‘Stranger than fiction is more than just true crime and this film embodies that’

PRODUCER Lambent Productions
LENGTH 1 x 90 minutes or 1 x 60 minutes

BossaNova Media is going big on true crime at Mip TV. Of its priority titles for the market, three of the four are in the popular documentary genre. But of these, The Chameleon: The Killing Of Ronald Platt sets itself apart by tapping into the burgeoning “stranger than fiction” sub-genre, according to head of sales Tatiana Grinkevich.

The film charts the true story of fraudster, confidence trickster and master criminal Albert Walker – Canada’s most wanted man and one of Interpol’s priority targets.

In 1996, a body is found in the nets of a fishing trawler deep off the coast of Devon. With only a Rolex watch serial number to identify the body, British police conclude that the dead man is Ronald Platt. But when they visit his home, Mr Platt appears alive and well. What the police have stumbled across is a case of embezzlement, identity fraud, murder – and a felon worthy of The Talented Mr Ripley.

The Chameleon 007

The doc provides access to the detectives who were at the forefront of the investigation and Elaine, the partner of the real Platt, who fell victim to Walker’s manipulation and deception.

The feature-length single hails from Gucci: Sex, Money And Power indie Lambent Productions, and was commissioned by Channel 5, continuing its wholehearted foray into premium documentary.

BossaNova boarded the doc following one of its development days, during which it saw the potential in the international market for the next Tinder Swindler. Grinkevich describes the film as fitting the short “noisy one-offs” in demand at global broadcasters.

“They’re after big stories, true crime. Not just connected to murder or fraud – anything that has this unusual perspective,” she says. “Stranger than fiction is more than this, and this film embodies that. It’s got the embezzlement and heist angle, it’s about a con and it covers identity fraud. This sub-genre is starting to appeal to audiences more and more.”

Where once a single film would be less desirable to a distributor, linear broadcasters are now seeking buzzy titles that can bring in event TV audiences, rather than the slow burn of a multi-episode SVoD series, and BossaNova is offering the title as a one-hour film as well as its original feature-length commission.

The Chameleon, Grinkevich points out, is “pacy” and – thanks to the parallel narratives of the authorities and Elaine – the storytelling doesn’t flag.

The globetrotting nature of the doc complements the interest in the case itself, strengthening Grinkevich’s conviction that the doc will travel.

Pre-buy interest has already emerged in mature territories such as Western Europe and North America, even before the doc has aired on C5.

The clout of the UK doc space, of which C5 is now an established part, is also helping to attach cachet to the title. “There are stronger and stronger stories emerging from the UK. On a global level, several key buyers are interested,” Grinkevich says.