Netflix has set new docuseries “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” about the mysterious disappearance of Elisa Lam, for a Feb. 10 premiere, Variety has learned exclusively.
The four-episode season comes from executive producer and director Joe Berlinger, who sets out to deconstruct what really happened to college student and tourist Lam, who stayed at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles in February 2013. When Lam vanished, leaving behind all of her possessions, including her wallet and ID in her hotel room, it ignited a media frenzy and mobilized a community of internet detectives who had suspicions about the last-known security camera footage released of her, as well as of some of the other people staying in the hotel. The docuseries features interviews with hotel employees and guests, as well as with some of those who investigated the case.
“As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles,” said Berlinger. “So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realized there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa’s disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location’s role in encouraging or abetting crime — or the perception thereof.”
The season, therefore, also dives into the history of the Cecil Hotel itself, including its humble origins and unfortunate notoriety, from untimely deaths to being a rest spot for well-known serial killers.
“My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals, but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again,” Berlinger said. “The fact that Elisa disappeared in a location that has a multi-decade history of crimes is what made her case fascinating to me.”
While Lam and the Cecil Hotel take center stage in the first season, “Crime Scene” is set up to explore something new with each subsequent season. Specifically, Berlinger explained, “We will explore a particular location and the social forces that contribute to its criminal history, while also looking at specific crimes within that context.”
“Crime Scene” is an Imagine Documentaries and RadicalMedia production in association with Third Eye Motion Picture Company. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein, Jon Doran, Jon Kamen and Ryan Miller also executive produce.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Joe again since our last collaboration on ‘The Ted Bundy Tapes,’” said Wilkes. “Throughout the series, we’ll explore infamous locations that end up becoming accomplices to the crimes themselves and The Cecil Hotel, with its storied history shrouded in mystery and notoriety, felt like the right locale for our first exploration.”