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Operation Infektion: Fake News from Cold War to Kanye

3x18’ with The New York Times (2018)

Operation Infektion is a major three-part series released by The New York Times, which I co-wrote and directed alongside Adam B. Ellick.

Click here to watch it on The New York Times website

It premiered at the SVA Theatre in New York and was broadcast on the BBC World News Channel.

The story

Set over fifty years of recent history, it’s a rip-roaring Cold War spy caper but with serious consequences.

It tells the incredible true story of how the KGB perfected the dark art of dezinformatsiya, a strategy of creating and spreading incredible lies as a form of warfare.

Larry Bittman defines Disinformation

Today it goes under a different name: fake news.

Interviewing real life KGB defectors and the government agents who hunted them, we reveal the step-by-step recipe for creating disinformation. It’s a strategy developed by the KGB and now, under Vladimir Putin (with the help of a certain US President) it has gone viral.

Donald Trump's fake news

Production process

Operation Infektion is the very best of New York Times journalism combined with my own style of visual storytelling.

Starting with more than a year’s worth of reporting by Adam Ellick, I began by creating a broad story design for a three-part series. The incredible story of how the KGB spread the fake story about the HIV virus had great visual and narrative potential and we decided this would form the core of our story.

During pre-production in the autumn of 2017 we scripted and storyboarded the series, establishing the virus metaphor that would be central to the telling of the story.

Due to the complexity and density of information required to tell the story, I used repetition to parse out key information so the audience is not overwhelmed.

And above all, we wanted it to be fun! From the very beginning, the KGB’s campaign struck me as being like a heist movie, so we scripted it to feel like a fast-paced caper, with vintage imagery and light music cues.

With NYT cinematographer Jonah Kessel, we shot interviews with our subjects during January-February 2018 and commissioned bespoke animations from motion house Peprally and artist Tom McCarten as well as sound design from Love+Radio’s Nicholas Van Der Kolk.

I created additional motion graphics as well as editing and narrating the series.