When SXSW Film Festival producer Janet Pierson introduced filmmaker Jeff Deutchman’s debut doc, “11/4/08” at the fest in March, she said that upon hearing that the young acquisitions executive had made a film, she was immediately curious. Introducing Deutchman at the world premiere, Pierson noted that he is a favorite on the festival circuit and a talented figure in the dwindling U.S. acquisitions arena, where he works for IFC Films’ acquisitions chief, Arianna Bocco.
“Two weeks before the election, I came up with the idea that it would be a day where people might behave differently than on any other day, specifically for the young generation,” Deutchman told indieWIRE about conceiving “11/4/08.” He was curious about the impact of a generation that is considered apathetic.
Deutchman asked friends from around the world to record their experiences on 11/4/08, the day that United States elected Barack Obama as the country’s first black President. He collected footage from both amateur and professional filmmakers, including Henry Joost (“Catfish”), Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths”), Joe Swanberg (“Alexander the Last”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Glory At Sea”). The doc captures voters queuing in Chicago to vote (and the excitement builds when Obama appears), volunteer workers talking strategy, Parisians wondering whether they could ever elect a black leader in their country, a felon in Harlem wondering if any of the so-called “change” will ever affect his life and a round of mass euphoria after the election is called in cities across America, Europe and even New Delhi and Dubai.
The film itself, however, is only one tier of Deutchman’s project. He is continuing to collect footage from that day and though the film is admittedly biased toward Obama supporters, Deutchman hopes that the 11/4/08 website will include supporters of Obama’s rival in the last election, Senator John McCain of Arizona.
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“Very few Republicans have probably seen this film, but I want them to see it,” Deutchman said, “There’s a way of viewing this film that Republicans might characterize the behavior as naive or even manic at times. My hope with the website is to collect footage and encourage all people including Republicans as well as other groups to submit [what they’ve captured] so their voices can also be heard.”
Though the film is a central aspect of Deutchman’s project, it is the website that may lead to an important legacy. He envisions the site as a lynchpin in telling the story of that historical night – a vault that collects and shares history.
“Part of what I’d like to do is [remove] myself from the director’s chair…Now I want people to edit what they saw that day and contribute – whether it’s a mash-up or longer. The idea is to democratize how history is written…At the very least, it’s a good educational resource, but if it’s taken to the radical extreme I hope that it is, the [website] could be the ‘history textbook’ itself. Not just referred to in textbooks.”
Deutchman said he’s always been intrigued by the collaborative nature of filmmaking and is excited by the medium’s natural ability to communicate with potentially large numbers of people. Directing has interested Deutchman since high school and he said he’s “always loved movies.” That love was likely nurtured by his father, Ira Deutchman, who was one of the founders of Cinecom and later created Fine Line Features. The older Deutchman is now at Emerging Pictures.
“I went through normal adolescent evolution gravitating toward the roles that get the most power, and then going for what I’m good at,” added Deutchman. Though he continues to collect footage for the 11/4/08 website, he said he’s in “no hurry to direct” again. But, he said, he is working with a friend who he says has a “great script,” though doesn’t see himself taking on the role of filmmaker on this one.
“In my role as an acquisition exec, I see that there is a lot of content and I don’t want to crowd the marketplace with more content. I want to only do something that I think isn’t being done. And by the way, I’m not necessarily the one to do it,” he said emphatically. “Microbudget filmmaking is something that interests me. These filmmakers I’ve met through the film circuit have come together and realized that they can exchange favors to help each other.”
[Jeff Deutchman’s “11/4/08” will screen during the Stranger Than Fiction series on June 15th.]
ABOUT THE WRITER: Brian Brooks is the Managing Editor of indieWIRE.