In the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a civil lawsuit was filed against white nationalist leaders and organizations on behalf of plaintiffs who suffered injuries while peacefully counterprotesting. No Accident chronicles this seminal civil rights trial, exposing a broad network of conspirators and detailing the challenges of holding those leaders and organizations liable for their actions.
Documentaries about the legal process tend to come with a special set of challenges. In the case of NO ACCIDENT, this included a lack of access to courtrooms, years of process delay further hindered due to a global pandemic, and a complicated, multilayered network of conspirators.
We attacked the first challenge by working with the original courtroom sketch artist to create accurate representations of each plaintif and defendant in a few poses, which, were then composited together and framed for the filmmaker’s use – wide-shot, close-up, etc. and cut together with narration from court transcripts to recreate the trial scenes. This animation style enabled Director Kristi Jacobson to “do something powerful and simple and helps bring the audience into the courtroom”; while working within the budgetary parameters of the project.
To assist the audience in keeping track of the broad network of conspirators, we were tasked with crafting a visual map to sort, highlight, and connect the dots (in this case the defendants) in a clear effective way. This process involved a strong understanding of the information as well as finesse and timing. The result is an excellent example of how graphics can work to distill large amounts of information into an easily digestible and informative tool that acts as visual guardrails for the story.
For the title sequence, we used a textured, layered design with projection to create a visual metaphor for the legal discovery process and documentation of mounds of evidence.
Overall, we leaned into a creative approach in which all of the graphics and animations throughout the film had a very tactile, real-paper quality that invited the viewer to feel as if they were given access to actual legal exhibits and documents they could lift out of the screen.
HBO Documentary Films
Ford Foundation – Just Films
Finishing by Cut + Measure
Main Title and Graphics by Milkhaus
Director Kristi Jacobson Executive Producers Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, Dyllan McGee, Tina Nguyen, Jihan Robinson Producer Michelle R. Carney, Alexandra Moss Editor Chris Herde Cinematographer Nausheen Dadabhoy Post-Production Supervisor Meredith Latimer Title Sequence & End Titles Chad Herschberger, James Durée, Joe Myers, Alex Parker Animation Producer Cathy Trekloff Interior Animator James Durée, Chad Herschberger Lead Design James Durée Design Chad Herschberger