Documentary aims to capture essence of mock trial

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Documentary aims to capture essence of mock trial

The Southerner

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MOCK-UMENTARY: Sophomore Griffin Kish interrogates the witness Glenn Miller, portrayed at this time by his coach Carl Gebo, while cameraman Brent Cook records.


Evening practice for Grady mock trial practice was unfolding as usual: student attorney Olivia Volkert was interrogating Orli Hendler, who was portraying the witness Glenn Miller in the mock civil case. Unlike ordinary practices, however, cameras and lights beamed down on Hendler and Volkert, as a production crew stood in the back observing the scene.

Peachtree and 5th, an Atlanta-based multimedia production company, is filming a documentary about mock trial. Led by producer Melissa Ewing, the production crew has attended multiple Grady mock trial practices and recorded the students as they prepare for their regional competition on Feb. 5 and 7.

“We want to really show the commitment and hard work that goes into this particular activity, and we’re using Grady’s team as a vehicle to show that,” Ewing said.

Ewing is an attorney, and she was first approached with the idea for the documentary project by Carl Gebo, one of Grady’s mock trial coaches.

“Clearly he was very passionate about his work with the team,” Ewing said. “He wanted to do a project that shared his passion and let other people know what goes into putting together a case for mock trial.”

Showing what really goes into mock trial has been the motivating force for everyone involved with the documentary. Brian Leahy, who has been a Grady mock trial coach for four years, acknowledges that few people at the school truly know what the activity involves.

“I know that there’s this belief through Grady that we are some sort of a cult, and we’re hoping to kind of dispel those rumors,” Leahy said.

Ewing and her crew want to publicize the documentary as much as possible to also help show the “journey and benefits” of the extracurricular activity. The filmmakers will decide how to disseminate the film after they finish it.

Mock trial students and parents held a meeting to decide whether the team was ready to embrace the project. Ewing and Gebo explained more about the film and what it would entail and tried to assuage concerns. Most team members, like senior Miller Lansing, were excited about the prospects of the documentary, but a few people remained unsure.

“[After the meeting] the parents left, the coaches left, Ms. Melissa [Ewing] left and just the students met,” Lansing said. As a group, they talked through their concerns until everyone was either in support of the film or ambivalent towards the idea.

Once the team agreed to be in the film, Leahy said it took a little while for the team to adjust to the distraction of the cameras.

“It’s a little shocking at first when we walk into our practice space and see all this video equipment and sound recording devices and all this stuff all over the place,” Leahy said. “But once we get to work it kind of falls into the background, and we just kind of do what we do.”

While Lansing and some other team members have not found the filming to be too disruptive, sophomore Jenni Rogan has had to go out of her way to accommodate the needs of the documentary.

“They had me come in on a different day than my scheduled practice just to film [my interview] that they could have filmed the day before had they been a bit more on top of things,” Rogan said.

Rogan also said the crew would sometimes ask her and others to repeat a comment or ask them to move to a certain spot in order to better hear and see them on camera.

“We are purely capturing what is happening,” Ewing said. “There’s nothing that’s staged or manufactured. But there are occasions where we have to act really fast to respond as practices are happening in front of us, and sometimes it’s purely a sound issue.”

Along with filming the group’s practices, the production team is planning on filming rounds of the mock trial competition and interviewing other schools that compete against Grady.

Ewing and her team also have been focusing on team members’ extracurricular activities other than mock trial. She attended the musical Footloose at First Presbyterian Church to see Lansing and junior J.D. Capelouto perform.

As filming continues, some members of the team are reserving judgment on the final product but are optimistic about the results.

“It’s a risk we’re all taking,” Leahy said. “We’re hoping this risk is going to pay off for us, as far as explaining what we do and what goes into it.”

Ewing believes the end product will be well worth all the time and effort spent producing the film.

“I think it’s a very positive project, and I’m so glad to be part of it,” she said. “I’m honored that Carl [Gebo] came to me and that we have the opportunity to witness these students doing such an amazing thing.”

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