War Tapes

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The War Tapes is a documentary on the war in Iraq, shot by the soldiers themselves and directed remotely through instant messaging and the internet.

Information and trailer on the movie at http://thewartapes.com/trailer/

Podcast Presentation by director Scranton, at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ml/output.pl/41604/download/bb_war_tapes_2006-05-12.mp3

Webcast Presentation at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ml/output.pl/41617/download/Scranton.mp4


From a blog summary of a presentation on the documentary at http://www.beyondbroadcast.net/blog/?p=69:

"First-time feature documentary film director Deborah Scranton arrived at Beyond Broadcast fresh from the Tribeca Film Festival where she won the Best Documentary Award for The War Tapes — “the first film directed through instant messaging."

Two and a half years ago, Scranton was offered the opportunity to join a New Hampshire National Guard unit as an embedded journalist in Iraq. She chose instead to be a “virtually embedded" journalist, by offering dv cameras to the soldiers, who would tell their own stories from the frontlines. The men, who shot 800 hours of footage, communicated with Scranton via cellphone and Internet. It was, says Scranton, “citizen journalism web 2.0." The result of this participatory production is an electrifying immersion in the visceral experience of war on the front lines in Iraq, seen through the eyes of three “citizen soldiers" who eloquently defy mass media stereotypes.

Scranton described the process by which she 1) gained the confidence of the men, 2) gave them gear and minimal training, 3) established communication through instant messaging and the Internet, while waiting for footage to arrive in the mail, and 4) collaboratively edited a film that will live on many platforms and in many sites– from festival screenings to blogs.

At the start of this project, New Hampshire National Guard units had a 56% deployment rate, with over 1,000 men and women in Iraq. As a journalist, Scranton asked herself, “What if I could collaborate with the soldiers and work on the Internet to film an entire year’s deployment, talking over their experiences in a permeable relationship?" Joining forces (and credit cards) with Chuck Lacy, with whom she formed a production company, Scranton headed to Ft Dix for interviews with members of the 172d Mtn Infantry, and asked them to join the project. She faced a barrage of questions that boiled down to — who are you, which side are you on, and why should we trust you with our experience? Buying into Scranton’s commitment to be true to their experiences, 10 soldiers filmed for more than a year on 1- chip dv cameras- which were mounted on Kevlar vests, Hummer hoods, and tank mounts. They uploaded Quicktime files and scenes, and carried on conversations with Scranton and her team (who chose not to travel to Iraq). Additional footage was shot with families in New Hampshire." (http://www.beyondbroadcast.net/blog/?p=69)

More Information

See our entry on Open Source Film Making