'Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart' Turns Media Sensationalism Into a Character

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Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart director Jeremiah Zagar talks to Documentary.org about how archival footage and media coverage of a sensational trial became its own important character in his HBO documentary

"Rather than re-tell the story of this trial, the goal became to examine the idea of storytelling in a trial," he says. "Archival often lays flat on the screen, and it doesn't feel part of an integrated cinematic environment. We wanted to put the audience in the position of watching as if they were there. So we put every piece of archival on a TV and with Naiti Gámez, our DP, we shot in a locations where people might have been watching it at the time. On top of that, Gabriel Sedgwick, one of our producers, found a guy who had created a transparent screen for projection in storefronts. We built this screen and we'd bring it where we went to do interviews. We would show our subject the archival footage projected in front of his face, so that we could see their reaction to it...You get to see the footage and the reaction. That's important in terms of what we were trying to raise questions about: Who were these people, and how they were changed by viewing this media?"

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