“The Independence of Užupis” – A TV Report

In 1938 Orson Welles prepared with The Mercury Theatre” a fake report adapting H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of Worlds” for the show “The Mercury Theatre on Air”. According to early newspaper reports the radio show caused massive panic in the area of New York and New Jersey. However, newer research has shown that the impact of Welles’ play on the population have to be relativized (Wikipedia offers a nice summary of the public reaction). The satire Wag the Dog uses the same idea of media altering reality in order to shape the consciousness of the masses. It reveals how easy media can conceive the population if we do not think critically.

My fake TV-Report about the “Independence of Uzupis” was based on the same concept: Using the power of new media to create a certain reality with a few facts and a lot of fiction. Furthermore, I used the contemporary context of the Scottish Independence Referendum to establish a link between my fiction and the reality. The pre-production work was mainly doing research  about Uzupis and writing a screenplay for a clear, coherent structure during the set (Screenplay available here: Uzupis). The research was quickly done since the “republic” itself is much ado about nothing – in my opinion the district itself is also not especially remarkable. The shooting was a bit more complicated because it encompassed several locations and actors hence the organisation was the main issue here.

The editing was rather easy because the screenplay gave a straightforward direction of the plot. Also the animation and sounds at the beginning were rather easy to find since a kind YouTube user (check out his profile) uploaded a copyright free version for anybody to use. The name tags caused a few problems at the beginning. I am sure a more versed editor could have made them more authentic. Nevertheless, the main flaw on the technical side of my movie is the poor newsstudio. I have looked up the way of animating and found that you merely need a green/blue screen for shooting. The rest can be easily done with the “color key” feature of premiere (e.g here) – this might be changed in a second version.

The narrative aspect was quite strong, nevertheless according to my teacher it relies to much on information and neglects the emotional-manipulative power of television. I do agree on this aspect with a few tweaks in the selection of scenes I could have achieved a greater effect. Though, as the saying goes Hindsight is easier than foresight. The interview section with the civilians also needs reworking. You can literally see that I was in a hurry to finish the product.

This TV-Report/documentary style of movie is exceptionally versatile in a school setting. You can use it in nearly every subject, though I can see that it is most effective in languages and social sciences – though naturally I am very biased here. The research in pre-production is an essential part of subjects as history and politics, thus can be easily implemented in the everyday classroom setting. Furthermore, the mixture of fact and fiction in fake reports enables the students to train their competence in critical thinking – one of the most fundamental competences in democratic societies as curricula across countries and subjects agree. The shooting and editing of these movies is easier than a stop-motion and thus can also be done very quickly, if necessary.

Finally, I strongly recommend to try this movie out as a final assignment instead of an essay or presentation since it is an enormous high motivation factor for students.

…and the report:

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