circles. The source of his money, however, remains obscure as his firm is not worth as much as previously claimed. In 2008, Epstein registered as a sex offender after pleading guilty to solicitation of prostitution involving a minor. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison where he was granted work-release privileges, which allowed him to leave jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Earlier this month, Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking with underage girls. According to prosecutors, Epstein enticed and recruited dozens of minor girls to his homes in New York and Florida. Allegedly, Epstein created a vast network of victims to engage in lewd acts with him and serve as recruiters for additional sexual partners.
Over two years ago, filmmaker Barry Avrich started the process to make a documentary about Epstein. Coinciding with the timing of developments in Epstein’s case, Avrich has opted to step away from making the film. According to THR, Avrich has nixed the idea because the material is too heinous. No stranger to sensitive subject matter, Avrich’s films include Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project, Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story, and Prosecuting Evil. Avrich expressed the change of heart about filming a closer look at Epstein:
"I began developing the story in 2017 and shopping it around to the various networks. There was very little interest in the subject matter given the fact that Jeffrey Epstein at that time was an unknown player with very little awareness. As I began to dig further into the story, the subject matter became more distasteful to me and honestly, I felt there wasn’t much of an audience who would be interested in this film. I have decided to terminate any involvement in this project."
Although Avrich has bowed out of his project, Netflix has a docuseries on Epstein in the works. Helmed by executive producers James Patterson, John Connolly, and Tim Mallory, the docuseries is based on the book Filthy Rich: The Billionaire’s Sex Scandal - The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein. Given the production of the series started before recent headlines, Netflix could expand the number of episodes and capture current developments. Recently, Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges, was denied bail, and remains in jail pending trial. If convicted, Epstein could spend up to 45 years in prison.
Unfortunately, victims of sex trafficking, assault, and cults exist in staggering numbers. Earlier this year, Smallville actress Allison Mack shocked the nation after pleading guilty on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor due to her involvement in NXIVM. Since the #Metoo movement, several allegations have come to light regarding various instances of sexual harassment, as well as physical and emotional abuse. It has allowed victims the opportunity to share their stories and seek justice, but the problem has hardly been fixed. The subject matter regarding Epstein may be difficult to digest, but a docuseries - or documentary - could help to shed light on the subject and instill a sense of precaution and prevention into viewers.