Wanted: One Documentary Filmmaker

Lisa and I were at the Waukesha Democratic Party’s monthly meeting at the Labor Temple last night.  I usually go for the coffee and treats and the occasional tidbit I can pick up about what’s happening with the state or even national party.  The people are nice and the coffee is hot.  But last night I heard about something that, in hindsight, needs to be captured for posterity.

Several people in the audience shared their experiences gathering signatures.  They talked about the hate and occasional violence they endured in Waukesha county.  These stories, many funny, some occasionally harrowing, deserve to be preserved for future generations.  The Recall is history in the making and the way people behaved should not be forgotten.

I’d like to propose a model for this effort: The Shoah Project.

In 1994, one year after Schindler’s List won the Academy Award for best picture, Stephen Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.  The goal of the project was to capture stories of the Holocaust in as much detail as possible from the people who survived.

The Foundation conducted nearly 52,000 interviews between 1994 and 1999. Interviewees included Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.

The work of the Shoah project is to record the truth of the history of the holocaust*.  I think it would be valuable to apply the same principles to the recall signature effort in Wisconsin.

Whipped up to a frenzy of crazy by hate-talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling, the Republicans / Tea Party swarmed the recall petition teams around the county (and the state).  Some of the stories I heard just last nigh were (paraphrased):

  • A woman stopped her car to give me the finger.  I wagged my index finger back, scolding her and then pointed to her kids in the back seat silently reminding her of the impression she was making on her own children.  She rolled up the window and drove quickly away.
  • The owner of Albanese’s Roadhouse (next to Menards in Waukesha) threatened to push me into the traffic for collecting signatures.  He later lied to the police about the incident.
  • A guy offered to fight me, I told him he was acting like a school yard bully and he shut up
  • One day I counted over 100 people who gave me the finger
  • People would yell at me as they drove by.  It was funny because I couldn’t understand them at all.
  • When I started to film someone who was verbally abusive, she hit me.
  • At WATC WCTC, an agitated student who objected to our presence said, “You can’t collect signatures on my public property!”

Now I know that Waukesha breeds a peculiarly virulent strain of loopy wingnut, but I’ve heard stories very much like this from across the state.

I’d like to find a documentary filmmaker who’d be willing to capture these terrific stories from the people who braved not just the winter weather, but the vitriol and violence of crazy rightwing nutjobs who, like lice, plague Wisconsin’s body politic.  It will take the sunshine of exposure to eradicate this ugly and brutal infestation.


*No, I am not suggesting that giving someone the finger is the same as the Holocaust.  No, I’m not comparing the Republic Party to Nazis.  No, I’m not calling Scott Walker “Hitler.” I did not say that and it’s clearly not what I intend.  What I’m suggesting that the methodology Spielberg developed for capturing an oral history of the holocaust can serve as a model for capturing the oral history of the signature gathering effort, perhaps as a larger documentary exercise on the whole of the Recall Walker effort.


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15 thoughts on “Wanted: One Documentary Filmmaker

  1. For the record, and I’ve stated this many times publicly, but not so much on Blogging Blue: I am a dues-paying, card-carrying Waukesha Democrat. I don’t always agree with the Dems, and sometimes they frustrate me to no end, but that’s because I am a thinking human being and not a clone.

    I’m proud to be a Waukesha Democrat, and I’m living proof that, despite what some may claim, you can be both a Democrat AND grassroots.

    Didn’t mean to hijack this thread, Phil, but since you included my name in the post, I wanted my position to be clear-thanks!

    1. I would never presume to speak for you… I merely mentioned you were there to add a little color to the story. You brighten any room and enliven any story… 🙂

        1. One of the biggest complaints I get in my hate mail is that I’m biased. Well, of course I’m biased-my tagline is “Liberal viewpoints from conservative Waukesha” and I’ve openly declared that I’m a Democrat who writes op-eds.
          So, I figured, if I made this clear here at Blogging Blue, I could save myself some repetitive hate mail.

  2. There are dozens of community television channels around the state. They’ll accept your programs on DVD. Any such production could reach everyone who subscribes to Charter, Time-Warner, or ATT television services.

  3. WYOU in Madison is very grassroots oriented, and has had a recent infusion of energy through Brenda Konkel, the executive director of Madison’s Tenant Resource Center. I know that they’ve been putting on training sessions as well for use of the production facilities. I’ll forward your request to Brenda — unless you know her and can contact her yourself. She may have some ideas about people interested in working on this.

    1. WYOU Community Television is also launching the Wisconsin Uprising Archive. This is a collection of materials such as videos, photographs, pamphlets and audio related to the democratic uprising that began in Feb. 2011. Materials will be accessible to all online. One of the goals is to aid in the production of documentaries. wisconsinuprisingarchive.org/about.

  4. So how would a filmmaker contact you? I could help if this was something that could be organized in a way to make the project successful.

    There are problems working with local access – not the best way to go here, but if you provide contact info, I can tell you more.

    1. Unfortunately, I’m a writer not a producer/director (“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”) but let me noodle on this a bit.

      This will prompt me to bug Zach (again) for a bloggingblue.com email address… 🙂

  5. I did data entry instead of signature collection because I feared I wouldn’t hold my tongue if confronted by right-wingers. But I relented in the last couple of weeks and collected signatures. I kept still while I was berated as “anti-American” and told to move out of the country by a working-class couple who must have been listening to too much right-wing radio. They felt that recalls themselves are un-American. Of course, it was just too ironic that Walker himself praised the recall election that got him the County Executive post. But when I thought I would burst, I burst out singing “On Wisconsin” at the top of my lungs. I was proud that I didn’t get into an argument and my hecklers were angered but surprised that instead of leaving the area, I was reaffirming my love for it.

  6. I think the owner of Albanese’s is still pissed that Menard’s cut down all the tree’s the used to make it an attractive location. I’ll never know though, because I won’t step foot in the place again.

    1. Long before all this crap happened, my wife and I took her mom out to dinner at Albaneses. The food was appallingly horrible. Smothering the overcooked spaghetti was a ketchup-sweet sauce which tasted like it came from a can. I couldn’t believe how bad it was. So I haven’t been back since and I certainly have no motivation to go back now.

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