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Crime News Snapped

How Crime Scene Reenactments Work on Snapped: “We Really Do Sweat the Small Stuff"

For Snapped's 20-year anniversary, learn about some of the show's best-kept secrets from behind the scenes.

By Jax Miller

For decades, Oxygen’s Snapped has shown viewers the many reasons women kill. Now, for the series’ 20th anniversary, we’re getting an inside look at how the people behind the scenes of Snapped deliver edge-of-your-seat drama, including what it takes to recreate the evilest of evil deeds.

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Watch Snapped on Oxygen Sundays 6/5c and next day on Peacock. Catch up on the Oxygen App.

Director of Recreations at Jupiter Entertainment and field producer David Lane recently spoke with Oxygen.com about what the team does to deliver a compelling visual story for the show. Lane's broad work includes overseeing reenactments for the true crime series since Season 4, spanning across approximately 85 to 90 episodes.

“It’s all about doing the story justice and really capturing the essence of that story,” Lane told Oxygen.com.

How do true crime scene reenactments work?

According to Lane, much of what he visualizes for the series occurs while he’s out conducting interviews in the field.

“For instance, if we were talking to a detective on a case [and] I want to talk to that detective about what they saw, what they heard, what they sensed when they arrived onto a scene, I try to get as much of a visual dialogue as we could from them, and then you can almost see [it] in your head; imagine how that plays out in recreations later,” Lane explained. “When you have actors reenacting that, it allows you to really capture the essence of what they felt when they arrived onto the scene.”

Lane said it was a “really good feeling” to see interview reenactments come to fruition on the creative side because it will do a person’s story justice.

A bloody hammer at a crime scene

Executive Producer and Showrunner Madeline Griffey, who noted the importance of sensitivity to each case, told Oxygen.com that while interviews take place in the field, all of Snapped’s recreations were produced and filmed at the studio in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“They [field producers] go in the field; come back; we have script writers; it goes to the editors,” Griffey said. “We have a full post-[production] team that’s making sure we have all the photos, any news, video, anything that we can do to make sure that we’re really visually telling this compelling story as strongly as possible.”

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It’s common, Griffey said, that they’ll film a scene set in Florida at the Tennessee studio or try and pass off a lake beach as the Sunshine State. She credited “a really strong team” for making it all possible.

The Recreations Department is a “one-stop shop”

Lane called their department a “one-stop shop for all things reenactment and all things creative.” After 20 years and more than 500 episodes of Snapped, it would make sense that the department has accumulated much over the years, and the coming together of teams — such as the wardrobe department, set designers, photographers, and more — helps to make Snapped possible.

“It runs the gamut on a lot of creative minds coming together to capture the essence of each story that we cover,” Lane continued.

He added that “a big part” of what they do is trying to match the visuals, sometimes down to “the smallest detail," to the particular crime and setting. For example, if a murder took place in a mid-century home, the team will “scour” Knoxville for a home that fits the bill.

Consistency was essential because, for instance, they wouldn’t want to film one scene in a mid-century home and then another in a modern residence.

Snapped 20 Year Special

“That can be pretty jarring to a viewer, and so we want that to feel as seamless as possible,” Lane said.

The Knoxville studio comprises about 15,000 square feet of space, of which about a 6,000-square-foot section is reserved exclusively for the wardrobe team. According to Lane, the wardrobe consists of clothes representing the 1920s to the present day, accommodating the eras in which a Snapped episode takes place.

As far as props go, Griffey used the Sharon Hurt (Season 33, Episode 12) case as an example of when the team “recently panicked” because their story heavily relied on a pink Cadillac.

“Somehow, our team was able to track down someone who knew someone who knew someone who had a bright, pink, antique Cadillac that worked perfectly for the shot,” said Griffey. “We were beyond thrilled.”

On casting for the reenactments

Lane told Oxygen.com that while talent comes from all over the country, thanks to Snapped being such a “legacy show,” the team, Jupiter Casting, also frequently publishes casting calls on its Facebook page. Of course, since the studios are based in Knoxville, many are local or also from the south, especially Charlotte, North Carolina, or Atlanta, Georgia.

“I’ve had talent drive from Texas to lie in a ditch for about four hours because they wanted to be in the show,” Lane recalled. “They’ll do their scenes, they’ll lie in the ditch for four hours, and they’ll pop up, and off they go.”

Lane said it also wasn’t uncommon to use crew members and their relatives and friends to fill in during a reenactment.

“My wife has been a nurse,” Lane confessed, adding that he also played suspect Michael Frazier in the case of Lisa Whedbee (Season 6, Episode 10).

“I played him and had to have pantyhose on my head for probably three hours that day,” Lane recalled. “Fake-smoking menthol cigarettes in a Phantom of the Opera T-shirt with a giant butcher knife in my hands … It’s a family affair, for sure.”

Lane said it was also common for local agencies — such as the sheriff’s office or police department — to offer up their own staff to play a role.

“They essentially form talent agencies,” he added, explaining that they’ll send “legitimate officers, legitimate E.M.T.s, legitimate S.W.A.T. team members to act with us.”

Sometimes, the recreation team will know the stand-in actors’ names by heart because they’ve worked with them so regularly. Their personal experience and official uniforms help the reenactments feel more realistic.

How things have changed over the years for Snapped

Griffey said things have changed “so much” over the years, especially in the recreation department. She looked back at the progression of the series since she started as a production assistant in Season 8, telling Oxygen.com that their pool of actors has expanded a lot since the days when she played Rennie Pratt in Season 9, and the recreation department was “the tiniest team.”

“It’s definitely changed over the years. It was sort of a Wild West feeling when I first started,” said Griffey. “If you look back at those early seasons, the effects were called blurs, beams, and rays, and it’s sort of like a very dreamlike effect that our recreations used to have, and so obviously, that’s changed throughout the years. Though, it’s interesting to look back.”

But, in all of their methods of delivering true crime, being respectful to the victims’ loved ones was paramount when making reenactment decisions. For Griffey, their goal was to avoid “crazy, over-the-top” reenactments that sensationalized stories, noting the significance of sensitivity.

“We’re not sensationalizing this,” said Griffey. “We’re gathering all perspectives, we’re laying the story out how it happened, and we want our voices to make sure that we’re telling it correctly.”

Lane had the same sentiment when discussing his role in overseeing the reenactments.  

“One standard that I like to try to adhere to is, ‘Would they be happy? Would they be O.K. with the story that we presented?’ So, we want our actors to kind of resemble them; we want the wardrobe to resemble what they wear,” Lane said. “We really do sweat the small stuff because that’s what led to Snapped being so trusted for as long as it has.”

Watch Snapped, now in its 33rd Season, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.

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