A second take on the news

Posted 1/5/22

There's no second take when reporting news, but that's not the way making a film about the news works. I discovered that after getting a call from Forensic Files, the TV and Netflix series that first aired in 1996 featuring stories of how the facts put

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A second take on the news


There’s no second take when reporting news, but that’s not the way making a film about the news works.

I discovered that after getting a call from Forensic Files, the TV and Netflix series that first aired in 1996 featuring stories of how the facts put criminals behind bars. Nora was calling from London, England, and wanted to talk about Captain Fredy who was murdered while his boat was tied alongside a Warwick Cove dock on Aug. 15, 2015.

Longtime Beacon readers will likely recall tales of the captain who showed up in Conimicut some ten years ago in a 24-foot sailboat. The boat had seen better days. Its fiberglass hull was stained. Laundry hung from the lifelines, the main sail was dropped and loosely lashed to the boom; a fishing rod, lure dangling, hung off the stern. From the bow a frayed 1/2 line that looked barely strong enough to support a 50-pound weight played out to an anchor. It was an early June morning, and I was out for a paddle.

Surely there was a story to this craft, so I rowed over to meet our Conimicut visitor.

“Anybody aboard,” I called from ten feet away. A head immediately popped up from the companionway.

“How did you know my name,” asked an angular featured unshaven man I took to be in his 60s. He was alert although I suspect I had woken him up. It was before 5.

“I don’t know your name,” I countered.

“I’m Captain Fredy,” he declared with such authority that I wondered should I know this man?

One of the first questions he asked was how he could get to Cumberland. I assumed he wasn’t from these parts otherwise he would have known Cumberland isn’t on the bay. I learned much later that I was wrong and that Fredy in another life owned and operated a garage in Cumberland. He had been married and had a son. But all of that information came out over a period of years when Fredy returned summer after summer to pick up a mooring in front of our house, stay for several weeks or even a couple of months and then sail off.

On that first visit, after coming ashore to fill his water jugs and talk over a cup of coffee, I learned with little to no prior experience he single-handed a 20-foot sailboat (he took along a cat as first mate) from Rhode Island to the Florida Keys. He had little money so he fashioned a sail from a tarp he bought from Job Lot. I recounted his story in the Beacon and on subsequent occasions wrote about his summer sojourns to Conimicut. He was always pleased to see me and welcomed me aboard his yacht as he call it (they changed from year to year) where he would fill me in on the latest Red Sox game and the fish he caught to supplement his diet. He’d row in to charge his phone, fill up the water jugs and pedal (he had a bike that he left in the yard) to the convenience store to play Keno, get cigarettes and buy a beer.

Nora had read some of the stories and wanted to hear more Fredy tales.

She was looking to “put a face” on the man who was beaten and stabbed for his Keno winnings of about $400. I was being asked to give Fredy an identity other than that as a victim. The core to the show, hence why it was selected by Forensic Files for a 28-munute episode, would be the detective work and the use of technology that went into apprehending and convicting his two murders. Nora and I talked for about 40 minutes during which time I suggested the film crew visit the house and get a shot of the bay and where the captain moored. She said a crew would be in touch.

This would be my second appearance in a show highlighting Warwick detectives who tracked down Troy Gunderway and Richard Baribault and put them behind bars where they remain today. The story was featured on Season 4, episode 15 of “See no Evil.” That film team worked out of a Providence hotel room that had been arranged to give the appearance of a living room. I was seated in front of a camera with reflectors of either side and asked questions by somebody off camera. They obviously weren’t pleased with my first run and so started repeating prompts – such as tell us what Fred was “really like” – for a fourth and fifth time. I had an idea of what they wanted me to do, become emotional over what had happened to Fredy, maybe even cry. But I’m not an actor. My story didn’t change. It was what it was. Yet films aren’t really what it was. When the episode aired there was a clip showing an actor portraying me seated at a bar and lamenting Fedy’s demise over a drink. I never got as much as a drink for three hours of sitting in front of that camera. However, I did get a can of English tea that Carol enjoyed.

The Forensic Files crew showed up at my house on a mid December day at 9 a.m. They wired me with a microphone and then I showed them where Fredy had helped paint the house and stopped because “I don’t do ladders.” They went down to the seawall to get a shot of the Bay and where Fredy moored his boat. Next came the question of what was I rowing when I first encountered Fredy. I showed them my 18-foot scull. Could they get a shot of me launching the boat? I obliged, removing the boat from its rack and carrying it down to the seawall. They asked me to do it again so they could get the scene from another angle. By now I was starting to run out of steam. A possible outcome occurred to me and the headline to tell the story: “Beacon editor succumbs to film crew.”

Next, naturally, they wanted me rowing to where I first saw Fredy. Would they photoshop in a sailboat at anchor?

Before the action shot, a GoPro was affixed to the boat and the crew unpacked a drone. The drone didn’t work. The house is in the airport’s no fly zone, but that didn’t stop the rowing. What I imagine will amount to 20 seconds in the episode took nearly two hours. I expect the same will be true of the two-hour interview by Nora over Zoom the following afternoon. Anyway, I met some hardworking, nice people who shared their pizza with me.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, when it was over I couldn’t help but question if I had fairly and accurately “put a face” on this man who had been through difficult times and late in life found his passion and peace at sea. There have been other encounters with boaters, fishermen and even duck hunters on my morning rows, but none like Fredy.

I can still hear him saying, “How did you know my name?” and his emphatic declaration, “I’m Captain Fredy.”

Who’s to say, maybe like the movies we are given a second take.


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