Is Paul T. Goldman Based mostly on a True Story?

A brand new documentary will make you query actuality.

Documentary followers are used to delving right into a slice of actuality, however what occurs when a viewer cannot inform if what they’re watching is actual? This will sound like an disagreeable viewing expertise, however in terms of Peacock’s new documentary collection Paul T. Goldmanis a rollercoaster that’s extraordinarily participating, hilarious and actually rewarding.

Paul T. Goldman is the pseudonym for an actual particular person named Paul Finkelman, a mean however eccentric man who was cheated on by his ex-wife. The story goes like this: Paul is an everyday man who sells insurance coverage in Florida – a divorced single father on the lookout for love who meets a lady on-line. She says all the precise issues about prioritizing household and desirous to calm down. They get married a couple of months later and issues are going effectively… Till he realizes she’s dishonest him out of hundreds of {dollars} and has a boyfriend on the aspect. Sadly, that is not unusual lately, however what occurs subsequent is the stuff of true crime fantasy.

Making an attempt to catch his spouse in a lie, Paul involves the unlikely conclusion that she is a madwoman who runs a world sex-trafficking ring with the assistance of others, together with her pimp boyfriend. He hires personal investigators and psychics to assist him resolve the caper. All of it sounds unbelievable, and Paul realizes this, so he decides to exploit it: In 2009, Paul writes a e-book, adopted by a screenplay, based mostly on his expertise together with his two-faced ex. He then harasses a gaggle of filmmakers on Twitter till he will get the eye of Jason Woliner (director of the 2020 Borat’s subsequent movie).

Over the subsequent decade, Woliner filmed Paul in typical documentary fashion. And when it got here time to place collectively the Peacock collection, Woliner interspersed these interviews written scenes that Paul wrote, that includes actual actors (together with Frank Grillo and Rosanna Arquette). Who performs Paul? He does, after all. “No person can play Paul T. Goldman higher than Paul T. Goldman,” Woliner instructed us in a latest interview.

The result’s a drama/documentary that revolves round an individual so unbelievable that the tip outcome borders on pretend. “He has this particular character,” Woliner stated. “He is a kind of guys who sees and thinks, Oh, he is a personality. And a part of that course of is attempting to get to the person beneath.” That is completely proven when they’re filming a scene from the e-book the place Paul’s concern of his ex is confirmed and he’s smiling uncontrollably all through the shoot, till Woliner factors out that there isn’t any level in him smiling with this. level.

Paul T. Goldman as Paul T. Goldman (Picture by: Tyler Golden/Peacock)

Moments like these will make you pause to verify the present’s description to be sure to did not misinterpret it: “Did it say MOCKuseries?” No.

Paul believes that his wild story is a real story, however even that the idea begins to unravel as Woliner digs deeper. Woliner’s function as director ultimately evolves into that of a pseudo-therapist and detective, and he turns into an integral a part of the collection.

It turns into a dynamic present that mixes comedy, crime and heartfelt humanity. It can depart you questioning why you watch true crime reveals, how true the documentaries are, and whether or not Paul himself is the final word con. The collection finale, which aired on Sunday and was filmed till final month, leaves many questions unanswered. So to fill in among the gaps, we turned to Woliner – who nonetheless does not have all of the solutions.

Paul T.  Goldman and Jason Woliner direct the series
Paul and Jason direct a scene from his e-book.

Katie Couric Media: I am a little bit stumped: Can you determine what was actual, what was scripted however based mostly in actuality, and what was utterly pretend, if something?

Jason Woliner: After I met Paul in 2012, he had written his e-book Duplicity: A True Story of Crime and Deception, and he offered every part in it as true. A part of the present is me attempting to find out what was true and what was false. Possibly he received issues improper or remembered them improper, or possibly issues weren’t as he understood them. The scenes we filmed had been based mostly on his first e-book and he believed they had been correct.

It isn’t like Paul is loopy and it is all pretend. Some folks on the web have been questioning, “will this all become pretend?” However no, Paul is an actual particular person.

What have you ever executed I imagine was it true while you first met paul?

It wasn’t like I discovered the story and stated, “OK, this cannot be true. That is all pretend.”

I imagine that Paul was on this marriage with this one that was residing a double life. It was all the time unclear to me if it was an escort service, or simply the Florida jock life-style.

I went in figuring out nothing however what I had learn within the e-book and considering that possibly it may all be true. I used to be figuring it out myself till the tip, after we lastly discovered among the actual gamers concerned and had been in a position to actually clear issues up. We had been involved after we received to the alleged pimp Cadillac McDaniel, whom Paul calls “Royce Rocco” within the e-book – we thought of them harmful criminals as a result of all I had was the image Paul had painted.

Whereas filming the collection, we had been fortunate sufficient to trace down Royce Rocco and certain sufficient, he was the friendliest particular person, simply an especially likeable man. That does not imply I feel he’s telling the reality about every part, however he was undoubtedly charismatic. And based mostly on interviews with him and among the different accused characters within the e-book, we decided that this entire factor about Paul’s ex operating a human trafficking ring was most likely false.

When did your religion in Paul’s detective work start to crumble?

Within the huge interview I did with him in 2014, which lasted many hours, I realized that he elaborated on a number of tales within the e-book – similar to, his spouse didn’t dump him when he requested for a divorce. However on the time, he stated 99 p.c of his tales are true — then revised that all the way down to 97 p.c. So far as the legal expenses in his story, I actually did not have a agency opinion of what was true or not till we really went all the way down to Florida a couple of months in the past and did the work.

For me, it was by no means nearly proving Paul improper, or not telling the reality about sure issues. It was way more about determining if he was incorrect about one thing, or not conveying an image that matched what I believed was the reality. I wished to discover how necessary it’s to reside in a actuality that matches different folks’s actuality or goal? This was extra fascinating to me.

Paul T. Goldman - Season:1
Frank Grillo as Dan Hardwick, Paul T. Goldman as Paul T. Goldman (Picture by: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock)

The collection additionally options scenes produced with Paul as himself, and actors portraying the folks in his life. I perceive that the scenes are taken from his e-book, however was there ever some extent the place you deliberate to make a scripted drama collection from this e-book?

Early on, Paul contacted me and lots of others saying he had written a e-book and a screenplay. I learn the e-book and fell in love with it. And at first I believed, Possibly this might be a scripted film about this sort of “character” attempting to take down against the law ring. That is humorous – virtually like taken, however with a silly boy. However then I met him a couple of months later after which I noticed, oh no, Paul is the story right here. Paul it is the fascinating factor. What I am actually obsessive about is HIM.

So very early on, I knew one of the best ways to convey what I discovered so fascinating about him was by filming Paul’s scenes from his script and his different writing, starring him, and exhibiting the method . However on the identical time, I did not need her to really feel like a joke or a foul spirit. So I let him lead.

So what did he assume was occurring all alongside?

He knew precisely what was being executed, in a really sensible sense. By the point we had been capturing, he knew we had been capturing dramatized scenes from his writing and mixing that with interviews with him and the actual folks concerned.

I instructed him we might have cameras rolling the entire time and attempt to discover an trustworthy fact. After all, there are variations between how he would have edited the present and the way I edited it.

After I lastly confirmed him the present, and that second is within the final episode, I had no concept how he would react. And also you see him asking why we needed to present sure issues, and saying he would have executed it in another way. However in the long run he received it and I believed he reacted very truthfully, it was actually mature and provoking.

Why did you reply him within the first place?

This can be a good query. I assume it is simply the character of my character to go down an web rabbit gap. It was 2012, Twitter was a unique factor. It was enjoyable — pre-Musk, pre-Trump. I watched his video and adopted his Twitter for some time earlier than reaching out. After which I purchased his e-book and after studying it, I used to be utterly hooked. What sort of fireplace starter it was to see that he stored writing to the now-disgraced director Brett Ratner, who wrote again to him, “Ship me the e-book.” And I believed, Oh no, what if this man picks it and I lose? In order that’s once I emailed Paul.

A part of me thinks you might have been deceived. Is there any probability that Paul’s story was utterly made up as a result of he wished to be well-known? Possibly that is why he dealt with the ultimate so effectively.

I do not assume so, as a result of once I was in a position to inform him what we discovered, the way in which he reacted was so trustworthy and uncooked. And it was actually one of many solely instances he wasn’t doing “Paul T. Goldman.” He is a kind of guys who sees and thinks, Oh, he is a personality. However I do not assume he was acting at that second. He absorbed the brand new data and it was virtually like watching his mind change form. He realized, “This entire factor that I believed for a decade and a half looks as if it isn’t true.”

I feel he actually believed it by then, however the perception was based mostly on a couple of items of proof. I all the time assumed there can be an affordable rationalization for what occurred or simply some sort of Florida appeal, however most likely not an enormous intercourse trafficking ring. After all, it turned out to be none of this stuff.

He appeared in Jimmy Kimmel with Seth Rogen, who co-produced the collection, and Jimmy requested Paul if he is nonetheless single. He stated he’s, and for anybody to message him on Twitter, which Seth identified simply “would possibly make the identical factor occur once more.” Do you assume Paul is inclined to deception? Are you apprehensive that it’ll occur once more or that he’ll fall for one more sort of dishonest?

I have no idea. I do not assume I may have executed extra to forestall one thing like this from occurring to Paul once more. One a part of the present is supposed to make a bewildered viewer, Is that this present simply an instance of this occurring once more? Did Paul give me an excessive amount of energy to inform his story and what are my targets? And I feel they’re clear by the tip, however I wished folks to see that Paul remains to be a really plausible particular person.

What’s your relationship with Paul now?

I like Paul. I’ve identified him for a decade and contemplate him a good friend, we speak day by day. I used to be actually attempting to do proper by him.

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