Two weeks ago the True Crime students finished their video segments for the first episode of the “America’s Most Wanted” series we’re creating as part of the class. I’ve been digging out from last week’s conferences and playing catch up, but I’m finally getting around to creating a cohesive episode out of the various segements the students created. And while I still have a bit of work ahead of me, I wanted to share two of the trailer videos one of groups did that basically re-imagine two early American true crime stories as contemporary film trailers. They’re fun as hell to watch, and what’s kinda cool is that they deal with relatively obscure texts.
The first is based on Benjamin Franklin’s 1734 article in The Pennsylvania Gazette titled “Murder of a Daughter.” The gist of the article is that these two negligient parents effectively murdered their daughter by turning her out. Some of the details are shocking, for example Franklin claims they fed the young girl her own excrement after she returned home deathly ill from exposure. One of the themes in this article is the ramifications of alcohol abuse, as Franklin notes, “But this is not the only Instance the present Age has afforded, of the incomprehensible Insensibility Dram-drinking is capable of producing.”
The original article by Franklin is less than a page long, but Katie Koth, Demi Fulcher, Chelsea Irizarry, Shelby Jones, and Bridget Johnson did an awesome job making it a compelling trailer for a film I would pay to see. Too fun. Note that you made need to adjust the volume levels a bit, the still have to be normalized for the final cut of the episode.
This group also decided to make a trailer of another reading we did that was also relatively obscure, focusing on George Swearingen’s murder of his wife in 1823. The murder happened here in Virginia, and it’s odd because Swearingen was an atypical criminal. He was a wealthy, successful lawyer who soon after marrying, took a mistress and then repeatedly plotted to kill his wife. You can find his entire confession online here. The narrative seems particularly contemporary, reading almost like James M. Caine’s Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice. You can find a good synopsis of this crime on the Murder by Gaslight site. I love this trailer as well because it focuses on what a bastard Swearingen was, cheating on his wife, having his mistress move in the house, and then plotting her demise. Once again, I would pay to see this film. Full disclosure, I have a cameo or two 😉
Suffice it to say, we’re having some fun with the whole video production thing in the True Crime course , and I have yet to blog the masterpiece Paul and I created. That’s my next post.