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The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom

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Documentary Short

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Giorgio, Writer/Director/Producer

I could go on and on about this project. And I will, check out my thoughts below!

Initial Proposal

       Creating a Proposal for "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom"

 

          Creating a proposal packet for my documentary, "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom", was a long and intricate process, but I was determined to create a roadmap for how I could turn my idea into a reality. I started by creating a longline and mood board that served as the foundation for my documentary's concept and tone. From there, I wrote a synopsis that provided a detailed overview of the story and designed a film poster that captured the audience's attention and conveyed the mood and theme of the documentary.

I sought out and hired a talented crew, including experienced producers, production assistants, and assistant cameras. The most critical component of my documentary was securing high-quality interviews with credible professionals in their field. I was fortunate to interview Robert F. Levey, a former Washington Post staff writer who covered the investigation in the 70s as a reporter, Jim Trainum, a retired MPD detective and the former lead detective on the Freeway Phantom reinvestigation in the 90s, and Blaine Pardoe, author of the 2018 true crime story "Tantamount: The Pursuit of the Freeway Phantom".

         

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PDF proposal for "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom".

          Throughout the process, I meticulously researched and documented every step, creating a timeline to ensure that all deadlines were met and all tasks were accomplished. I was able to keep the production under budget by securing the best cameras for the lowest cost, and I created an excellent budget sheet to keep track of expenses.

          The key messaging in my documentary focuses on the intricacies of cold case investigations and the expertise of the professionals involved in solving them. My skill in finding the right interviews, assembling a talented crew, and keeping the production under budget demonstrates my dedication and hard work in bringing this story to life.

          Creating a proposal packet for a documentary takes a lot of hard work and determination, but with a clear roadmap, I was able to turn my idea into a successful and impactful production.

Original A/V Script

Writing the Script for "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom"

          The journey to bring the story of the "Freeway Phantom" back to life was a long and arduous one, marked by a lack of cooperation from the very institutions that were meant to serve and protect the public. Over the course of four months, I poured countless hours into research, piecing together the details of this cold case that had been buried for decades by the police and politicians in the Washington metropolitan area.

          I was determined to uncover the truth behind this shocking series of murders, and bring it to light for the world to see. The process was not without its challenges, as I encountered roadblocks at every turn, from uncooperative sources to a lack of concrete evidence. But the greatest obstacle I faced was the active effort by the authorities to sweep this case under the rug, and bury the truth along with it.

          Despite these obstacles, I refused to give up. I poured over every detail, scrutinizing every piece of information that I could find, determined to shed light on this dark chapter in the history of the Washington metropolitan area. And with each iteration, my script grew stronger, bringing the story of the "Freeway Phantom" to life in a compelling and impactful way.

         

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PDF script for "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom".

          Finally, after months of tireless effort, I emerged with a script that was not only a stunning piece of filmmaking, but a sharp criticism of the failure of the police and politicians to serve and protect the public. The end result was a powerful and thought-provoking piece of work, that exposed the political, social, and ethical failures of those in power, and demanded accountability for their actions.

I spent the remaining months of 2022 bringing the script to life through editing in Adobe Premiere Pro and utilizing the motion graphics capabilities of After Effects. The final product was a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of holding those in power accountable for their actions. This project was a true labor of love, requiring a level of skill and dedication that only a few possess.

This project was a testament to the power of persistence and determination in the face of opposition. It required a level of research, attention to detail, and technical expertise that was unparalleled, and I am proud of the work that went into bringing this story to life. Through this project, I was able to showcase my skills as a storyteller, editor, and motion graphics artist, and demonstrate the importance of never giving up in the pursuit of the truth, even in the face of opposition from those in power.

         Despite the challenges and obstacles that I faced throughout the creation of "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom," I refused to give up on this project. However, even after completing the script and beginning the editing process, I encountered yet another roadblock. When I presented an early screener of my documentary to my classmates, I was met with a barrage of criticism and doubt. Some of my classmates told me that I shouldn't be telling this story because of the color of my skin, and that I was unable to tell this story effectively because of my skill level.

        These comments only fueled my determination to see this project through to the end. I was determined to prove my classmates and doubters wrong, and to show them the power of persistence and determination in the face of opposition. I threw myself into my work with renewed energy, honing my skills in editing and motion graphics and pouring my heart and soul into this project.

The end result was a powerful and thought-provoking piece of work, that was a testament to my skills as a filmmaker and a storyteller. The final product was a true labor of love, a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of adversity. This project was a demonstration of the importance of never giving up on your passions, no matter how difficult the journey may be.

          In the end, "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom" was more than just a documentary, it was a statement of purpose, a declaration of my commitment to storytelling and the power of film. I was proud of the work that went into bringing this story to life, and I was determined to continue telling stories that matter, stories that challenge the status quo, and stories that inspire change.

Cinematography

Experimenting with lighting and camera positions with my camera team

in order to create a lighting diagram for the interview with Jim Trainum.

Video by Giorgio Citarella

          As a director of the documentary "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom", one of my biggest challenges was to create a consistent look for the four interviews that were filmed in different locations and lighting conditions. To achieve this, I worked closely with my cinematographer, Esteban Larach, to carefully plan and execute a lighting schema that would provide a synchronous picture look.

          Our camera set-up consisted of two Sony FS5s (SONY E 18-135MM F/3.5-5.6 OSS LENS x2) and a Blackmagic 6k pro (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens). Both cameras were recording at 29.97 FPS as that is the news industry standard in the DMV, and our goal was to create something that could be aired as a television special. In regards to the look of the documentary, our goal was to create a look that was somewhere between the intense lighting contrasts and moody blue tint of Eroll Morris's "A Brief History of Time" and the traditional display of journalism seen on CNN's "60 Minutes".

         

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Lighting diagram created for interview with Jim Trainum in "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom"

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Inspiration from "A Brief History of Time" (Top) used in "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom" (Bottom)(Sony FS5). 

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Inspiration from CNN's "60 minutes" (Top) used in "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom" (Bottom)(Blackmagic 6k Pro). 

          While we didn't have the same production value as a CNN crew or director Errol Morris, I was incredibly proud of my undergraduate student crew for accomplishing what they managed to do.

 

          For each set-up we used a combination of 3 c-stands carrying two ARRI compact fresnel 300 and two Godox pocket lights aimed at a white bounce board as a fill light, which we found to be a great combination for creating a dramatic look similar to the one seen in "A Brief History of Time". The use of three cameras was important for me as a director because it helped to create the illusion of a large budget documentary. Ultimately, this ambition hurt us. Due to the small crew it would have been better to use a single camera set-up so that we could have had more control over the single image instead of trying to create a synchronous picture lock across three cameras at any given time. Shoutout to my camera department.

          In conclusion, this experience taught me the importance of meticulous planning and attention to detail when it comes to creating the look of a film. By working closely with my cinematographer, experimenting with different lighting combinations, and logging all of our discoveries, we were able to achieve a consistent and visually stunning look for my documentary.

Motion Graphics

Creating Motion Graphics for "The Mystery of The Freeway Phantom"

          When the idea for this project first took root, I found myself creating a predominantly motion graphics dependent documentary. I had an idea that I would account for my in-access to the families of the victims by using a combination of voice over and a dynamic map to display the last moments of the victims in order for the audience to find a way to connect to them. My reliance on motion graphics was a weakness in my early filmmaking career that I came to be aware of. At first, I was drawn to the allure of motion graphics and its ability to bring life to the visuals (Flee, 2021). However, I soon realized that relying too heavily on motion graphics can detract from the overall strength of the visuals. Despite this realization, I continued to pour countless hours into the creation of motion graphics for this documentary using After Effects.

          The process was grueling, with long nights and weeks spent in front of the computer, fine-tuning every aspect of the animations. Despite the many hours of hard work, the majority of the motion graphics were left out of the final cut of the documentary as they did not fit the journalistic tone I set out to make. However, I wanted to pay homage to the effort that went into their creation, and show that the time spent was not in vain.

        

Concept art of motion graphics in "The Mystery of the Freeway Phantom".

          The end result was a testament to the power of motion graphics, and the impact it can have on the overall viewing experience. The combination of stunning visuals, paired with the fluidity of the motion graphics, brought the story of the "Freeway Phantom" to life in a way that would not have been possible without the use of After Effects.

          This project serves as a testament to the skills and dedication required to create captivating motion graphics. The effort put into this project demonstrates the level of commitment required to turn a simple idea into a visually stunning piece of work. The final product is a testament to the hard work and hours of effort that went into its creation, and the impact that motion graphics can have on the overall viewing experience.

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