This study guide examines Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show’ released on October 9, 1998. It is aimed at students of GCSE, A Level, Scottish Standard, Scottish Higher and GNVQ Media Studies and English Language.
Areas covered in this study guide and the accompanying BBC Learning Zone television programme focus on representation and reality, forms and conventions within the film world, the popularity of docu-soaps and issues they raise and their place and effect within the media world. Synopsis
Truman Burbank has the feeling that he’s being watched. He doesn’t know how right he is. Every second of every day, from the moment he was born, for the last thirty years, Truman Burbank has been the unwitting star of the longest running, most popular documentary soap -opera in history. The picture perfect town of Seahaven that he calls home is actually a gigantic soundstage. Truman’s friends and family - everyone he meets, in fact - are actors. He lives every moment under the unblinking gaze of thousands of hidden television cameras. Welcome to ‘The Truman Show’. The whole world is watching. the
Director Peter Weir
‘The Truman Show’ is a film which charts the life of Truman Burbank, a boy adopted at birth by a fictitious television company - Omnicom. He is filmed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year so every second of his life is recorded for ‘live’ television. Truman doesn’t know this. He doesn’t know that his friends and family are all actors. He doesn’t know that the events in his life are all carefully monitored and controlled by the production crew of the television network. He doesn’t know he is the star of a television show nor that he isn’t living in the real world. As far as we know, the concept of this film is not yet a reality, as Peter Weir, the director, commented that he thought of the film as taking place twenty years or so in the future. However, in the search for new scheduling ideas and greater audience figures, television networks become increasingly involved in filming the lives of ordinary people as television entertainment. •
Having read this do you want to see the film? What is
particularly that interests you?
Do you agree with the concept of ‘The Truman Show’? What moral and ethical problems do you see with making a programme of this nature?
What practical problems might there be?
Do you think
might happen? Why/why not?
Recent television documentary programmes have continued a long tradition of attempting to show real life in documentaries. This generates debate about the responsibility of filmmakers and the representation of the subject.
Throughout the history of the moving image audiences have been fascinated by the idea of film depicting the real lives of ‘other people’ at work or in the home. One of the earliest documentaries, ‘Nanook of the North’ by Flaherty (1921), depicted Eskimo life with the help of local participants. Owing to the constraints of the hand- held camera, insensitive film stock requiring artificial light, and appalling weather conditions, Flaherty had to ask his subjects to do their normal activities in special ways and at special times. Because the Eskimos knew that Flaherty was helping them to place on record a vanishing way of life they provided and influenced the contents. The events of this film were manipulated, and the film was a huge success with audiences who were keen to find out about the minutiae of other peoples’ lives. Since those early days of documentary film-making, techniques and styles have evolved along with the introduction of new technology, such as smaller and more sophisticated cameras and sound equipment which allow the subjects to be less aware of the film-making process. ‘The Truman Show’ is supposedly made...