City College of San Francisco Ethics of The Bridge Documentary Discussion

City College of San Francisco

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I don’t understand this Law question and need help to study.

1. Should the makers of the documentary have tried to intervene in any of the twenty-plus suicides they witnessed? Why or why not?

2. If a local news crew had been on the bridge (covering another story) at the same time as a jumper - and they recognized that the person is about to jump, would their obligations be any different than the documentary crew? Exlpain.

3. Is there any merit to complaints that the documentary might encourage "copycats" among those struggling with suicidal thought? Explain your answer.

4. Does Eric Steele's dishonesty in obtaining a permit to film the bridge and the jumpers negate the integrity of his documentary? Discuss your answer in light of Utilitarian ethics.

5. Is there a difference between how a Utilitarian such as Mill would view the decisions made by the documentary crew and how it would be viewed by a Deontologist such as Kant? Discuss how their views might differ.

Here are some reading materials for reference:

The Bridge (Documentary) Full/Complete (Links to an external site.)

READ: Comments on The BridgeLinks to an external site.

There's been many reports and analysis of The Bridge and Steele's methods. You may do some research online and use the information you find, but you must cite that source in your answer.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

READ: About The Bridge Excerpt from “Dying in Full Detail”: Mortality and Duration in Digital Documentary By Jennifer Catherine Malkowski To record almost two dozen suicides for The Bridge, Steel devised a rigorous and methodical production plan. He and his crew kept four digital video cameras trained on the bridge’s pedestrian walkway every day from dawn to dusk during 2004. The cameras were split between two stations overlooking the structure from nearby coastland – one on the northeast side, one on the southeast side – and each station was continually staffed. Each operator manually controlled a camera fitted with an extreme telephoto lens, which they zoomed close enough to track individual bridge walkers. The operator decided whom to follow in these telephoto views, “[using] whatever instincts he or she possessed to try to determine who might climb over the rail,” as Steel explains. The other camera was framed for a wide shot of the bridge, only requiring the operator to change its tape every hour. The crew recorded footage of most of that year’s 24 suicides, striving for maximum visibility in their cinematography: zooming as close as possible to try to capture the act in its entirety, from the climb over the railing to the splash in the water below. In addition to this elaborate bridge surveillance, Steel shot around 120 hours of interviews with the jumpers’ friends and family (and also with medical and psychiatric professionals speaking about suicide, though none of their interviews made it to The Bridge’s final cut). Rounded out by vivid shots of the Golden Gate Bridge from many angles in all manner of weather conditions, the production accumulated more than 10,000 hours of footage. That gives the 93-minute documentary a staggering 6,500:1 approximate shooting ratio – a statistic that, among other things, demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that The Bridge never could have been made on celluloid. During his production phase, Steel went to great lengths to conceal his surveillance of the bridge from the public. As he explains, “My biggest fear was that word would get out about what we were doing and someone that wasn't thinking clearly would see it as an opportunity to immortalize themselves on film.” In that scenario, Steel would have become the snuff filmmaker he is accused of being, in a strange way, by capturing real deaths that were indeed staged for his camera. The other side of his covert operation, though, is that the production records jumpers without their knowledge, let alone informed consent – a factor that combines with their impending deaths to give them no agency in their representation. Making sure to avoid actively attracting jumpers does not ethically exempt the production from intervening in the jumps that happened on their own. Unsurprisingly, the intense “fly on the wall” technique that the extreme telephoto lenses enable has attracted a great deal of suspicion about low-level complicity in the recorded deaths. Crew members all had the bridge patrol’s emergency number on cell phone speed dials and would reportedly call in whenever someone began to climb the railing. By setting rail-climbing as the criterion for making a call, though, the production’s involvement would almost always be too late, as many of the depicted jumpers express little hesitation once they make that climb. This element of intervention exists in tension with the larger goal of the project: to get the footage he set out to capture, Steel must train his cameras on some suicides that he cannot or does not prevent. ...
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Question 1
The makers of the documentary had the upper hand to avoid more deaths from
occurring since they had cameras fixed at the bridge. Therefore, they could monitor the
behaviours of individuals who seem to have a motive for committing suicide. Even though
they called once someone started climbing the railing to the bridge patrols, it was not enough
because the time that the person took to jump into the water after climbing the railing could
not allow the bridge patrols to save them (Blaze_007- Eric Steel, 2019). They should have
tried to intervene once they saw someone through their cameras behaving weirdly and not
wait until the person started climbing the railing since, at that time, they could not be saved. I
believe that the makers of the documentary w...

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