His work as an executive in charge demands that Stuart Fero operate at an extraordinary level on a moment’s notice. When Alex Murdaugh was discovered injured as the result of a gunshot to the head in September of 2021, the world was shocked and Oxygen wanted the details investigated and presented as soon as possible. Within three months, Fero led the team which delivered Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power. to the viewing public.
His respected work with Frontline and TruTV made Stuart a leading choice to head this production. While the circumstances around the death of Murdaugh’s wife and son are still clouded in mystery, this two-hour long special dissected the events around the family’s death and the South Carolina attorney’s financial schemes which ignited these tragedies.
At the time of the shooting, the Alex Murdaugh story was already in development at Oxygen. When Murdaugh was shot, the project was greenlit for a full documentary film to be delivered to air within three short months. Full confidence was placed in Stuart Fero to oversee the production based on his exemplary work on numerous films such as the Emmy Award Winning Frontline: Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos and the Peabody Award Winning Frontline: The Facebook Dilemma.
Once at the helm, Fero scrambled to hire an exceptional team and crew that would push to the front of this story. With the story in development prior to Murdaugh’s shooting, the team had an advantageous lead which allowed for the rigorous fact-checking, legal and compliance procedures that any current affairs documentary, especially one that’s changing rapidly, requires.
The role of an executive in charge can vary from production to production and in regards to the EIC’s style. Stuart Fero believes that his great talent is in knowing how to procure and work with the best talent.
He imparts, “The crucial part of the Executive in Charge of Production role is being the glue that holds everything together. You have to know a little about a lot rather than specialize in any one department. From the technical side, I have to know why a particular camera is required for a scene and why that scene needs specialist lighting- to the post production process, why shots need to be colored and how the audio is mixed – to knowing which production designer to work with to get that impossible prop made yesterday.
Whilst I wouldn’t attempt to operate that camera or build that prop, I need to know enough to be able to talk to and understand each unit and have them communicate effectively to create a film that will really grab some eyeballs. Some people are good at conducting the trains, some people are good at designing the trains; you have to hire the right people to do both. Dick Wolf was an Executive Producer on this film.
The Director of Photography was a very crucial role; we booked Jeremy Gould who has an excellent track record with documentary film-making and has worked on Frontline, The Circus, The Weekly and The New York Times Presents. With a film that was crashing to air, we needed a team that could work at speed whilst maintaining the high editorial standards expected in a documentary of this nature.”
Even for a documentary film, the Alex Murdaugh story was unique. For events to unfold in real time and for the drama to become so exacerbated; the twists and developments were a constant. Stuart Fero’s two decades plus experience in the industry has seasoned him into an EIC able to put out multiple erupting fires; a skill put to the test on Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power. countless times. From fraud to his shooting which was allegedly as assisted suicide at the hands of a hitman, Alex Murdaugh’s story requires responsible and skillful professionals to illuminate the truth.
Stuart Fero is currently in production on Season 7 of Showtime’s ground breaking docu-series, The Circus: Inside The Greatest Political Show On Earth as well as an upcoming new 7-part series for Food Network, a film for CNN, and a new Frontline film for PBS.
Writer: Coleman Haan