Emma Cooper who is in charge of making the Netflix documentary Depp v. Heard knew that talking about the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard would get a lot of attention online.
This is because the trial was shown on TV and people all over the world watched as both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard said things about each other, like who hurt who. The jury decided that Johnny Depp was right and Amber Heard had to give him $10 million, and they later ended their fight by agreeing on $1 million.
Because the topic of her documentary is famous and makes people feel strongly one way or another, Cooper wasn’t completely surprised that both supporters of Johnny and supporters of Amber had problems with the documentary existing at all.
Filmmaker Emma Cooper had to turn her notifications off.
Emma Cooper, speaks to Variety about the documentary “You know, it’s a balanced level of hate,” Cooper mentions humorously. “I pride myself that it tends to be very 50/50,” she adds, talking about the fans and critics of both Depp and Heard.
However, that’s essentially the intention. By producing a three-part documentary series about the widely-discussed court case, Cooper isn’t unveiling any fresh revelations about the trial or the individuals involved.
Instead, her goal is to address our part in the sensational and occasionally unsettling discourse surrounding the trial.
The hasty judgments and comments she’s been encountering even before her docuseries aired on August 16 are essentially a small-scale representation of the broader societal context she’s delving into, using the Depp v. Heard trial as a focal point.
Cooper’s documentary series emerged from her personal curiosity about the trial, as she observed both the courtroom proceedings and the discussions on social media.
“I found myself compulsively watching the live feed, and then discussing it with my friends, and looking at what everybody was saying on social. And I wondered what that said about me that I was so interested in what felt like a rather a sad open event of a private relationship,” says Cooper, who directed The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes for Netflix.
“The more I looked into it, I felt like we were in a cultural and social phenomenon. As a documentary maker, I felt there was an opportunity for me to reflect how I was feeling while I was watching it, and I felt that it was a real moment in time.”
She adds, “My intention, right from the start, was to make a cogent and interesting reflection of what happened without using interviews or experts.”
Cooper contacted the representatives of both Depp and Heard to inform them about the documentary series, but her intention was not to request interviews.
“If the lawyers had really wanted to speak, then of course, I would have interviewed them. But I wouldn’t have done one without the other, by the way, because everything has to be balanced,” Cooper says.
“Really, my intention was always to try and make it about the conversation around the trial. I wanted to get away from any he-said-she-said from within the trial, and I just really wanted to talk about us and the way we communicate, and the way that we look at events that don’t really have anything to do with us. That is actually what the series is about — but I can’t help but look at some of the things that are being said about me, without people having seen the series, and it’s interesting that people are drawing many conclusions, but that very much was not my intention.” She continues.
When questioned about the influence of social media on the trial’s outcome, Cooper avoids the topic, emphasizing that her documentary series doesn’t delve into examining the verdict.
“I never got to speak to any jurors, so I can’t really answer that apart from guessing, and I don’t want to do that,” she says.
“I don’t think that the Depp v. Heard trial is going to shake the foundation of justice in your country,” says the British filmmaker. “There was an experienced judge, there was a jury being spoken to every day who got to see excellent testimony on both sides, there were amazing lawyers and evidence.”
She adds, “But I find it very interesting that the YouTubers were welcomed after the case, and it certainly felt like they had some kind of meaning. As people, we’re aware of the power of public opinion.”