The Untold Story of Neverland – Interview with Larry Nimmer
New Michael Jackson Documentary by filmmaker Larry Nimmer who was also hired by Tom Mesereau to film footage of Neverland for the 2005 trial.
Coastal View News Nimmer Pictures
MJFC Talks To Larry Nimmer
(11-4-2009) Filmmaker Larry Nimmer
is planning to release a new, positive documentary on Michael Jackson
soon. He developed the idea for "Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of
Neverland" after having been hired by Michael Jackson’s defense team
during the child molestation trial in 2005. His task was to film the
Neverland Valley Ranch to avoid the jury getting a wrong impression by
footage taken by the Sheriff’s department during a raid of the estate
In his documentary Mr. Nimmer investigates the family
of the accuser and reveals that they have "anything but a squeaky clean
past." Two other culprits that he points out are the media and the
Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office.
Mr. Nimmer was so kind to talk to MJFC about the trial and his upcoming documentary:
Mr. Nimmer, you can already look back to 30 years of producing
entertainment and informational programming, including several Emmy
nominations. But how did you initially get to film the Neverland Valley
Ranch during the child molestation trial in 2005?
Larry Nimmer: "In
my career I’ve done many types of things; music videos, documentaries,
etc… But one of the things I’ve done is legal computer animation and
video for attorneys for use in the courtroom. I’ve developed something
of a specialty of creating mini movies for use in the courtroom. That
could be a ‘day in the life’ movie, or it could be a movie that
explains the manufacturing process or it could be a movie that explains
The first attorney that contacted me was Bob
Sanger, one of Michael’s attorneys. He knew of my specialty in that
field, so he hired me to do it. And then when Tom Mesereau came on
board, Bob Sanger shared that information with Tom, and then I met Tom,
and I started working with Tom.”
MJFC: Can you give us
some details on your film for the trial? What were the main differences
between your film and the footage taken by the Sheriff’s department
during a raid of the estate in 2003?
"In the Sheriff’s footage it is a lot of shaky camera work, it’s going
around corners, and it looks all mysterious, almost like a murder
mystery. You also see a lot of the rooms with stuff all jumbled up and
kind of trashed and it is hard to know whether the Sheriff had turned
everything over and trashed it or if they found it that way.
just know that when I went there everything was very neat and
presentable looking. So that is one difference. Their footage looks
like this could be a place where crime might go on and my footage is
more this looks like a fun nice place. So that is kind of it in a
MJFC: During the time when you were filming, did you have any personal contact with Michael Jackson?
“No. The funny thing is when I was filming there – I filmed for about a
week or so – he was living there at the time. But I never saw him when
he was living there, just because the estate is big and I guess his
handlers felt that he did not need to be a part of what I was doing.
Although, apparently they asked his permission for me to film there. So
I did not run into him at Neverland.
When I went a couple of
times in the evening to videotape things at night, I was told that when
I was driving by the guest bedrooms not to let my headlights point
towards the guest bedrooms. My understanding was that Michael was
staying in the guest bedrooms after the Sheriff’s had trashed his
bedroom. He did not want to go back to his bedroom. I was aware of his
And then another time I was there in the evening I
drove by and I saw a lot of people around the dining room table. You
could see from outside, but I did not want to stare and make him
uncomfortable, so I just drove past. Then I did see and meet him at the
trial when I testified. I met him in the corridor and I nodded ‘Hello’
a few times. And then I sat opposite of him when I gave my testimony –
he was there watching.”
MJFC: What did it feel like to be in the presence of Michael Jackson?
Larry Nimmer: “I
was surprised that he was taller then I thought he would be. He was
more of a natural and everyday person then I thought he would be. His
plastic surgery to me was kind of obvious as people say it is, but on
the other hand, he looked like a normal person, too. He was not as
flamboyant as I thought he would be, he was just kind of a normal
When I first saw him I was in a waiting room to go on
to testify, and actually this is before I saw him, and I looked out the
window from the waiting room and there seemed to be a boy scout outside
with some medallions on his jacket. And I thought it was someone in the
military. I went up to the window to look and sure enough it was
Michael Jackson wearing one of his jackets. Then I went out and
positioned myself in the corridor and when he came back from the
bathroom I said ‘Hi’ to him briefly and nodded hello and so forth.
pretty much kept to himself or kept in a private room. I went into that
private room once; he had a picnic basket and a few other things in
there. I guess where he waited before he went into the courtroom. It
was a tiny little room, just a little bigger than a closet.”
MJFC: How do you think Michael Jackson coped under the immense pressure?
“I think he reacted like people thought he would react. I think he took
it hard and it was emotionally and physically draining for him.
time he went to court in his pajamas he was not feeling well and the
judge ordered him there. I think it was really difficult on him, but by
the end was able to hold up to it, even though it showed the strain on
I was told at the end of the trial, just after the not
guilty verdict, one of the attorney’s assistants said that Michael was
probably going to have a party for the staff that helped him in his
defense. I was looking forward to that but then there was not one, and
I guess he was just so emotionally drained and had to hibernate and
could not deal with it anymore.
I think it was very difficult
on him – and I understand why – if he was found guilty he would have
had to go to jail or prison . And that would have been really difficult
for him after the lifestyle he was used to. Particularly if he was
innocent and going, that would have been really miserable.”
MJFC: What was it like to testify yourself at the trial?
“I testified on a couple of things. The attorney’s had me videotape
Neverland to show what Neverland looks like to a typical visitor. The
attorneys wanted the jury to be able to go and visit Neverland to see
what it was like. But the judge ruled that the jury could not go, so
then that was when my video was played.
But in a trial you can
not just play a video. You have to put someone on the stand that has
something to do with the video. So they put me on the stand as a legal
video expert and then I played my video and I narrated it. The video
does not have any sound. Typically in a video in a courtroom an expert
will narrate it. So I narrated. I’d say something like “This is the
entrance to Neverland", "This is the guard booth" and "This is the
western side or eastern side". Then I would tell what rooms we were in.
One other thing I narrated at the trial was when I did an alarm
test in Michael’s bedroom. Gavin Arvizo and his brother Star Arvizo …
who claimed that he went up the stairs to Michael’s private bedroom and
that he saw Michael with his brother Gavin. But the attorney’s argued
that if Star had entered the area downstairs and walked up the stairs
to his upstairs bedroom, Michael would have heard it, because there is
a couple of alarm bells that go off when someone is walking nearby.
I did this alarm test – I put my camera over Michael’s bed and then I
had a cleaning lady walk in downstairs and walk up the steps, and I let
the jurors hear what the alarm sounds like when it is tripped. That was
another thing that I testified about, doing the alarm test to show that
Michael would have always known if someone was coming.
testified for two days because I did not finish the first day, so I
came back a second day and testified. I was there the same day that
Larry King came to testify, but then they did not allow his testimony
to the jury.
MJFC: When did you develop the plan to extend your film into the documentary: "Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland"?
"Maybe about six months ago…I met Aphrodite Jones (author of the 2007
book ‘Michael Jackson Conspiracy). Her book is about how there was a
media conspiracy to make Michael look bad so that they could make more
I saw that she was going to be doing a book signing in
my area, so I went to meet her. I thought her book was well done and I
found her interesting. I made a video at her second book signing with
her and Tom Mesereau and I put it on YouTube to help promote her book for her. I thought it was good to get the information about the book out.
then I threw around some ideas for documentaries and she had tried to
develop one idea for a documentary which did not pan out. Then I
started thinking about documentary ideas and I wasn’t sure legally
whether I could use some of my footage, so I consulted my brother who
is a top copyright attorney. He said that I could use the footage under
the various doctrines of the copyright law. Then I started developing
the documentary basically with just footage that I had already in my
office. I did not really need to go out and shoot much else – I shot a
little extra stuff, including some re-creations that I have in the
MJFC: Is there already a final version of the documentary?
"I have a final version now. The final version currently is 40 minutes.
I could have made it longer but I made it this length to see if I could
find a cable network or broadcaster that wants to broadcast it. I have
told all of them that if they want a longer version I have more footage
and I could develop a longer version.
But so far all of the
cable networks that I had contacted either have not decided one way or
the other, or they decided no, they do not want to do anything.
Jones also found that when she shopped around her documentary idea that
most of the media did not want to do anything positive Michael Jackson.
So I might be getting some of that same reaction. Although, I know that
there are a lot of people out there that are certainly positive Michael
Jackson. I should know within a few weeks if it is going to be
broadcast or not. And if it is not going to be broadcast, then I will
just make it available on DVD."
documentary is promoted as being pro-Michael. However, especially after
the Martin Bashir debacle, Michael Jackson fans have become very
cautious. Do you think the fans will get what they hope for?
“Yeah, I think so. The documentary speaks for itself. I guess the
Martin Bashir documentary spoke for itself too. I’m certainly
sympathetic towards Michael – I did work for his defense. I did learn
from the defense point of view what happened and I also researched some
from the prosecution point of view. But as the jury found, the
prosecution was not too convincing. So I think the fans will be pleased
with it. The fans probably would have liked more performance footage
then I have and would like more interviews with Michael than I have.”
Is it correct that you used outtakes from the Martin Bashir documentary
in your own documentary, and if so, for what purpose?
“During the trial Tom Mesereau had me edit the outtakes from the Martin
Bashir documentary to show that there were a lot of things that Martin
said that were sympathetic to Michael that Martin Bashir did not use.
The point being that Martin Bashir did not want to show him in as good
a light as he could have. So that was how I had access to the Martin
The outtakes were actually filmed by Michael’s
own videographer who just had a separate camera going from the Martin
Bashir cameras during the taping sessions. They are not as
professionally shot because they just wanted to have a record of what
was being said by Michael.”
MJFC: What can fans expect from your documentary that they have not already seen or heard?
“In terms of the outtakes, he (Michael) talks more about what it is
like to be a celebrity, and people not treating him like a regular
person. He talks about what his loneliness is like and what his
isolation is like. He talks about wanting to use the childlike nature
for professional purposes. He talks about a lot of things that he has
talked about in other interviews – these are themes that he has often
MJFC: Overall, What was your opinion on the accuser Gavin Arvizo and his family?
“It seems like he really had cancer, they really wanted his (Michael’s)
help, but then it seems like they used him and they turned on him when
they were not having the benefit of using Neverland and his credit card
as much. It seems like they just made up these stories and they were
pretty good actors – all the kids and the mom.
In the video, at
one point I have interviews with the Arvizo family that they made,
which I do not believe have been seen at all, which were used in court.
They are praising Michael saying what a great guy he is and how he has
helped them and so forth. Then at the trial they claimed they
(Michael’s people) kept them captive and all this other stuff.
it seems like they were just trying to pull a scam over on Michael
Jackson and the media and the prosecutor’s were so anxious to get more
ammunition to say that he is a child molester that everyone believed
MJFC: Do you think Michael Jackson was an easy target?
“Yes, I do think Michael Jackson is an easy target. All celebrities are
somewhat easy targets, particularly the eccentric celebrities. I would
say that Michael tends to be an eccentric celebrity, but I do not think
there is anything wrong with being an eccentric person. In fact, I
think it is refreshing in a lot of ways.
Particularly, one of
the things Michael says in one of the interviews is during the
settlement with Jordie Chandler, he settled it because he did not want
to go to trial and have a big OJ style trial. But the settlement was a
bad idea in retrospect because then it made other people think they
could get money out of him too.
I do not believe he was a child
molester, but I think because of settling earlier on, it made him more
susceptible to being extorted by other people.”
MJFC: Many fans see prosecutor Tom Sneddon as the point for origin for the accusations and the trial. Would you agree?
“I would say more that the point of origin would be the Arvizo family,
possibly Janet Arvizo, the mom, or maybe Janet and Gavin.Then when they
met with their attorney and psychologist, it seems like they may have
encouraged and believed the story, and they got the story flamed up.
Tom Sneddon was looking for any type of evidence against Michael got
involved. I do not know if he was the original origin but he sure
exasperated the whole thing.”
MJFC: Do you think your
documentary has the power to change people’s opinion on the subject
trial and the accusations and moreover, on the person of Michael
Larry Nimmer: “The people I
have shown it to, most all of them say that they have a different
impression of, particularly the trial and of Michael Jackson after
seeing it. Most people are convinced that the Arvizo’s did have a bogus
story, and were faking and making up stories. I think it certainly will
change people’s opinions of the Arvizo family.
And I have also
heard people change their opinions of the Chandler family, too. My
documentary also discusses the allegations by the Chandler family and I
now analyzed those as well. And people that have seen the documentary
feel like those charges were probably trumped up, too.
I think it will change people’s impressions of Michael and the history of what has happened with him and young people.”
What do you think about Michael Jackson finally performing again in
London later this year? It sounds these concerts and the release of
documentary will occur around the same time.
“I think it is great that he is doing the concerts. For me it is
fortunate that my documentary will have good timing to coincide with
them. I should say that I do feel guilty in capitalizing on Michael
Jackson with my documentary, just like a lot of others have capitalized
on him – even the Arvizo’s and the Chandler’s. In a way I feel guilty
about making a documentary and I may make some money off it. I am
actually planning on giving a percentage of the proceeds of the
documentary – 10% of the profits to Michael Jackson charities. So I
have mixed feelings about benefitting from it, but I think that it is
great that he is performing again, and it is great validation that all
the concerts sold out and that he still has an incredible fan base.
me it has been really interesting, in the last week or so, since the
article review was out, and then other blogs have been written about
it. I find it fascinating that I am getting contacted from people in
all parts of the world, sympathetic to Michael, and interested to hear
from me. I have heard from people from Iran, Norway, Italy, Scotland,
France and the United States. It is really cool how he has such a
strong fan base. And I guess it is because of his message of love and
peace, respect for kids and respect for the childlike nature.
think it is great. It remains to be seen how he holds up to all those
concerts, because my impression is that he has a fragile disposition.
But on the other hand, he has performed a lot in the past, and I have
heard him say in interviews how much he enjoys performing and how
comfortable he feels on stage. I think it will be a good thing and it
will be interesting to see just how the shows go, and who plays with
him, and what songs he plays.”
MJFC: Are you planning any other Michael Jackson related projects, or any other exciting projects?
“One project I thought that I would like to do is a documentary on
Michael Jackson fans around the world. How people see him from
different cultures and how he resonates with people in different places
and cultures. Possibly, I would do that some point, possibly I would
make another documentary someday more on him and his music, rather than
focusing so much on the trial, which this one focuses on more. But I do
not have any specific plans at this point. Right now I am doing some
documentaries on other projects, so I am not sure at this point.”
wrapping up the interview, Larry Nimmer spoke about another idea he had
for the DVD release of his documentary "Michael Jackson: The Untold
Story of Neverland.” In addition to sharing some additional footage, he
wanted to allow for fans across the world to submit video messages to
Michael Jackson. Then these could be collected and assembled in the DVD
extras. If Mr. Nimmer does decide to do this, he indicated that he
would let MJFC know so that we can let the fans know how to submit
Larry Nimmer is a producer, director, cameraman,
writer and video editor. He has won a variety of awards, including
several Emmy nominations, for 30 years of producing entertainment and
informational programming. Nimmer began his career as a TV News
Producer for the CBS-TV affiliate in San Francisco, KPIX-TV. He has
since produced music videos for broadcast on MTV, documentaries shown
on PBS and a variety of other programs and promotional spots for
broadcast and cable networks.