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Trump Stoppers: How Filmmakers Are Making a Difference in Swing States

Top documentary filmmakers are capturing the unscripted concerns of reverends, truck drivers and Republicans in ads that air in the communities where they live.

Filmmaker Heidi Ewing interviews decorated WWII veteran Edward Seiber

Local Voices

Rev. Wayne Robinson

Director: Heidi Ewing (“Jesus Camp,” “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You”)

Wayne, 72, is minister and community leader who says Trump’s misogyny and racism is the opposite of what Jesus taught.

Fort Myers, Lee County, Florida.  TV premiere: 9/19

Ewing wrote the following to IndieWire about making this ad:

“I [stuck] to my doc process but compressed into one day! We wanted to feel a day in the life of this community leader and also give the viewer a sense of intimacy. He’s a man who spends a great deal of time thinking and praying but also working with his own community as an educator so we wanted to illustrate all of that in one minute.

I only spoke to the Reverend only once over the phone so I really only got to know him once I arrived at his home.

The Reverend is very concerned about the election and represents many Floridians who grasp the burden and responsibility of living and voting in the ultimate swing state. As a New Yorker with most of my family here or Detroit, Michigan (both states traditionally vote for Democrats) I don’t know what it’s like to have the whole nation scrutinizing my vote. The Reverend does – and is handling it elegantly as he quietly makes the moral argument against Donald Trump.

It feels satisfying to lend my visual and storytelling skills to a worthy cause like stopping a maniac from becoming commander in chief.”

READ MORE: ‘Will & Grace’ Stars Reunite to Debate Clinton vs. Trump in New Web Short

Denny Smith

Director: Kristi Jacobson (“Solitary,” “A Place at the Table”)

Smith, 78, is former army commander and retired history teacher, who can’t stand Trump’s lies and is convinced “would be a terrible Commander-in-Chief.”

Canton, Stark County, Ohio.  TV Premiere 9/15.

Jacobson wrote the following to IndieWire about making this ad:

“Making this spot was, in many ways, the sprint version of the marathon that is often documentary filmmaking. As always, it’s important to think about what is the story, and what will it look like, and how to find and create an authentic connection with the people we are filming – and ultimately what cinematic choices can we make that will transport audiences into Denny’s world?

His joy and enthusiasm for life was infectious as was his warmth, and his thoughtfulness. This drove our choices – to capture him participating in those things that bring him joy, and that those scenes were varied in terms of energy and meaning – from leading his 12-piece band at church to the more quiet, thoughtful moment out on his fishing boat.

Cinematographer Nelson Hume and I decided to shoot most of the non-interview footage with Denny at 48 frames per second, and sometimes 96 fps as filming off-speed can focus attention and help bring forward the subject rather than they task they are doing. For example, in the boat we are more interested in what Denny is thinking than the act of fishing, and off-speed filming combined with his voice over helps get us there.”

Joan Powell

Director: Rachel Grady (“Jesus Camp,” “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You”)

Powell is a former School Board President and a grandmother, who says Trump is not a role model for the children.

West Chester, Butler County, Ohio.  TV Premiere: 9/7.

James Stepp

Director: Rachel Grady (“Jesus Camp,” “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You”)

Stepp, 29, is a truck driver and a conservative who supported Ted Cruz, but is now voting for Clinton.

Franklin, Warren County, Ohio. TV premiere: 9/15

Grady, writing for the Huffington Post, described her experience working on the Stepp and Powell ads:

“In my job as a documentary maker, I’m lucky to meet and film people from different backgrounds who are kind enough to let me come into their world with my camera. They show me, and an audience of strangers, the things that are special to them in their bubble of lifestyle, politics, or worldview.

So when my colleague, documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch, asked me to join other fellow directors to talk to people in contested counties in swing states about their presidential candidates, I couldn’t resist.

I ended up interviewing two lifelong Republicans in southern Ohio counties.

It felt so useful to have these conversations, not just personally but as a citizen of this country. We need to connect, we are floating silos out there and this election cycle reflects it.”

More Local Voices spots are currently being shot and edited, with two new commercials premiering on Wednesday.

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