The Life and Work of Ted Steeg

The Life and Work of Ted Steeg

The late Ted Steeg. Image Source:
The late Ted Steeg.
Image Source:

Have you ever seen Your Turn? How about Protect and Uphold? If you've ever been a prospective juror, then chances are you have. These two films were produced by Ted Steeg, an acclaimed documentarian. The aforementioned movies have been seen by millions of audience members, each of them captivated by what they've witnessed. On July 7th, Ted Steeg died of pneumonia in Manhattan. The esteemed maker of industrial and educational films was 84.

For more than a decade, Mr. Steeg's films were an expected part of the New York jury duty experience. It was as common to prospective jurors as any unoriginal excuse, reluctance and fidgeting on their part. The first of these films, Your Turn, was released in 1997. Its opening scene is a costumed re-enactment of the trial by ordeal, a judicial process back in medieval times where the accused parties were promptly thrown into a lake. Whether they drowned or floated determined their guilt or innocence. It has a running time of 23 minutes and was made for $150,000 with the intent of showcasing the importance of jury duty.

The second film made was 2002's Protect and Uphold. It illuminated the grand-jury process through the life of the rogue frontier jurist, Judge Roy Bean. The narrators included Sam Waterson (Law & Order) and Ed Bradley (60 Minutes). Together, the two films have been witnessed by around six hundred thousand prospective jurors across the state of New York in an annual basis. Both films are acclaimed, with critics citing the prodigious research, high production values and gentle humor as high points. Your Turn was even honored with the CINE Golden Eagle Award, which is given to nontheatrical movies.

Ted Steeg, birth name Edgar Hart Steeg, was born on May 29, 1930, in Indianapolis. He attended Wabash College on a football scholarship. Much later, he fought in the Korean War and went to Columbia University, where he earned a master's degree in Philosophy. Presently, he is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren. Beyond his most famous works, he also presided over Ted Steeg Productions and made other documentaries, such as A Way of Life, which was about his alma mater, Wabash College.