It’s an odd era that we live in, not just from a subject matter point of view as internet culture is fundamentally reshaping how humans interact with each other on a basic communication level, but also in terms of how we tell stories, and—more specifically—documentaries.

Making its world premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival, Jenny Carchman’s latest documentary feature Whatever it Takes (after directing previous films and series like The Fourth Estate, Gossip, and Sex Diaries for HBO) explores an odd, yet timely, tale of cyberstalking threats and bizarre deliveries at the hands of a Silicon Valley giant.

We chatted with Carchman to explore how she was able to bring this convoluted story to life, as well as her thoughts on how the documentary form itself is changing—plus what we can expect for the future.

NFS: What was your first connection or inspiration to tell this documentary feature?

Jenny Carchman: My husband shared an article with me in 2020 about this case—before anyone had pleaded guilty— and it was so insane and so startling, I immediately was interested. The detail of Baugh showing film clips to motivate his staff really set me in motion to make this into a film.

Whatever it Takes

Via Jenny Carchman

NFS: What was your approach to visually tell a story that featured a lot of online correspondence?

Jenny Carchman: We’ve been seeing texts and emails and websites in films so much these days and I knew this had to feel a little eerie and a little off—not so straightforward. I wanted the textual information to feel slightly degraded but not illegible. We worked with Clarissa Donleavy at Elastic who I have worked with on two other films to help us come up with a look that was in keeping with our tone. There was a lot of back and forth.

NFS: What camera(s) did you shoot on, and why?

Jenny Carchman: We used four cameras for the Steiner and Veronica interviews (Canon c500 with prime lenses 28, 35, 50, 80) and two for all the other interviews. I needed to sit very close to people which is how I like to interview. We also used a C70 on a Ronan for all the verite. The cameras have enough latitude for low light and I needed half of the interviews to be very dark. There is so much darkness in this story and that lighting was a big piece of the storytelling. \u200bThe Canon C500

The Canon C500


NFS: Where does the story of Whatever it Takes go from here?

Jenny Carchman: Seeing it with an audience at SXSW was incredible and exaggerates the humor or sarcasm or outrage that you feel in crafting the film. I loved that experience and we will be going to several more festivals. Ultimately, the film will be available on a streaming platform.

NFS: How do you feel that documentaries are evolving?

Jenny Carchman: They are changing in so many ways. Streaming has changed everything. Budgets grew and then shrunk and now seem to be leveling out. What were once ideas for feature length films are now multi-part series—which I love making too because you can get very deep into a topic with more screen time. And you can see trends in the topics that are being funded by broadcasters. There has been a shift away from more social justice, advocacy films or personal diary films that highlight an issue to looking inside sports, music, and celebrity-driven projects and lots of true crime. Also, more and more you are seeing subjects named as producers on projects too.

Via Jenny Carchman

NFS: If you could give some advice to any up-and-coming documentary filmmakers, what would that be?

Jenny Carchman: I love this question because I have to remind myself of these things all the time. Try not to waste time second guessing yourself or your ability and don’t be afraid to ask for help from people you trust as often as you need it. You will give it all back when it is asked of you in return.