Discover what some of our Park Scholars abroad are doing.
Friday, February 22, 2013
By Bethany George, '15
One of the numerous benefits of studying abroad at the Ithaca College London Center is that you can apply for an internship that compliments your personal interests and your field in study. All it takes is a few extra steps in the application process, such as applying for a work Visa and writing a cover letter.
In my cover letter, I wrote about my desire to work for a writing department for television. Two months later, I found myself sitting at a desk at a TV documentary production company, Films of Record.
Founded in 1979 by a highly praised director, Robert Graef, Films of Record aims to investigate difficult current affairs and social issues, criminal justice, business, science, and politics. The documentaries Films of Records produces are aired on BBC, Channel 4, and National Geographic. Right away I was put to work researching potential documentary series, and writing storylines based on that research. I am in heaven.
On Monday, February 18th, I was blessed with the opportunity of being invited to Birbeck College to attend a lecture with Roger Graef.
In the few times I’ve seen Graef around the office, he in always adorned with a giant smile and wide eyes under his glasses. He shuffles slowing around the workspaces, greeting everyone. The first time I saw him I immediately thought of a shorter Larry David.
After shuffling into the classroom in his own way, Graef described to the students in attendance the myth associated with the media, and his personal explanation of how he has managed to maneuver his way around this myth into impermeable institutions to expose terrible realities.
The myth that is generally associated with the media is that it is an organization whose main goal is to exploit and take advantage of its subjects. With the danger of personal stereotypes and judgments of the interviewer or interviewee being revealed and disseminated, the result is that a true account of the situation might not be created.
Graef has struggled with this issue and has come up with a few reasonable solutions. One solution is he really stresses the idea of being a “fly on the wall,” or just giving a glimpse of the pain without adding to it. In fact, he is one of the first directions to fully take that saying to the extreme and produce some very influential films because of it. 30 years ago, he released “The Allegations of Rape,” a 40-minute film that was about a woman who had claimed she had been raped, and was disrespected during an interview with three policemen.
Another solution Graef practices is a 2-part consent system. He first receives consent to film, and then after the movie is finished he lets those involved watch it and make sure he is portraying them correctly.
After he got permission from both the police and the woman, him and his crew set up a camera in the back of the room and just filmed the back of the woman’s head, and close ups of the polices’ faces. He didn’t add any narration, or do any special effects. However, by acting like a “fly on the wall,” the viewer feels as if they are the woman, being screamed at and accused, and therefore sympathize with her. The police watched the final product and didn’t feel the underlying sympathy, so when they gave Graef the okay, the film caused quite the scene. People were very angry with the police and, consequently the way rape cases were treated in the force was changed.
While remaining almost completely on the outskirts observing, the finalized documentary should have the goal to mediate and challenge the viewers to reflect upon their own ideas. The perfect film grabs viewers’ attention, gets them to think, and inspire them to take immediate action to do something about the issue at large.
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