Why Does Reality Disappear From the Screen? Is It a Glitch?

HBO’s ‘Reality’ follows the story of Reality Winner, an ex-U.S. Air Force officer who was arrested and imprisoned for the mishandling of highly classified documents. In 2017, she leaked a document related to the involvement of Russian military intelligence in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections to an online news outlet. Soon after, the leak was tracked down, and Winner found herself talking to two FBI agents while her house was being searched.

Co-written and directed by Tina Satter, the film presents the whole incident as it really happened. Every dialogue in the script has been pulled verbatim from the transcript of the real-life interrogation of Reality Winner. This shows how far the filmmakers have gone to keep things realistic in the movie. However, there are points where it seems to cut off from reality. During the interrogation, several glitches happen where the actors suddenly disappear and reappear on the screen. Why does that happen? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Secret Behind the Glitches

One of the things that set ‘Reality’ apart from other movies based on a true story is that it doesn’t change the words spoken by real people. In the entire film, everything spoken by the actors is exactly what Winner and FBI agents Wally Taylor and Justin Garrick said. Satter came across the transcript while reading an article about Winner and noticed it was redacted in some places. It was not unexpected, considering that the interrogation deals with a highly sensitive matter of classified information. But it also intrigued the director in terms of how such a thing could be presented on the screen.

When Satter read the transcript, she saw it in the form of a play or the script of a movie. When she adapted it for the screen, she decided to stick to the transcript and not change a single word. However, things were more complicated when it came to the redacted part, and it looked like she might have had to fill in the blanks to give a proper conversation to the audience. But then, she saw the redacted parts as something that had been erased from the conversation, so she used the same approach when presenting those parts on the scene.

“I knew I wanted to try to honor those redactions, which are literally in those parts of the transcript, which are then in the screenplay, and so was nervous and excited to get to that part of the work and had written in some gestures towards it into the script,” she said. A conversation with her editor led her to think about the whole idea of reaction. “What is a redaction? It connotes power and control, and then something has disappeared. So it’s like, ‘What if we disappear the actors in those moments?’” she added.

Satter also discussed the idea of showing the redaction on screen with her production designer, Tommy Love. He showed her the instances where he’d previously shot a video and degraded it completely. Satter loved how that worked for the movie, “And those glitches that are happening around them were another whole experimentation. They’re actually degraded video of content that is actually related to what is being redacted, like news stories or other things. So they’re a secret kind of layer because they’re just blips.”

Satter mentioned that some of those glitches “are made from distorted Fox News and other things that are then run through his weird artistic process and editing treatments. But there are actual layers of referential relevant stuff each time they appear.” This adds another layer to the story, which is already so compelling. It gives the audience more food for thought. However, the bottom line of this approach was of “making this really specific package that had meaning to us and then also did something visually was really the goal of those redactions and how they worked on screen.”

Read More: Why was Reality Winner Arrested? How Long Was She in Prison?