“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” hasn’t chronicled many happy endings lately, but managed to celebrate a big win on Wednesday night’s episode.
A year ago, “Full Frontal” examined the national epidemic of rape kit backlogs – in which physical evidence from rapes are sitting on shelves across the country, waiting for years to be investigated by police. In Georgia, a bill was recently passed to change that – but it didn’t come easy.
Last year’s story noted how Georgia’s state House had passed an earlier bill to mandate rape kits be prosecuted – but that one state Senator, Renee Unterman, was blocking a similar bill. Eventually, Georgia State Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democrat, partnered with House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, to find a way to trigger the bill to make it to the floor of the State Senate.
In a nail-biting climax, the bill was approved in the final minutes of Georgia’s state legislative session last year.
Last December, while visiting New York, Holcomb stopped by the “Full Frontal” offices, where he recounted the wild tale of how he squeaked out a legislative win.
“We were on the edge of our seat literally as he told the story,” producer Hannah Wright told IndieWire. “He sat us down and told us the whole story behind it, which we didn’t know the extent of, and it was just so dramatic and cinematic. Afterward we realized we had to somehow either do a re-creation with actors or animation, which is what we ended up doing.”
Daniel Spenser Levine animated the piece, which Wright called “Schoolhouse Rock on steroids” (a line actually used in the story).
Then, “we flew down to Atlanta in February and shot with both Scott and Speaker Ralston,” said producer Pat King. “We’ve been working on it ever since.”
Holcomb and Ralston didn’t pull punches when it came time to criticize Unterman for dragging her feet. “That was helpful!” King said. “Everybody involved wanted to tell this story. I think everybody in the country is fed up with gridlock and parties being at each other’s throats. For the speaker and Scott, this was a great way to highlight that we actually can come together, work together to get something done when we have to.”
The original “Full Frontal” piece helped shine a national spotlight on Georgia’s predicament, but the show didn’t take any credit for ending the gridlock. Still, according to Wright, “I remember Scott saying that a lot of his colleagues were passing around iPads on the floor the next day watching the [original] piece.”
Producer Pat King was struck by the spirit of camaraderie in the Georgia State House that led to the bill’s passage.
“It’s a rare example of bipartisanship, people coming together to work on something they believe in,” King said. “It’s also an example of, if you want to make lasting change it takes a lot of work, even when it’s unanimously supported.”
It was also a rare example of aggressive local journalism, especially by Atlanta’s WXIA-TV, which “Full Frontal” picked up on and helped expose to a national audience.
“They were the main source for the footage I was able to find for all the Georgia news going on,” Wright said. “I use them for other pieces. We’ve done a couple of local Georgia stories now. They’re very helpful.”
King said he’s eager to showcase similarly positive stories, even though they’re hard to find. “We are actively trying to look for these bright spot stories that are out there,” he said. “They’re probably not going to be happening at the national level, so we’re looking to states and localities for bright spots in politics today.”
Among the messages King hopes to get to audiences: “Get involved in politics at a local and state level. So much of the time is spent focused on the presidency and Congress that people forget to get involved on a local level. I’m hoping something like this can inspire people to get involved, run for school board, run for their own state legislature, something like that.”
Watch the full report below:
And heres the original report, from 2016: