Though I did not realize it prior to this project, court cases and movies have a lot in common. For starters, there are striking similarities between the job of a director on set, and a lawyer in a courtroom. While directors apply overarching film theories to specific projects to give them a certain feel, lawyers apply abstract legal theories to the specific case they are working on in order to fight it in the most effective way possible.
While a director visualizes a story and brings it to life, a lawyer visualizes someone’s recount of a story and brings it to justice. Directors must be able to discern between and juggle several creative visions and mediate between them, while a lawyer must be able to make sense of and mediate between several versions of the same story. On a more abstract level, if I had the ability to apply techniques of film to a courtroom, I would use makeup, lighting, editing, and I would bring in equipment such as a monitor in order to sway the jury box in whichever way I pleased. Using makeup, I could make even the guiltiest of murderers seem innocent by putting some bronzer on his or her face, and washing his or her hair, making them appear more clean and healthy, and I could do the opposite to the most innocent of people by applying dark makeup to their under eyes, giving them a dirty look. Using lighting, I could make on appear either dark and secretive by lighting my subject with one light which would create shadows, or I can make them appear bright and truthful by using a three-point lighting technique which is the most flattering option. Using gels, I would be able to change the tint of the light, giving either an eviler or a cheerier tint.
Editing is where the film is really molded into a specific feel, and if I were able to edit a testimony any way I pleased, I could use quick, choppy cuts and dark color grading as well as a scary score in order to make even the most innocent recount feel scary, or I could do the opposite by creating a vivid and dreamy recount using long shots, lights colors, and pretty music. I noticed in the courtroom that from where I was sitting, I had a hard time catching facial expressions fully, and I thought that it might be nice for a jury box to have a monitor of the witness’s face in order for them to have the luxury of seeing micro expressions that may help reveal the truth.
Using both creative and technical aspects of Film, I would be able to fabricate what it is I wanted to say about a person in the courtroom, swaying the jury in a way they may not be swayed without the application of Film to their case.
Claire Fagin, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response being asked how her major, Film, could improve the trial process.