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Inside News Making: Scene Analysis of Spotlight

Analysis by Malvika Chawla

“They knew and let it happen!”
“It could’ve been you,
It could’ve been me,
It could’ve been any of us.”

                                          -Sacha Pfeiffer


Spotlight is a 2015  American biographical drama film directed by Tom  McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh  Singer. The film follows ‘The  Boston  Globe’s’ “Spotlight”  team,  the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States,  and its investigation into cases of widespread and systematic child sex abuse in the  Boston area by numerous  Roman  Catholic priests. It is based on a  series of stories by the  Spotlight team that earned  The Globe the 2003  Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Spotlight Film Analysis, SPotlight film review

Spotlight is a remarkable, realistic portrayal of what investigative journalism is and how the biggest story was uncovered by a team of four journalists by working diligently. The main reason I chose this film was that it is simply presenting a true story in its most raw form, it ends up being an entirely believable portrayal of one of the most important cases of the past 20 years. Put simply, this drama-based movie will likely make journalists want to be better at their job, and Catholics either quit or commit themselves to make the church do better. It’s that thought-provoking.

Spotlight Film Analysis, SPotlight film review

It shows the that old-style journalism triumphs in the story of the real-life team who knocked on doors and scoured the cuttings library to reveal a scandal that may have begun centuries ago.

Spotlight Film Analysis, SPotlight film review

Director as well as the actors have done complete justice in the portrayal of the brutalities of the Church to its audience.

Description of selected scene:

The chosen scene is where the film kicks off when the new editor takes over the news agency and pursues the four journalists to go after the Catholic church, even after many people can be seen discouraging the journalists as to not to go after the church or as they say ‘God’, still they dig deep into the court cases and libraries and through the help of archives and the survivors they finally publish a story against the Church. The next day they experience a ton of calls from all the rest of the survivors from the rest of the world, who never spoke or came out in the public or ever had the courage to go against the church. It has very phenomenally portrayed the brutalities of the world, as to how church which people consider as a place to wash away their sins, there such crime that too of this much level can also take place. This case for sure opened the eyes of many followers of those who blindly trusted or followed the god and made them realize that every institution can be corrupt.

Spotlight Film Analysis, SPotlight film review
Shot #Acting/SettingCinematography/LightingEditingSoundComments
  #1 (6:03 – 8:23)In this scene, Marty Baron (Live Schreiber) who will be joining as the new editor in the renowned newspaper Boston Globe can be seen reading a book while waiting for Walter Robbisson or Robby (Michael Keaton). And then they both can be seen greeting each other and talking about their work. Lighting in this scene is shown as dim portraying that the meeting is happening at night. Also, by seeing the restaurant/surroundings one can easily make out that majority of the elite class are present in the background. Best location to carry out any official meeting   As this scene is depicting a conversation between two people, camera movement can be seen going over the shoulder on both the characters. As there is a conversation taking place, so various mid-close-up shots are also there. There are many instances of jump cut i.e. taking camera over 180-degree rule.A faint murmuring, sound of people talking, spoons plates clanking can be heard as this a restaurant scene. The two main characters be highly engrossed in their conversation.In this the new editor has done justice to his role as he can be seen asking various questions about the newspaper he will be joining and also how he thinks that the newspaper could do much more efficient work to up its viewership. The way Marty Baron is shown taking notes about the conversation shows his dedication towards work.
  #2 (8:23-14:32)             In this scene Walter Robby or Robbisson and fellow reporter Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery) can be seen both going for the first time to morning 10:30 meeting which the new editor has arranged for everyone to discuss on what news everyone will be working up on. Here the new editor can be seen pushing the journalists to pursue a story about the child molestation charges against the local Roman Catholic church.This scene is of morning, where the Boston Globe office is shown and then the office is shown where people can be seen engrossed in their work while on the other hand a meeting is taking place in the designated meeting room.This scene opens with a wide shot of the Boston city with its upper view and then suddenly the view of the Boston Globe office outside view. As usual this scene too has many jump cuts, over the shoulder shots, mid close up and close up shots whenever the character is speaking.This scene has a basic tune in the background while showing the city and the office view which then suddenly changes to soft murmuring sound which typically represents the scene that of an office. Then there is heavy discussion which takes place in the conference room where multiple characters (reporters)can be seen discussing.Again, the way the new editor Marty Baron is shown is phenomenal. The way he has shown his dedication towards work and the urge to work on to some heavy case which could make news. Also shows how the reporters are shocked by his urge to pick up a already closed case which could make a great news, as they are not used to being working so seriously as can be seen from the first scene.
#3 (14:32-24:00)                                         #4 (24:00-25:30)                         #5 (25:30-31:25)               #6 (31:28-35:49)                             #7 (35:49-51:20)                             #8 (51:20-54:25)                                 #9 (54:25-59:39)                 #10 (59:39-1:06:45)               #11 (1:06:45- 1:16:46)                       #12 (1:16:46- 1:31:07)                       #13 (1:31:07- 1:40:36)                                 #14 (1:40:37- 1:42:55)                                 #15 (1:42:56- 1:51:01)                 #16 (1:51:10-1:59:00)                     #17 (2:00:43)  In this scene all the four journalists Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Walter Robby (Michael Keaton), Matty Carroll (Brian d’ Arcy James) can be seen visiting various places or talking to various sources to get to know more about the Gaghon case. They can even be seen going to the archives and getting all the files and clips related to that case.       In this scene the four journalists can be seen sitting in the stadium watching the game while John Slattery asks  Michael about the progress about the case, he also makes a remark in the end to Michael that he shouldn’t waste his time on this case too much     This scene begins with the three journalists yet again go to visit their sources to further investigate, as well as the editor himself goes to the church.     This scene shows the entry of a new character/victim of abuse Phil Saviano (Neal Huff) goes to the office with a box full of evidence, and tells the journalists as how he was molested by the priest at a very young age and he just couldn’t say no to him.       Here, journalists Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes meet two more different victims as suggested by Phil Saviano. These victims further elaborate as to how they were picked up from poverty and were then later used for molestation. And how this incident had traumatized them in their upbringing.     This scene shows how journalists Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter Robby visit the lawyer who was attached to this case and ask him as to why this matter was solved outside the court and how there were no records of this case. And also, how the journalists realize that this is a whole racket.     In this scene shows how Marty Baron goes to Church’s Charity Gala, an elite event while Michael Rezendez can be seen in a low-class restaurant talking about the case.     In this scene all the journalists can be seen interrogating thoroughly into the case. They can also be seen getting to know various facts that there are in fact 90 priests than 13.     Here they get a list from the lawyer, names of priests involved in the molestation. They get a head from the editor that need to focus on the institution and not on the names alone. So, the journalists go ahead to each and every house and investigate further on the names too.   In this scene Michael Rezendez gets a tip from somewhere that since the Church had secretly removed all the documents from the courtroom, if only they file a motion against them then this could come under the public eye.     Here Michael Rezendez finally gets the court papers and takes it to his office only to find out that suddenly few of his colleagues are only loosing interest in the case, that’s when he get angry and shouts and keep his view point as to what all those children would have gone too and how they would be traumatized for life.     In this scene in a pub Walter Robby meets Peter Conley ( Paul Guilfoyle) over a few drink he tries to convince Robby as to how he shouldn’t be working on writing against the church and even mentions that how his editor wouldn’t even care as he is not even from their town, Boston.           Here the judge in the court files a no motion against the court orders that are again files in the court. Still the editor urges the reporter to go further deep into the names of the priests.       Finally, in the ending scene the reporters along with the editor decide to write the report and tell the world about the truth of the church.         The ending scene shows how the next day they are flooded by the calls of so many victims who were traumatized by the priests and never came out in open to tell their story.By looking at the scene it can be made out that it was shot in the morning. The scene has been shot in various locations.                               Here the location is that of a stadium where the lighting is quite bright, although the time of the day can’t be made out. Also, the stadium is packed with the audience, cheering.               The location of this place begins with a golf court in the morning. Then the scene suddenly shifts to an office space and church where the lighting is a bit a dim       The location is that of an office. Lighting is quite bright as it indicates daytime/morning.                       Lighting is cool as this scene was shot during the day.                             Wide angle shot gives us clear essence of the intensity of the scene                           Wide angle shots give us clarity as to what is exactly happening. Lighting on the other here is too shown in a bit dim light.           This shot includes day as well as night shooting. Shots include mid close up as well wide-angle shots.               Various shots are included in this shot such as- mid close up, close up, wide angle shots.   Camera work in this scene is done best to suit the scene. Lighting mode is cool as it was shot during the day. Even rainy weather was once shown.     Lighting mode is somewhat cool and calm as it shows the day scene.                     Camera is cinematic which moves as per the characters in the shot. Since it was shot in a courtroom lighting is kept cool also because it was shot during the day.                     Mid close up shot is there in the scene as it focusses on the conversation that is happening between the two characters. Lighting of the scene is kept dim as the shot is of pub.                       At first the lighting is quite cool as the first part of the scene is shot in the day, but the next part of the day is shot at night where even snowfall is shown. with dim lighting at night.         Lighting is cool as the shot is of an office scene. Mid close up shots, jump cuts, and wide-angle shots are some of the few shots.             Lighting is yet again is of cool as it shows an office scene.Includes fast movement of camera as it has focused on various characters. This scene has also included close ups of hands while the action of closing up of files takes places.                             The camera movement is shown quite static as it first shows the wide shot of the ground where the match is taking place, then it focuses on the four characters. Mid close up shots have been used. Also, here no jump cut has been made.           The camera movement is yet again quite fast as it is covering the role of all the characters.             Cinematographic camera moving with the character. Mid-close up shots also included.                       Editing and transitions is smooth.   It shows real perspective from the eyes of the director in the scene.                     Editing and transitions is smooth.                             Camera movement is fast as it is showing two different characters in different situations. Although has a deep meaning to the scene.           Camera movement is yet again fast as it is portraying the depth of the scene.                 Camera movement is fast as it has to cover many characters all in the shot. Otherwise editing and transitions is smooth.                 Camera movement is fast as it covers all the sides of the characters role. It covers the courtroom scene as well as what is happening in the office.                 Camera movement is fast as it covers the court scenes and then the other side of the town the office where all the characters are present.                         Editing is in transition.                                   Editing does justification to the shot.                   Editing is in transition.                       Editing done accurately.Background sound is a tune which symbolizes that some action is taking place which can be heard during the whole movie.   The characters can be seen having a conversation or taking an interview with various sources regarding the case.             Background noise is very noisy as the crowd are seen cheering for the game.   Dialogues of the characters are in sync.               Background noise has a tune which is present throughout the movie.   Music and sound are light, and more emphasis has been given on dialogues. Background sound is kept light as more emphasis are given on the depth of the scene.                       Background sound is kept light as more emphasis are given on the depth of the scene.                         Dialogues are in sync.                               Background sound has a bit murmuring and again plates and spoons clanking can be heard as the scene is shot in the restaurant.       Background sound includes that of a drama tune because of the sudden change in facts they get to know about.           Background sound is bit dramatic as to justify the scene.                     Background sound is light as the scene shows the courtroom.   Distant sound can also be heard from behind.           Dialogues are in sync. Background sound is kept null because of the importance of the dialogues need to be emphasized too.                       Background sound is very faint or can be hardly heard as more emphasis are kept on the dialogues.                           Dialogues are in sync. Background sound is kept minimal or faint.                 Dialogues are in sync. Background sound somewhat indicates the ending of the film.                 Dialogues are in sync.Here is where the interest of the reporters for the case can be seen as they are now investigating.                                 Here all the other three journalists can be seen interested in the investigation of the case while John is still isn’t.                    Shows determination of the characters for investigating.   Scene shows pure emotions and drama.         Here is where the movie starts taking a turn as the victims want to tell their story and want justice.                       The victims really want justice to be served to them and further help the journalist in telling their story so that the reality of the church could be uncovered to the world.                   There is nothing better that could have happened to show the scene.                           Justice has been done to the shooting of the scene.                 Couldn’t have done much better justice.                   Scene shows pure drama.                         Shows drama.                           Shows drama yet again.                               Shows how the outsiders don’t really want the reporters to go against the church which they consider as going against the god.                           Shows that outsiders don’t want the case to come out in public but can’t help because of the reporter’s continuous insistence.             Shows how finally after how much of hard work, the reports finally get to write and publish the news.                 Shows how people somewhat always wanted to come out but were always hesitant.
Shot analysis through Mise-en-scene


Spotlight is the type of film that will likely engage audiences, at least those who can handle it as it can be sometime upsetting, while accepting the harsh realities the journalists have to face of the society. The film delves into the famously controversial Catholic church scandal of the early 2000’s, but it also manages not to tread too far into sentimental territory. In the process, it brings out some of the more impressive performances of the year with its ensemble cast, especially that of Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. Overall, Spotlight is among the most captivating looking at the very interesting and unique world of investigative journalism.

Though Spotlight seems like the type of film that could have been manipulative, considering its subject, it is surprisingly well-balanced. There is a careful blend of journalistic work and interviews with victims, which gives plenty of time to react between some of the more disturbing stories. Even when the victims’ stories are told, director Thomas McCarthy thankfully doesn’t do anything to try to further provoke a reaction from viewers.

There is not even any background music in these scenes; instead, simply the truth is presented, where a victim speaks his story and a journalist tries his best to get the details from them. It can be upsetting at times, but by presenting this in such a blunt fashion McCarthy allows the stories to speak for themselves.

As a transition between either journalistic work or interviews with victims, the city of Boston is often presented, with all of its people going about their normal daily lives. In particular, children are shown, either running down streets or playing on playgrounds; blissfully unaware of the horrific activities that go on behind closed doors. Such emphasis shows just how unfortunately ignorant the world was of the Catholic church abuses at the time, and just how important it was for the spotlight team to present their story.

Spotlight is also remarkable in that it does not paint the Catholic religion in its entirety as this dark entity. There are even attempts to provide explanations for why these abuses happen, without making it seem as if the church itself is evil – it is the specific people that committed these acts or attempted to cover them up that are immoral.

Cinema Peedika

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