A film production team is re-enacting last month’s federal court battle over California’s voter-approved marriage definition to allow people to see what the U.S. Supreme Court decided to keep behind court doors.
Having secured a courtroom set and casted dozens of actors, the Los Angeles-based team is re-enacting last month’s trial word-for-word, based on official court transcripts and under the advisory of constitutional law scholar and professor David B. Cruz from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, which is providing the replica courtroom.
“We have collected a top-notch group of people to tell this story, so the world can see it,” says John Ireland, who is co-producing the “made for the web” series with actor and producer, John Ainsworth.
“I was glued to the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker when John and I started talking about producing a re-enactment to put on the web,” adds Ainsworth. “I wanted to know what was happening in the courtroom and that’s when I knew we needed to produce this.”
Originally, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California was planning to broadcast last month’s highly anticipated gay marriage case on YouTube despite protests from defense attorneys, who said the move could put their witnesses at further risk, as some of the supporters of California’s Proposition 8 have already been harassed for their defense of it.
By a 5-4 vote, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s decision to allow video streaming of the trial in San Francisco for viewing on YouTube as well as in other federal courthouses in California, New York, Oregon and Washington.
The high court decision was welcomed by Prop 8 defenders but reproved by many others, including producers of the “Perry v. Schwarzenegger Trial Re-Enactment,” who almost immediately started calling all of their contacts after the Supreme Court issued its ruling.
“There is a huge buzz on the web about this trial,” Ireland noted. “I think a lot of people across our country were poised to watch the opening statements on the first day. When access was blocked, the thirst for information just grew exponentially.”
Although both filmmakers are opposed to Prop 8, which defined marriage in California’s constitution as the union of one man and one woman, they say their goal is "transparency, not swaying anybody."
“We are moving swiftly so that more Americans can see our government in action as it reviews this landmark case,” said Ainsworth around one week after the start of the trial, which last Wednesday concluded witness testimonies.
On Saturday, the team released the first part of the re-enactment of the trial’s first day, which actually took place on Jan. 11. On Monday, the team released the second part of Day 1 – which, like the first part, is a little more than an hour long.
Aside from the video episodes, the team is also offering context from two experts who will give an overview of the day’s proceedings and a first-person account of the experience in the courtroom.
The team is also providing transcripts from each day on their project’s website, marriagetrial.com, for viewers to follow along.
Given that the 12-day trial ran for around eight hours each day, the project is expected to produce around 80 to 90 chapters.