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‘You have a collect call from Charles Manson’: Calgary filmmaker recalls conversations with cult leader

WATCH: Filmmaker Buddy Day joins Global Calgary to discuss the making of his documentary Manson: The Final Words, which he made after speaking with Manson on the phone multiple times.

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 had no idea who it was and I answered the phone and all of a sudden I just heard his voice.”

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“I was shocked that he called me,” Day admitted. “It was really intense.”

READ MORE: Charles Manson dead: Convicted mass murderer and cult leader dies aged 83

“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.

READ MORE: Charles Manson: Here’s what happened to his cult followers

“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.”

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“We’re really aiming to change the conversation around Charles Manson.”

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“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.

Charles Manson is brought into court on January 16, 1971 to hear the final arguments from the prosecution in the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Charles Manson is brought into court on January 16, 1971 to hear the final arguments from the prosecution in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Getty Images
Charles Manson pictured as he is brought into the Los Angeles city jail in this undated file photo.
Charles Manson pictured as he is brought into the Los Angeles city jail in this undated file photo. Getty Images
Charles Manson, 35, pictured in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Charles Manson, 35, pictured in a Los Angeles courtroom. Getty Images
In this Dec. 21, 1970 file photo, a smiling Charles Manson goes to lunch after an outbreak in court that resulted in his ejection.
In this Dec. 21, 1970 file photo, a smiling Charles Manson goes to lunch after an outbreak in court that resulted in his ejection. AP Photo/George Brich
Charles Manson prior to his court appearance on March 6, 1970 in Los Angeles, California.
Charles Manson prior to his court appearance on March 6, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. Frank Q. Brown/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Charles Manson pictured entering a courtroom in this undated file photo.
Charles Manson pictured entering a courtroom in this undated file photo. Getty Images
Charles Manson reads a statement at his parole hearing in San Quentin. He was turned down for parole for the 6th time.
Charles Manson reads a statement at his parole hearing in San Quentin. He was turned down for parole for the 6th time. Getty Images
In this 1986 file photo, Charles Manson is seen in court.
In this 1986 file photo, Charles Manson is seen in court. AP Photo
Charles Manson pictured on Aug. 14, 2017.
Charles Manson pictured on Aug. 14, 2017. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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.

READ MORE: Bryan Cranston recalls childhood encounter with Charles Manson: ‘I was within his grasp’

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.

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