First of all, you may be wondering about the double title I use here. Well, I'm in a double title mood because I just saw "Caroline, or Change" at the Guthrie Theatre here in Minneapolis as part of their Tony Kushner Festival, and he gives everything a double, or triple or hella long title-like his new play "The Intelligent Homosexuals Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures". Whew. So just be grateful this title isn't as long.
Now to the real subject. In his first post for this blog, my amazing production partner and co-author, (and now co-blogger) Jason Klamm asks the question-"Why?"
Why would any one want to make a movie or write a book or put up a blog about the Vice-Presidency of the United States? Who cares about this, the most neglected of U.S. government offices-a position about which our first VP, our second President, Founding Father and star of HBO mini-series John Adams said:
"The Vice President is the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
Well, the main answer to me for this question is: "Because NO ONE has done it yet!"
Its the absolute truth, in the history of documentary film-making, there has yet to be one single film ever devoted to the office of the Vice-President of the United States and the men who have held this office-which, technically, is the second highest elected office in the most powerful, influential, and (some would say) greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Doesn't that blow your mind a little bit? That no one else has done this? Think about all the other documentaries that are out there-ranging from everything to Broadway shows, to genocide, Christian summer camps, to animals, the planet, and climate change (made by a former VP you know), to weird artists, both famous and infamous individuals, 9/11, high school football teams, the car industry, financial scandals, guns, Gay Orthodox Jews, health care, religion, and more. Tons of different documentary films have been made-but not this one. Not by anyone, not yet. Not on TV series like "American Experience" on PBS which has tackled the history of the Supreme Court, or individual filmmakers like Ken Burns who has made documentary films about the Civil War, baseball, jazz, WW 2, the national parks (coming up) and individuals-but not the second highest office in our country. Its never be done-or even attempted as far as we know.
FACT: "Vice-Precedence: Being Number Two in the White House" is a completely new and original idea for a documentary film.
Oh, and just a fair warning here folks, but if you try and steal this idea from us, from Me, I personally will make sure to sue your ass back to the dawn of time-whether you believe in Creation in Genesis in the Garden of Eden, or the Big Bang, trust me, I will make sure to send you there with your guts for garters if you try and steal this from me and my friends and partners. I will make you burn. Just putting that out there. Now we can be friends again. 'Kay?
There aren't many new ideas out there-that's why Hollywood and Broadway steal everything from previous sources-but this movie is one! And not to brag, but I, Matt Saxe came up with it! Me. Just a regular guy from St. Louis, MO. with a simple Bachelors Degree in Theatre, (not History) from a public university-(Roll Tide!) who for almost six years made a living wearing a huge werewolf puppet suit to scare tourists in a show at Universal Studios and being a fundraiser over the phone while hustling for acting jobs in La-La Land.
That's one of the reasons "Why" I am so behind this subject and getting this film done. Another reason "Why" I want to do this is something Jason addresses, and that its part of the history of this country. No matter what your perspective of this country is-there is no denying in that the way we have picked our leaders-and WHO, we have picked shows us for what kind of a country we were and are becoming. The fact is that this nations voters (and yes for a long time that meant only white men-a lot of whom owned slaves) have chosen some strange and bizarre people to be a heart-beat away from leading our country. Also, don't get all high and mighty about the fact that we no longer own slaves, we members of the last couple generations are just as guilty of choosing some weird folks for our second highest office as our slave-owning predecessors. Look at some of our recent VP's and VP candidates (I won't name names because its a matter of political perspective) but be honest with yourself-when you were voting for the President, did you ever worry even once about the guy on the ticket with him and what would happen if a tragedy happened and he or she (in 1984 and in 2008) became President? Did you really?
Who our Vice-Presidents were is just as representative of our country as who our Presidents were. Call it an "insignificant truth" if you will, but its a truth none the less, and as John Adams also said: "Facts are stubborn things."
So those answers go into "Why" I'm doing it, and why YOU should be interested in helping us. We need your support, both moral and financial. I will tell you right now-everyone who I have told about this film, has told me they think its one of the most original ideas they have ever heard of and those that watch the trailer and taster on VP William Rufus DeVane King have all told me that its wonderfully funny and fascinating. That includes people who know nothing about history and don't even care about it. Honest. Its been amazing to me.
So please, go to YouTube and watch the trailer there-rate it, post a comment, send it to friends with your endorsement, get the word out on this, your support and encouragement means everything to us. I am always grateful when someone tells me that they have watched the trailer and enjoyed it. Your grass-roots support can make a difference. Any kind of help you can provide we will be grateful for.
In working on this film and the book I have had many incredible meetings and conversations, but none more amazing than with Gore Vidal. Whatever you think of his politics, there is no denying that Gore Vidal is now, the most accomplished writer living in America. Perhaps the world. His body of work, and the quality of his work is simply stunning. Whether in novels, non-fiction, essays, plays or screenwriting, Vidal towers above the American literary landscape. Meeting him and interviewing him for two hours in his home in L.A. was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. When he said "You're better than Ken Burns." when we were finished with our interview, it simply left me speechless. Jason and I had worked hard to make sure we would make our interview with him as smooth and professional as possible. He and I prepared our amazing crew (big thanks to Ben Eshgapoor and Zander Lee) and prepared ourselves thoroughly. I got to conduct the interview and write and ask the questions. I prepared as much as I could-reading and researching, figuring out how one question could lead naturally into another-making sure I knew what I was talking about-Jason went over my questions with me and made brilliant suggestions that aided me immensely. It wasn't an easy time for me-I was experiencing problems in my marriage that would soon lead to my divorce, I was working at the theme park part-time but was for the most part out of work and looking, I was feeling frustrated in all aspects of my life-but hearing Mr. Vidal say what he said when we were finished was one of the highest honors I could have imagined and for that day-I felt on top of the world.
Actually, I guess the most wonderful experience of this project wasn't my meeting with Vidal, but working with Jason and everything we have learned. Together, he and I have become closer friends, and (lets face it Jason) Veep Nerds. Whenever we discovered a new anecdote, a new story or quote, or when we discovered John Denvers' "The Ballad of Spiro Agnew" and sang it to Jasons' roommates, we would practically be-as Phish put it-bouncing 'round the room. Every new discovery led us to being more and more excited and firmer in our belief that this film is meant to happen. I believed in it in late 2004 when I came up with the idea for it, and now, 4 and half years later, I still do.
So please, read this blog, post comments, send us your ideas, pass the info about us on to your family and friends. You won't regret it. Help us make film making history and historical film making that's not only informative but entertaining. As Jason put it so well in his post-we are not ashamed about the comic aspect of this film-its what sells it, and to be honest-the office of the VP is so littered with the ridiculous and the absurd that to not make the film comedic in tone would just be plain stupid.
In this blog as Jason said-I will be concentrating on former VP Richard Cheney of Wyoming (aka Darth Cheney according to Jon Stewart) who has become a major voice for the Republican party at this time. Instead of retreating to a ranch in Wyoming or some corporate figurehead role, and fading into the past, Cheney has become a bullhorn for conservative beliefs and values in the wake of his party's defeats. While at the same time-expressing his personal beliefs as well-regardless of what others may think. While most Democrats wish he would disappear (and probably many Republicans too) Dick Cheney bravely puts himself out there and opening himself to more ridicule and vitriol-defending the decisions he and those in the President George W. Bush White House made-about what to do after 9/11, the Iraq War, torture, social issues, and more. He's not a stupid man, he can read a newspaper-he know he isn't popular, but still, he states what he believes in a "Damn the torpedoes-full steam ahead" manner. Including invoking the wrath of his own party by voicing his support for gay marriage! Whether you hate him or not-Cheney refuses to back down. Call it courage or stubbornness or what you will-I know I am looking forward to his book. It is my hope that you will follow Jason as he writes about our current VP Joseph Biden from the First State-Delaware, and myself as I write about Cheney and other Veeps on this blog. Please support "Vice-Precedence:Being Number Two in the White House" in all its forms, blog, book, and with your help-finished documentary film. Thank you for your support and best to you.