Los Angeles filmmaker Brett Weiner's 7-minute short "Verbatim" already went to Sundance earlier this year, but this week it was exposed to a whole new audience: readers of the New York Times. So many of them that it was the most viewed article on the Times' website earlier this week.
The short offers a comedic look at a real case from the Ohio Supreme Court where the witness chose to argue in a deposition that no, he didn't know what the term "photocopying machine" meant.
"Let me be clear. The term 'photocopying machine' is so ambiguous that you can’t picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?" the lawyer asks in a prolonged series of questions to the witness — which the witness continually refuses to respond to with a straight answer.
The New York Times liked the video enough that now, they're tasking Weiner with making it into a series, featuring other equally ridiculous court transcripts.
Weiner writes in the Times that he found the transcript in his Facebook feed.
"The dialogue was so sharp, inane and fully realized that I assumed it was fiction," Weiner writes. "I traced the deposition back to the Ohio Supreme Court and downloaded hundreds of pages of legal documents from the case. To my pleasant surprise, it was as strange as it was true."
So Weiner decided to take an excerpt from that transcript and create a word-for-word reenactment, though some creative liberties were taken with the acting and staging.
The lawyer being portrayed in the video, David Marburger, tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the real deposition was a more low-key affair, and that he was intentionally trying to draw the witness out to make the witness's office look bad to the Ohio Supreme Court.
"My game plan became to see how far he'd go with what I perceived as a charade caused by the way his lawyers had prepared him to be deposed," Marburger told the Plain Dealer. "That was why I kept pushing over the course of 10 pages of transcript. To me, the testimony became too good to be true. It was perfect."
Marburger tells the Plain Dealer he actually delivered his questions in a bemused manner, and that witness Lawrence Patterson didn't show nervousness.
The case itself was about access to information, as the Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office had decided not to make digital files available and would charge $2 a page for hard copies. Eventually, the state Supreme Court ruled that CDs with the documents in question should be made available to the public for a dollar a CD.
Watch the video above and read the full court transcript for yourself below: