Calgary filmmaker Buddy Day was sitting at an Applebee’s in Florida when he first received a phone call from convicted mass murderer Charles Manson.
The call came a few months after he sent Manson some letters and his cellphone number, saying he’d like to interview him for a documentary.
“I was filming a TV series that we made called The Shocking Truth and I had met a couple authors who suggested that I should look more deeply into the Charles Manson narrative,” he told Global News. “My phone rang and I ran outside and it said ‘you have a collect call from Charles Manson.’”
“I was shocked that he called me,” Day admitted. “It was really intense.”
“He just kept calling, over the course of what turned out to be the final year of his life.”
Day used his phone conversations with Manson to create a documentary titled Manson: The Final Words, which explores the narrative that surrounded the infamous killer at the time of his trial.
“We just asked what happened, and tried to take a look at the narrative that the prosecution put forth in the trial in 1971 and in the book Helter Skelter, and see if that was actually what took place.”
The book, written by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, suggests the killings carried out by Manson and his so-called “family” were motivated by an apocalyptic race war that Manson believed would occur.
“At the end of the day, we discovered a whole alternative narrative that’s been misreported for about 45 years,” Day explained.
“When you watch the documentary and you go back and look at the news coverage from like 1971 … you will see all the breadcrumbs there. When you look back at what Charles Manson was saying over the past 40 years, a lot of these seemingly nonsensical rants seem to make sense when you put them in context.”
“The idea that he’s this evil incarnate, master manipulator, cult leader is a narrative that’s been put forth for the past 40 years since he was incarcerated — and we’re trying to challenge that,” Day explained.
Day stresses the documentary doesn’t attempt to clear Manson or his “family” members of the crimes, nor does it argue he’s a good person.
“Charles Manson, when he was alive, would be the first person to tell you that he … did a lot of bad things,” Day said. “But he always maintained that the Helter Skelter narrative, the idea that he was trying to build a cult and start a race war … he always maintained that that was not true.”
Day said he was “very surprised” to hear of Manson’s death.
Charles Manson: The Final Words is narrated by musician and director Rob Zombie. Those living in the United States can watch it on Reelz on Sunday, Dec. 3.
For Canadians who are interested in the documentary, Day said he’s in the midst of final negotiations to roll it out nationwide.