‘Tinder Swindler’ Director Felicity Morris Talks New Project ‘All American Nightmare’

Following the success of Emmy-nominated “Tindler Swindler,” director Felicity Morris is already at work on Netflix’s miniseries “All American Nightmare,” she said at Rome’s MIA.

Morris, previously at Raw TV, started her own company Ladywell Films with “Tinder Swindler” producer Bernadette Higgins.

“It felt like the right time to do my own thing,” she said.

“All American Nightmare,” clocking in at three episodes, will be completed next summer. Raw TV is also on board.

“I have learnt a lot over the years and [when it comes to] true crime, there always needs to be a reason to tell that story,” she stated, admitting filmmakers should do more than just “rehash another story about a cold-blooded killer.”

“It has this amazing woman who fell victim to a horrendous crime. But it’s about more than that. It’s about victims not being believed, about the institutions that are meant to protect us and yet they fall short. For her, in a terrible, terrible way.”

In “Tinder Swindler,” (“Netflix’s most watched documentary ever,” AGC’s Joel Zimmer reminded the audience) Morris also wanted to focus on women.

Pernilla, Cecilie and Ayleen were all conned by Israeli fraudster Shimon Hayut. Posing as Simon Leviev on the dating app, billionaire heir to the diamond fortune, he would trick them into lending him substantial sums of money. Norwegian paper VG first broke the story.

“I read that piece and there is this big question mark: ‘How could you fall for it?,’” she admitted.

“The con started on Tinder, but Simon had an Instagram account with thousands of followers. He was a ‘legitimate’ person. The girls did these checks before they went out on a date. Later, when they met him, there was no reason to doubt that he was who he said he was.”

“He was the puppet master, creating this ‘Truman Show’ world these women happened to step into. You often ignore red flags in the pursuit of happiness.”

Her protagonists handed over their WhatsApp messages to the team.

“It doesn’t get juicier than that, being able to read through someone’s phone,” said Morris.

“Simon kept ‘traveling on business,’ so the truth of how he did it lies in these messages. When [VG] wrote the article, Cecilie had already handed them over. By that point, shame has gone through the window. And shame is a massive thing with victims of this kind of con.”

“We had an amazing assistant producer, Jean-Mark Bou Mansour, who created thousands of graphics for these [scenes]. He had two phones, would hit record and send the messages back and forth.”

But the film took a different shape once another woman – one that managed to “swindle the Tinder Swindler” – decided to come forward.

“When Norwegian journalists wrote their piece, Ayleen sent a message to Pernilla. ‘On my God, I just read the article, I am dating Simon now. I feel like I am living in a nightmare and I don’t know what to do.’ And then she went quiet. And he got arrested.”

“We kept talking to her. My amazing producer Bernadette is Irish and she can charm anybody. We told her: ‘You should be proud of what you have done.’”

Hayut was arrested in 2019 and extradited back to Israel. Now, he is being sued by the Leviev family over impersonation, but Morris doesn’t see the film’s ending as a “celebration.”

“This guy is still out there. Unfortunately, he was only charged with passport fraud, not with crimes he committed against these women. It’s incredibly hard for the police to prove he has done anything wrong. These were their credit cards. But he was exposed to millions of people.”

He reached out to her multiple times, she said. But the idea to interview him was swiftly dropped.

“I woke up one day to a text. ‘Hi, this is Simon Leviev, I just got out of prison.’ I had a conversation with him. He said: ‘I will take part but I want to be paid.’ But this film wasn’t about him. I didn’t want it to be a platform for more of his lies.”

Although Leviev – who kept contacting her – has been allegedly conning people for years, “The Tinder Swindler 2” is not in the cards. At least not for Morris.

“We already did the podcast called ‘The Making of a Swindler,’ which explores his backstory,” she said.

“He believes that if he says something enough times, people will believe it. Personally, I am not interested in hearing his story. Or in giving it air.”

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