For today’s #FilmmakerFridays piece, we interviewed Harry Thomason. Harry directed the documentary THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT REDUX, which was released on Digital HD and DVD earlier this month. Thomason tells us how he got involved with the project and why he decided to pursue a career in filmmaking.
1) Tell us a little bit about your background and why you decided to go into filmmaking?
I started (and loved) my career as a high school football coach in my home state of Arkansas, ending up in Little Rock. After six years of coaching, the staff I loved was about to split up – all taking higher jobs. I was also a graphic arts teacher at the high school and had always dabbled in photography. It got me thinking that this would be a good time to get into the film business.
One late afternoon, I went downtown and managed to see the president of an advertising agency representing a guy running for governor and told him I wanted to shoot his political commercials. I showed him some storyboards I’ve created, took a deep breath and told him, “I will shoot these commercials and if you don’t like them – don’t pay me.” He then looked at me and said, “Well, this is not going to work and you are going to lose money – but what the hell! We’ve got the time to re-shoot with a real crew. You get the client Saturday morning for three hours. I have couple of minor changes to your copy.”
The next morning, I asked a couple of our athletes to be on the crew and by Friday night, we were all at the location trying to imagine how film crews acted and what the lingo should sound like. The next day, the candidate for governor showed up – he had no idea that it was a group of coaches and jocks shooting his spots; and so we began filming. It was quick, concise and we had rehearsed so much – we seemed to know what we were doing! Before the shoot was over, the agency guy whispered to me, “Come by Monday morning for your first check and don’t ever tell anyone this happened.”
The candidate won his primary and I decided to stay in the film business. That same agency supplied me with lots of work opportunities.
2) What ultimately lead to your decision in releasing a new version of ‘The Hunting of President’?
I thought it was important to release the completely updated THE HUNTING TO THE PRESIDENT REDUX because America needs to see this film. Quite candidly, you need to see it whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. This film shows how opponents and the media can create false narratives about people. They can make you believe things – if they say it for years – that are absolute lies. People have no idea who the real Hillary Clinton is and never will because this family has been punished for so long. No wonder you doubt her – if I hadn’t known both families for forty years, I might feel the same way.
It is so damn important to see this film because in the end – it won’t be one party but one united group of Americans from both parties that will keep this country together. It’s exciting to view the new film to see what some people that were part of the campaign against the Clintons in the nineties are saying now. It’s actually stunning!
3) What do you want people to take away from this film?
Even though the film got spectacular reviews, the film’s first version was not seen by many because people from the Bush administration put extreme pressure on news and exhibitor organizations not to give it airtime. Looking back on it now, they had just won and were playing hardball with their new power but were not necessarily bad guys. Now, across all walks of political life – left and right – there are professional disruptors that try to damage as many lives and careers as possible and are making compromise almost impossible. I have multitudes of people from the other party who have been lifelong friends (as I am sure the readers do). In order to stop our country from spinning totally out of control, we are all going to have to band together and fight back against extremists on both sides.
4) Are you working on any upcoming projects?
We are working on a great project called DOWN THERE, based on a true story that won the BAFTRA award as a documentary (Southern Comfort) by Kate Davis. It is a remarkable story about a group of trans-gen people living in rural Georgia. We are just beginning to put together funding for it.