Interview with Filmmaker  Melissa Jo Peltier (THE GAME IS UP: DISILLUSIONED TRUMP VOTERS TELL THEIR STORIES)

THE GAME IS UP: DISILLUSIONED TRUMP VOTERS TELL THEIR STORIES was the 2021 winner of BEST FEATURE FILM at the POLITICAL Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

From early 2017-2018, I watched with bemusement on Twitter as right-wing radio shock jock/Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh came out of the box as a fierce Trump supporter, then, in real time, started to look at the reality of what was happening and asking actual questions. By the summer of 2018, he had become a strong Trump opponent; by 2020, he was running for President against him.

My thought was that there must be a lot of Joe Walsh’s out there – honest, well-meaning ‘conservative’ Americans who signed on to the Trump Train in good faith, but whose eyes were not blinded to the myriad facts on the ground that his presidency was systematically (perhaps deliberately?) destroying the country.

I wanted to tell their stories, to give others who were perhaps asking the same questions in silence courage to change their minds

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

My original idea for the film was in late 2017; but even after a lifetime as a worker bee in TV & film storytelling, I’m still hopeless at raising money, so I had no idea who would pay for such a project. All my feelers to potential funders (including the Democratic party) fell flat. There were a series of events that made me think (hope?) that the film wouldn’t be needed. After all, there was the Mueller report, the first impeachment, scandal after scandal – but all these damning events seemed to only harden Trump’s hold on his defenders.

Finally, in early 2020, I realized if Trump were re-elected and I hadn’t used my lifetime skill set to try and so SOMETHING about stopping it, I would never forgive myself. I contacted political friend and TV production colleague Mary Kerry Craven, who had set up a very successful political PAC in 2018, to see if that might be a way to fund the project. She believed it would be, so Mary, attorney Dirk Schwenk & I set up “American Dignity PAC.” a non-candidate related “Blue” PAC. I knew nothing about PACs and as it turned out, this wasn’t the ideal fundraising mechanism for a creative arts project (and in fact, blocked us from access many funding sources), so after raising about $35K, the production company my husband filmmaker John Gray & I set up to make independent features and shorts stepped in , took over and made up the bulk of what ended up being about $150-$200K total.

Our goal was to finish before the election, but because we had to piecemeal our post production due to shortage of funds, we were only able to release two of the stories on social media before Novemeber 2020. We DID hold a series of webinar panels and talkbacks with the stortytellers and experts on the film, which exist on our website and were well-attended, but the final film wasn’t locked until early summer of 2021.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

“Danger, danger!”

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The shortage of time to research the breadth of stories we wanted to be able to choose from; plus the lack of funds were obvious obstacles.

But the KICKER was that one month into filming, the whole world locked down because of COVID 19. In March of 2020, no one knew how long it would last, the effect it would have, or to what extent it would change the nation – so it took us about 6 weeks of paralysis and running in place to decide to attempt to think outside the box in terms of virtual production.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I can’t describe the feeling of appreciation and relief that the audience got EXACTLY what we were setting out to do with the film. Speaking for the entire team, we were overjoyed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

My Dad taught me to edit Super 8 films in the 70’s when I was a little girl; I’ve known since then.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

“Singing in the Rain” was my favorite film growing up. My Dad had a 16mm projector and would show it to me and friends…I loved it because it was a fun romantic musical that was about making movies, and about the history of the movies, of which my Dad was a historian.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

The best experiences I’ve had at festivals involve seeing other filmmakers’ work, networking and making new friends and colleagues. While working on films, we all feel like the heartaches and frustrations are ours alone – but meeting other indie filmmakers and storytellers is the best way to heal that loneliness.

9. What is your favorite meal?

LOL – probably breakfast

10. What is next for you? A new film?

We have a selection of goals for our next political films, but are in the same boat as before – we need to raise money. I’m never going into full blown production without funding again…it was just too stressful.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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