The docudrama “Forensic Files” was one of the earliest, and most successful, shows that recreated true crime cases and showed how forensic evidence helped solve the case.
ORLANDO — Michael Jordon has a pretty good sense of what makes a docudrama successful for a cable network.
After all, he’s directed more than 270 episodes of a show that’s drawn in audiences for more than a decade.
” ‘Forensic Files’ was the first show in its genre,” Jordan told Freeline Media, during a stop in Orlando.
“There have been a lot of shows that took the ‘Forensic Files’ idea and spun it in its own way.”
“Forensic Files,” of course, is the reality show played on the TruTV network, which recreates true crime stories, and then shows how forensic science was used to catch and convict the killer.
As Jordon noted, the show was a frontrunner for many of the docudramas that recreate true crimes, like “Snapped.” Jordon said the concept provides audiences with an unbeatable combination: a really good mystery, and the fascinating science that helps put criminals behind bars.
“We have 400 total episodes that we’ve done in the last 14 years,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are no shortages of cases to recreate, which means there are a lot of crimes being committed.”
The fact that these are real life cases, and not scripted crime dramas like “CSI,” pull audiences in, he added, shows audiences are fascinated by the sometimes horrible things that people have done — before getting caught.
“When we put on a marathon, people will watch it well into the wee hours,” Jordan said. “So there’s a huge audience for this.”
“Forensic Files,” which has its headquarters in Pennsylvania, nevertheless should be of particular interest to audiences in Central Florida. As Jordan noted, many of the episodes have been filmed in the Orlando area, a metropolitan region that has provided the “Forensic Files” staff with a wealth of diverse locations to film in, and a lot of local talent to tap into.
“I’ve directed about 270-plus episodes of ‘Forensic Files,’ and our production company is based in Pennsylvania,” Jordan said. “But in the winter months, it’s too cold to film there.”
The crew began scouting for locations in cities with more tropical winter climates.
“We did film once in Miami and didn’t have the best experience,” he said. “We went to Los Angeles, but they do things differently out there. Once we started filming in Orlando, and found some good crews there, we established a nice base.”
That’s exactly what Sheena Fowler, the film commissioner for Metro Orlando, is eager to hear. Her office is a part of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, which works to bring new businesses to the Orlando metro area, and to help existing firms expand and grow.
Fowler works to assist production crews looking for locations in Central Florida to film commercials, movies, television shows and independent features, and she’s hopeful that more reality shows decide that Orlando offers a great location for their program.
“I’m amazed at the number of networks out there looking for reality shows,” Fowler said.
Fowler said Central Florida uniquely offers a lot more than theme parks — including historic cities, lakes and forests, urban and rural spots alike.
Jordan agreed.
“Any time we go there, people don’t know it but there are a lot of great locations there,” he said of Orlando. “When we’re researching a case, we kind of had to match the real thing to what is available here. We shot a lot at Lake Louisa State Park. That has a lot of woods. It looks like Montana or Utah. Then you go deeper and you’re in a jungle.”
Lake Louisa State Park is off U.S. 27 in South Lake County, close to the city of Clermont.
Greater Orlando is also appealing, Jordan said, because of all the talented actors readily available in the area.
“There’s a lot of local acting talent, because these people work at the theme parks,” he said. “The way they work and with their work ethic, they’re very loyal.”
Jordan said he doesn’t necessarily view “Forensic Files” as being in the same category as many of today’s reality shows.
” ‘Forensic Files’ is a documentary,” he said. “It’s not a reality show. ‘Forensic Files’ is actually scripted, although it’s based on a true story. That differs from a reality show that is supposed to be unscripted. Most of them are supposed to be unscripted.”
In some instances, Fowler added, newer reality shows not only don’t have scripts, but camera crews, either. With the ability to post a so-called reality show on web sites like YouTube or Vimeo, she added, anyone with a video recorder on their Iphone can film and post their own idea for a reality show.
“A lot of people are producing and do webisodes, and letting the networks come after you,” Fowler said.
The question is, will audiences be drawn to such low budget concepts? Jordan said what works so well for “Forensic Files” is the hard work and talent that goes into it.
“It’s definitely the storytelling that makes it successful,” he said. “When we first started doing it, we used to do it in four block segments, and it used to be in the third block where we showed who did the crime, and then we spent the last block showing how they did it. But audiences have gotten more sophisticated about forensic science. Now forensic science is being taught in college, and a lot more people are taking these courses. Now our episodes are less about teaching people about forensics than telling a good mystery. Like most shows, there is a formula — but every case is different. In every show, there is a way to keep the mystery fresh.”
To learn more about the show, visit Forensic Files.

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