Fashioning a Fraudcast
By Tim Carlson
I’ve been working for over two years on Victim Impact, having interviewed some three-dozen people, attended numerous court hearings, and enthusiastically read a foot-high stack of documents multiple times. All of this to get some sense of the tangled mess left in the wake of Rashida Samji‘s Ponzi scheme.
Now all I have to do is read another foot-high stack of documents and interview another three-dozen people. That might get me an inch or two closer to comprehension. Or just raise new, more complicated, questions.
The release of Victim Impact: The Fraudcast (March 15, 2018) is a first crack at laying out a basic sense of the situation.
I’m new to podcasting and creating this one as part of the process of writing Victim Impact, the stage play, has been challenging and informative. Research and reporting were both a large part of creating Theatre Conspiracy’s Extraction and Foreign Radical. As with documentary in any form, it’s a harsh reality that much of the information gathered is left unused.
Samji’s the face of case. But it took so many people, institutions and specific conditions for the swindle to work so well, for so long.
The Victim Impact podcast is a great way to have it both ways: a medium in which to use the material already generated and also a medium integral to the play-development process. It will raise the profile of the project, contribute something to the public interest reporting regarding Ponzi schemes, and provide a platform for victims who say they “didn’t have their day in court.” My hope is that many of them will respond to tell their stories, which will in turn influence the play script.
I’ve written hundreds of long newspaper feature and magazine stories as a journalist but to create the podcast was to learn a new form of writing and performing. As the researcher, writer and narrator, I’m telling the personal story of finding the story. Like writing a non-fiction essay for spoken word. Or a series of essays. The six parts will be nearly book length, about 80-90 pages, but then adapted to a play script about half that length
It’s been a long time since I did any court reporting but it seems to me a lot has changed. Access to information seems a lot tighter. Still, I like the challenge. Sifting through a lot of boring legal and accounting reports to find a few salient details to better tell Samji’s story is gratifying.
Samji’s the face of case. But it took so many people, institutions and specific conditions for the swindle to work so well, for so long. And another set of conditions for the fallout to play out the way it has since the scam was exposed in 2012. The series goes deep into the victims’ experience, follows the money and investigates some mysterious angles. The anger, hurt and frustration is palpable in the voices you’ll hear. A sense of absurdity echoes through the story. There’s also an impressive level of expertise: from those defrauded to the lawyers, judges, accountants and journalists involved.
A complicating factor is the amount of compassion and emotional wisdom that’s in the air. Everything was far more clear at the beginning at the beginning of the project when I was far more cynical.
Who is a victim? What is a criminal? What moral profile or social conditions push someone into either category? How can any legal or regulatory system hope to deal with the problem of humans? Can we answer those questions for listeners by Episode 7?
Victim Impact: The Fraudcast is the brainchild of our Dramaturg Kathleen Flaherty. A former CBC drama and documentary producer, she’s a research junkie who actually loves transcribing interviews and always has her finger on the pulse of the story. Co-producer, recording engineer and music composer David Mesiha always pushes for higher quality. The premiere of the play Victim Impact is in June 2018 at The Cultch.