My project analyzes media coverage of a case in which a potentially innocent person is serving time. Teresa Fargason was convicted of murdering her six-year old daughter, Taylor, and has been incarcerated since 1993, even though her verdict continues to be a controversial one. The odd thing about it is that nobody would have ever suspected Teresa as a murderer, especially one who would murder her own child. In fact, she always claimed her innocence and still does to this day. Some people believe that the District Attorney manipulated the jurors by having a purely subjective interpretation of the evidence, demonstrating how Fargason killed Taylor. Others even believe that it may have been somebody else, such as the boyfriend. The boyfriend could have killed Taylor because he did not want to be in a relationship with somebody with a child. Through the method of film montage, my film presents this as a fragmented and multidimensional narrative, rather than taking a simplistic stand on this issue.
II Case Facts
Teresa Fargason was a single mother in her early 30’s who was dating a man who wanted no part of a relationship with somebody that had a child. Perhaps coincidentally, Fargason’s six-year old daughter, Taylor, was found dead on Interstate Parkway in 1991. The mother was suspected of the murder partly because of her strange behavior. The case began across town when Teresa reported Taylor missing in a Kroger in North Macon. Shockingly, Taylor was found only an hour after she was reported missing. This is surprising because Teresa claimed that Taylor was with her at the grocery store so it would be nearly impossible for Taylor to be kidnapped at the store and be found dead only an hour later, not to mention the fact that it is not clear what exact time she was killed. The reports said she was found an hour later. The project examines the murder case as it was presented in court, analyzes media representation of the case, and employs documentary filmmaking to create a unique vision of this tragic Macon murder.
III Media and Law
Through my research, I have found that news coverage of the case on television played a very influential role in the public’s opinions of the case. Ed Papazian has found that “the average household in the United States has a television turned on for almost eight hours a day” (McNeely 3). Ed Papazian has also found that a substantial amount of television being viewed by our country: “the average individual watch[es] it for approximately four hours a day” (McNeely 3). With that many hours of viewing, the media has become deeply influential in our culture: “Television penetrates almost 99 percent of the population” (McNeely 3). This can shape the opinions in our society. McNeely explains that, “ Research has suggested that a majority of people in the United States receive much of their impressions and knowledge of the criminal justice system through the media, especially through entertainment television viewing” (McNeely 3). Big news channels such as CNN and Fox have reputations of shaping people’s opinions. This can be compared to a news program reporting on a specific case, in which the reporters subtly force their opinions on the viewers by slanting stories they way they want to slant them. Most people do not have a good understanding of the criminal justice system for the reason that they do not have first-hand experience. Most citizens have never been convicted of a crime. Also, many citizens only have direct contact with the criminal justice system through jury duty. It can be argued that people suppose that they have a good understanding of the criminal justice system due to the media’s approach to presenting the news: “Most members of the population actually have few opportunities for direct interaction with the criminal justice system” (McNeely 2). The only interaction is through the media, resulting in the media having much influence over the way people believe about any given issues.
The media is heavily relied on as a source for information. The point is not to express that the media is not crucial for the society, but rather to demonstrate how the media can sometimes twist around specific aspects of cases or even politics for its own personal gain. Television coverage and constant updates about cases and worldly news are important, however, people are sometimes influenced unnecessarily in ways that they should not be.
As Marshall McLuhan has famously argued, “It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (McLuhan 1). He explains that, “The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. McLuhan then says, “Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content' of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium” (McLuhan 1). An example that can be related to these quotes by Marshall McLuhan is the press conference that Charles holds to express his opinions of how he thought Teresa was involved in the murder. The press conference was the medium. Charles was the content relaying the message to the public. The interesting thing about this is that we as a society are blinded by the Media’s craving for that drama and information Charles had, but we are just as intrigued by the notion of him carrying that information. The media craves it because it is their job to have the best news, and we are blinded by the fact that that is the primary reason for getting the information and transferring it on to the audience. Beale makes an interesting point that, “The news media are not mirrors, simply reflecting events in society. Rather, media content is shaped by economic and marketing considerations that frequently override traditional journalistic criteria for newsworthiness” (Beale). We are intrigued by the content of Charles’ information and rely on him and the media to transfer that message to us. The press conference is a medium seen via television, another medium; therefore, the television is now the medium and the press conference in itself is the message. Where there is a medium, there is usually a message and our society craves this just as most of Georgia craved this case’s information even if the information given was the same information in consecutive days or even weeks.
Teresa Fargason is serving a life-term prison sentence for the death of her daughter, Taylor. However, many would say that even though they feel that she did murder her child, there was not enough evidence to convict her. Margret Bowman, a sister of Teresa’s, writes that, “The state brought physical evidence into the case when a bloodstain on Taylor’s blanket was pointed out” (2). She then says that “The blanket was in Teresa’s car” (2). Interestingly enough, it matched Taylor’s blood sample. The bloodstain that was on Taylor’s blanket was her own blood, but usually baby blankets are security blankets, which can obviously be with a child constantly. Biological reports say the stain, that was no bigger than a dime, was pink in nature and had blood and saliva mixed. Teresa’s aunt claimed that the stain got on the blanket after Taylor had a tooth pulled. The aunt was never called as a witness to testify (Bowman 2-3). The blanket could have very well been a key piece of evidence, but it could also be no more than just a well-worn security blanket with evidence of a simple tooth pulling.
More controversial evidence was mentioned. Taylor’s right hand held a hair that matched Teresa’s hair (lawskills 1). Could it be possible that Taylor was holding grabbing the blanket and coincidentally got a hair from the blanket in the process of doing so? Taylor’s hair was also found on the blanket. Dr. Joseph Burton would have testified that traumatically pulled hairs could come from brushing someone’s hair (bowman 2).
One thing that had a big impact on Teresa’s conviction was when Charles Fargason testified for the state at the trial. He was “cross-examined”, which means “to question closely in order to check answers given previously or to elicit fresh information” (Webster’s Dictionary 1992), and “he answered a question by saying, “She failed three lie detector tests, didn’t she” (2)? The odd thing about this occurrence is that the “defense counsel denied that it was true, but did not object, move for a mistrial, request curative instructions, or seek an admonition” (2). ‘Admonition’ is “to rebuke” (Webster’s Dictionary 1992). Why did the defense counsel not make that point that this was inadmissible evidence? Also, “Under Georgia law, the state generally many not impugn the defendant’s credibility by eliciting testimony that the defendant took a polygraph examination (2). Without an admonition or objection, the jury could use this to convict Teresa. Even during closing arguments, the prosecutor referred to the testimony by stating, “[t]here’s undisputed evidence that she admitted to her ex-husband that she failed a series of polygraphs” (2). The defense counsel could have objected then also, and did not. This was a crucial mistake made by the defense attorney. Teresa’s lack of knowledge with the court system was evident also because she did not object to the statements made by Charles Fargason and “The defense counsel testified that he chose not to object because he did not believe the trial court would grant a mistrial and curative instructions would only highlight the damaging testimony” (3). Also, “He felt that his statement that the witness’s testimony was not true, which the state did not challenge, placed the defendant in a better situation than curative instructions would have” (3).
[Teresa] “Fargason contends that the trial court erred in ruling that the state could introduce evidence of similar transactions and that Fargason opened the door to character evidence" (3). Although Charles told me personally that he found out that Teresa had been leaving Taylor alone, at Teresa’s home. “She specifically objects to the testimony of neighbors about incidents where she had left her daughter sleeping at home alone” (3).
So there are these testimony’s that can really affect the outcome of the case, but are all of them adequate? Starting with the employee testifying that Teresa walked in the store alone, there could be a logical reason how this could have happened. Teresa said that she first noticed that Taylor was missing at the deli in the grocery store. She also said that the last time she saw Taylor was at the entrance of Kroger. Well, if this is true, the employee would not have seen the little girl if she was abducted around the entrance of Kroger. Yes, this does sound unlikely, but this scenario is definitely a possibility and cannot be ruled out. Yes, nobody saw Taylor in the store, but could it be possible that Taylor was taken outside of the store around the entrance, without Teresa realizing it? Could it be possible that Teresa just did not pay much attention to Taylor’s whereabouts? Could somebody be an unfit mother and still have nothing to do with the murder of a child? All of it is very possible. In the Macon Telegraph, Taylor was described as a lively, rambunctious child who was shy around strangers. Is it possible that somebody that Taylor knew, kidnapped peacefully kidnapped her outside of the store with no struggle? Once again, it is unlikely, but still a possibility.
A customer testified and said that she saw Teresa Fargason alone in the parking lot just before 10:00p.m. While this may be a crucial piece of evidence, there is still uncertainty about it. How many middle aged-women go to the grocery store? Plenty do, so who is to say that the customer saw another middle-aged woman walking in the parking lot and said that it was she?
IV The Father and the Media
The Fargason case was much publicized throughout the state of Georgia, and the media had an immense impact on this local murder case. Charles Fargason believed without a doubt, that Teresa would never kill their child. Not long after believing this, Charles called for an immediate press conference. He used the media to voice his support of his wife, a suspected murderer. Surprisingly, Charles changed his mind about Teresa’s innocence and expressed to the public that he believed Teresa was responsible for Taylor’s death. Ultimately, the press conference in itself can shape people's opinions. The public watches a sad father publicly admit that he believes his ex-wife killed their child. Viewers have the tendency to sympathize with one person and convict the other. The press conference helped to set the tone for the whole case and is indicative of the intense polarization that this created. A “tone” is a way of speaking or writing which denotes the person’s sentiments, purpose etc (Webster’s Dictionary 1992). The media, in its love of drama and controversy was quick to relay his message to the public, by influencing opinions. This information and further information pertaining to the case can be found in the Macon Telegraph archives.
The media played a big role in reporting new evidence that was found in the case. While this is an important role that the news reporters have, it is also an influential tactic in how the media portrays the evidence. For example, reporters can use different words and tones in a report that can steer the viewer to a definite viewpoint. It can also be argued that the entertainment industry likes drama and controversy. If this industry can present new factual evidence in which the tone depicts drama, it will, and the viewers are sometimes sucked into the hype. If the story is not dramatic or interesting, people are not going to watch. This is why the media thrives on controversy. For instance, I am writing this paper because I was intrigued by the case and its controversy.
A specific influence that the media has had on the case is the Glover story. Margret Bowman, Teresa’s sister put together a Web site of her version of the Fargason case summary. It states, “there was a judge’s chambers meeting held on the 3rd day of the trial in which an Attorney came forth with exculpatory information that could clear Teresa Fargason” (Bowman 3). Interestingly enough, “The attorney implicated a former police officer was present with his mother” (3). Bowman writes that, “We have also learned that Mr. James Glover had several license checks done on Teresa” (3). Bowman then accuses Glover of having involvement in the murder: “From what the Attorney states, the police officer was engaged in a conversation with his mother in her presence” (3). Bowman then states that “The police officer then confessed of his involvement” (3). Fascinatingly enough, Bowman also says, “Although, the attorney was not retained and she was considered third party to the conversation held” (3). Then, “The judge ruled the information the attorney learned as attorney/client privilege” (3). Bowman continues on in saying that, “The jury would never hear it” (3). Bowman then uses what could be considered futile evidence is saying that, “It is also important to note that Mr. Glover seen Taylor 4hrs before her death” (3). Bowman then tells the story of how, “He had approached Taylor while Teresa was washing her car at a car wash” (3). Bowman makes clear that, “Mr. Glover had given Taylor a teddy bear” (3). Glover was a police officer in Jones County. A few days prior to Taylor’s death, Teresa and Taylor were at a car wash. Glover, who was there also, gave Taylor a teddy bear. After Teresa was convicted, Court TV did a documentary attempting to prove Teresa’s innocence, so they wanted to question Glover. Two men from Court TV traveled to Glover’s place of work. Somebody stayed in the car capturing filmed footage of the confrontation, which Glover did not know of, while two other men were wired. The two men went up to Glover outside and asked, “Did you kill Taylor?”(Fargason) After constantly telling the two men no, Glover got in his automobile and left. He was a kid that got scared, did not know what to do, and left. By viewing James fleeing, people may get the impression that he did do it because he was obviously scared of being questioned, but the truth is that he had never been in that situation before, got scared, and fled. The day after it was aired, Glover got fired and “nearly got the crap beat out of him” (Fargason). At the courthouse, before trial, a lady approached Charles and said, “My child didn’t have anything to do with that murder.” Charles replied by saying, “Excuse me.” The lady repeated herself, and Charles responded by saying, “I know he didn’t.” In my interview with Charles, he said that you could tell that the biggest sigh of relief came over the mother and her son, James. Charles said that the lady told him that they were afraid Charles was going to hurt James Glover. Charles then told Glover, “I’m not going to hurt you buddy.” (Fargason)
Glover gave Taylor a teddy bear and Teresa, Margret, and Court TV used this as a way to point the finger at somebody else, resulting in giving an 18-year old this stigma for the rest of his life. This influenced some people to think Glover killed Taylor; however, there was no proof that he ever followed Teresa or Taylor. Court TV used Glover for the benefit of creating misleading news for the public.
Among many other media outlets that zeroed in on this case for news and entertainment purposes are 13WMAZ, Inside Edition, Court TV, and USA. In my interview with Fargason, he was profoundly upset with a news anchor from WMAZ, Mary Terese. He told me that she had double-crossed him because “she did not do her documentary like she said she was going to do”. (Fargason) It was evident that he was upset as we continued “She wanted to talk to me about Taylor, except she had this lawyer that was on TV every night from the family” (Fargason). He said that “She was doing this little thing for about a week on TV and she’d say a little bit about the story” (Fargason ). Interestingly enough, “What I said, she didn’t put on air” (Fargason). He then stated that, “She put on TV what she wanted to put on TV” (Fargason). Surprisingly, “That stuff about her sister that I told you about, she didn’t say none of that on TV” (Fargason).
The important details that she did not address to the public were the details of Teresa’s younger sister, Bobby Anne, saying that she thought Teresa was involved with Taylor’s murder. Teresa had two sisters. When the investigators finally approached Bobby Anne, her husband said that Bobby Anne had been waiting for them to question her. She told them that she believed Teresa was involved because Teresa asked her to wash Taylor’s sheets and pillowcase before the cops arrived that night. Bobby Anne did not do it, so the other sister did. This was a crucial piece of evidence that Charles wanted to share, but Mary Terese did not air that information: “The moment that stuff aired, she wouldn’t answer that phone no more” (Fargason) [and] “She knew she had double-crossed me” (Fargason).
As far as the sister’s statements go, when the trial was happening, the Georgia State Patrol and The Alabama State Patrol were searching for the sisters and their husbands so that they could appear in court. Meanwhile, Teresa was convicted of the crime. Charles said that one of the sister’s husbands called his work to ask for the pay that he had missed while he had been at court and his boss told him that he knew he did not go to court because law enforcement was searching for him and called looking for him. The boss asked where he had been. The husband said he was where the lawyers told him to go. Fargason says that they were hid out, and that was never brought up in court or by the media. The only thing that was brought up about this is that when the judge told Teresa’s lawyer, Frank Childs, that he better not find out that Childs “had anything to do with hiding them kids out” (Fargason ).
Fargason continued to share his displeasure with the media. Inside Edition called Mr. Fargason and wanted an interview. He said, “No, what you want is to interview about Teresa being in prison” (Fargason Interview). Inside Edition told Mr. Fargason that that was right. Mr. Fargason hung up on her. She called right back and said that she can just call all the TV stations in Macon and get filed footage of him. Mr. Fargason then called Liz Jarvis at WMAZ. Mr. Fargason said that she was good to him. He told her what was going on and asked for his number so she could call him right back. Five minutes later, she called Mr. Fargason back and told him that he had nothing to worry about. The news stations were not going to give out any information. This can make the point that there can be unethical ways of news reporting as well as ethical ways of news reporting. Liz Jarvis showed some class in this example.
USA network offered Mr. Fargason a contract so that they could do a movie on the case. Mr. Fargason declined. This demonstrates how cases such as this one can be so publicized that the public yearns for the drama. USA was willing to pay Mr. Fargason money so that they could entertain. Before the verdict, there were news reports on press conferences and new evidence. The local people of central Georgia could get tickets to observe the trial as an audience, which emphasizes that this murder case turned into a show. Like a movie, the audience went ahead and made up their minds about the case, based on what was seen through the media. The public may have perceived Teresa Fargason as the antagonist and Charles Fargason as the protagonist as if the case is that of a movie or a novel.
Usually television shows, movies, and novels, all involve conflict. For example, soap operas are apart of many people’s lives every weekday. When viewers watch a soap opera, they tend to be captivated to the storyline because the writers are constantly leaving storylines hanging.
V Technological Component
The theories that I use to support my thesis are Sergei Eisenstein’s montage theory and Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is the Message. Both of these theories offer different perspectives on the material needed to create a documentary, which is my technical portion of the project. When people watch this documentary, I want them to not just accept the verdict, but instead think about the case, be interested in it, and try to make their own minds up as to whether or not Fargason killed her child. I also want them to consider the media and its influence on the case because many would say that the media has an influence in the public knowledge and interpretation of the Fargason case.
The documentary is a technique in capturing the audience’s interests with interviews, pictures, video, music, and voice-over analyzing the case. I am using photographs and filmed footage that I have personally taken and am also using many of the photographs taken by the Macon Telegraph. Britton Gates contributes to the voice-over because he has a professional, clear, and strong voice.
One of the most effective techniques in making a documentary is by the use of sound and image. The technique of using an audio-visual montage can be very effective because sound has a way of setting and controlling the viewer’s moods. For instance, if a combination of images has a paralleled audio sound track that is a more aggressive type song, hearing this can affect the viewer’s emotions in which they feel as though they are in a more aggressive state of mind. If the music has a sad tone parallel with strong images, the viewers will have a tendency to feel sad. Audio is a key technique in montage sequences, and it is a mood-changing tool that can change emotions to however the documentarist wants the emotion to be. The downside of this technique is that the wrong choice of audio can be placed in the film parallel with the wrong images, ruining the whole concept of the documentary resulting in a viewer missing the objective of the film. My audio consists of slow music as well as faster music. The more sensitive issues with the case have a slower sounding musical approach.
My documentary has the montage style because it displays a collection of images from the case, and theory suggesting the continuing questions about Fargason’s guilt. “Sharing neither of these two extreme points of view, we deem it necessary to recall that, along with the other elements cinematography uses to impress the spectator, montage is a necessary part of every work of cinema art, and all the more so since our films must achieve the greatest possible emotional intensity, and not merely exist as logical exposes of facts” (Moussinac 91). While facts are important in a documentary, the film needs to be more than just that. It needs some form of emotional intensity that draws the audience in and captures their interests.
In my work, this montage offers a collection of images, videos, and narration to make the audience feel closer to the case and maybe even the victims. This method can also aid in the audience obtaining a better understanding of the case with an objective point of view rather than a subjective point of view. The case is not just a story that the audience will hear through word of mouth. The montage sequence presents factual evidence through interviews and narration while at the same time, resulting in the audience feeling emotionally tied to the case.
Eisenstein’s montage theory makes the point that a collection of images has more influence or impact on a person’s emotion or even opinions than that of just one image. Moussinac states that in the creative process of making a montage, “the author sees with his mind’s eye some image, an emotional embodiment of his theme” (Moussinac 95). In effect, “His task is to reduce that image to two or three partial representations whose combination or juxtaposition shall evoke in the consciousness and feelings of the spectator the same generalized initial image which haunted the author’s imagination” (Moussinac 95). Every important detail in my script is accompanied with images. There are still photographs of Kroger, Teresa’s house, Charles’ house, Charles’ work place, Taylor’s yearbook picture, Interstate Parkway, court house photograph, newspaper clipping photographs, and etc. The “Ken Burns Effect” is applied to several of the images. This effect is the fading or panning transitions of photographs. This technique can be used in Imovie, the application that I use for the editing of this film and can have an emotional impact on a viewer. For example, zooming in on a picture of Taylor’s face in a photograph can cause a viewer to feel closer to Taylor, as well as feel more sympathy for the little girl.
The sound component will both inform and create an emotional mood. The music in this film is more calming than anything. The case is a very sensitive one, so I take a respectful approach in the film. If anything, the music is more of a tribute to Taylor because no matter what the circumstances are, she was the true victim. By using a professional voice, the audience is more likely to take this issue seriously.
At the beginning of the documentary there is video footage of views of downtown Macon streets, while the narrator introduces Macon’s qualities, which gives the viewers a chance to ease into the case rather than being abruptly hit with hard evidence. Interviews play a key role in this documentary. Furthermore, including people who were directly involved with the case is important because the viewers will be persuaded by credible sources. Through my research, I have learned that interviewing can give much more useful information than just researching documents. I learned more about the case in three hours interviewing Charles Fargason than I did reading most of the news archives. For example, The Macon Telegraph states that Charles Fargason and Teresa Fargason did not have “an amicable split”. In my interview with Charles, he said that they ended on what he thought were good terms. He said, “There was no bad blood between us” (Fargason). This demonstrates how the media can skew the coverage the way they want to. I did not even mention to Charles, that the news paper said that they did not have an amicable split, and here he is telling me that they did.
It is my goal that the audience visualizes what my mind visualizes. I strive to keep an objective stand on the case as well as the spectators; while at the same time; I make every effort to use my ideas to express emotion, drawing out their emotions. In other words, keep an objective stand on the case while subjectively sharing my emotional intensity. One thing is for sure. Taylor was the true victim and that is one thing that the audience and I can agree on.
Ultimately, the combination of images and shots represents a whole new concept and image in itself. Eisenstein “sees each shot as having a kind of potential energy which can display itself in purely visual terms: the direction of its movements, the volume of its shapes, the intensity of its light, and so forth” (Braudy and Cohen 2). My shots in this film must be taken seriously and shown in a way that can be very powerful and touching. Not only that, but the way in that it is shown, it can have diverse effects of the type of emotions emerged.
A montage sequence can be looked at as if it is a huge puzzle with many pieces. Each piece has its own personality and shape, which can be beautiful on its own. For instance, one shot can incorporate many things that make it exceptional. Give it the right music and the right timing, with good camera work and editing, and that one shot can play a crucial role in the film. Take that shot, or puzzle piece, and merge it with hundreds of other pieces, and a magnificent piece of artwork can emerge. For example, in my documentary, there is a picture of a rainbow. By itself, it is just a rainbow, but when that very rainbow is joined with music and other pictures of Taylor, it carries added meaning.
Another goal of this documentary is to make sure that everything about it is ethical. The Media Student’s Book focuses on two main ethical issues of documentary filmmaking. The first concern is the issue of faking material through the use of digital technology. Many people believe that staging events in documentaries is unethical because it is not real. A documentary film is a “nonfiction film composed of camera images taken exclusively from reality, later cut etc., given a sound track, and treated as an art film” (“Documentary film” def. 1). I agree that, “Documentaries are shaped by initial selection of what to film, the conditions on which consent is given or withheld, and how the event is framed, staged” (Branston and Stafford 460). It is important that “They are truthful and are unconstructive as possible” (Branston and Stafford 456).
The purpose of my documentary is to share my viewpoints by using factual evidence with the use of photographs, narration, and video footage. The second concern of ethics is the implications of the degrees of closeness it achieves (Branston and Stafford 465). In other words, does the documentary try to use its power to influence or persuade the audience to share the same opinions as the documentarist? The documentarist may not be credible enough for the observers to believe his or her ideas. And if so, the documentarist is using his or her power to possibly influence the powerless, those who may not fully grasp or understand a particular idea and has no prior knowledge of the background of a particular matter.
The Media Student’s Book gives an example of a controversial documentary produced by Michael Moore. It was Fahrenheit 9/11 and was a 2004 film. Michael Moore is known for his much publicized disgust with President George W. Bush, Bush’s stance on the war in Iraq, and Bush’s believed role in the 911 attacks in 2001. Michael Moore’s goal of the documentary was to persuade his viewers to hold the same opinions and positions that he does (Branston and Stafford 465). The Media Student’s Book also gives objections to Moore’s performance in the documentary; “he hogs the limelight” (Branston and Stafford 468), and while doing so, “He stages encounters that may create confrontations, such as the encounter with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine, another of Moore’s documentaries” (Branston and Stafford 468). While my approach does not set out to insult people’s intelligence, “His search for gags and smart comments often raises ethical issues in setting people up as the butt of his humour, making them look ridiculous on screen” (Branston and Stafford 468). He leaves out key issues, such as the role of Israel in F/911 (Branston and Stafford 468-9). This technique of making documentaries does not present the arguments in a fair way (Branston and Stafford 469). Some may even go so far as to say that Michael Moore is not a true documentarist because he does not present the film with accuracy and fairness. Moore is obviously not taking an objective stance in his films; rather he is using documentary techniques to persuade his viewers to share his same opinions. My documentary does not take one side and does not attempt to persuade the viewers to take one particular stance. The montage sequence in my documentary just presents the facts in the case, interviews, and narration with objective points.
Reiterating the point that digital media can add some form of emotional intensity to documentaries, is that, “The great Soviet filmmakers Dergei M. Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin asked what more than mere ability to photograph reality was required to transform the new technical resources into a great new art” (Braudy and Cohen 1). The readers then see that, “There answer was montage, the art of combining pieces of film or shots into larger units-first, the scene, then the sequence, and, finally the complete film” (Braudy and Cohen 1). Today’s culture has more options of how to use a montage sequence. We are more technologically advanced; therefore, we have numerous technological tools to use to create this form of art. With digital technology, there are more special effects in filmmaking. In my documentary, special effects are used for the images. For example, a photograph of Taylor, which was originally colored, is transformed into black and white. This mutual tone suggests a more somber mood. I want the audience to sympathize with this little girl more than they normally would, so at this point I use the “Ken Burns Effect.” This effect will zoom into a close-up of her face. This makes it more personal with the audience. While cameras can zoom in and out, and have been able to do so for a long time, the fact that it is now possible to digitally edit what has already been filmed is an important innovation.
It is important to remember, though, that digitally editing images can only go so far before the documentary becomes unethical. For example, do not edit out what really happened or what was really shown; rather, strive to present all of the facts and theories of the case, leaving nothing out while taking an objective stand and it is my goal for this documentary to present all of the facts and theories of the case, leaving nothing out while taking an objective stand.
Through my research, I have learned that the media can persuade ones opinions of a tragic event even if that person believes without a doubt that it is not being persuasive. I thought the media was not going to influence my opinions of the case until I realized that that’s what it was doing for the majority of my initial research. In the beginning, I thought that I had everything figured out. I knew the media put a slant on the news coverage but I thought that the slant was more for proving Teresa’s guilt. I was initially out to prove that the media had an impact on Teresa’s conviction. I heard that there was a former cop that fled when questioned about the murder and I also heard that a little girl was seen at the Kroger on the night of the murder. When the media told the public about these facts, I thought, everybody is against this poor mother. Later in my research, I found out that the former cop was an 18-year old kid that got approached by two intimidating guys at his work place. They basically interrogated him on the spot and the kid got in his automobile and left due to the fact that he was being questioned for murder because he gave Taylor a teddy bear at a car wash shortly before Taylor’s murder. Teresa threw is name out as a suspect and Court TV ran with. The witness that said he saw a girl at Kroger the night of the murder, later said that the little girl was blonde. Taylor had brunette hair, but Court TV reiterated the fact that there was a little girl seen on that night. There was this snowball effect. There was misleading news coverage resulting in more misleading news coverage, therefore changing or influencing the public’s awareness and opinions of the case. If you are not directly related to the case, the only knowledge to gain from it is through the media, and if the media is misleading, you are in return mislead. There are still message boards to this day pronouncing Teresa’s innocence. My view is that if the people on the message boards knew what I knew rather than what they have seen on television, they too would have different opinions of the case. I believe that there is truth to the old saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear”.
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