It all started in December 2019. It was supposed to be with two Conservative Hollywood stars, talking about Donald J. Trump, his policies and the vitriol he faces from his opponents. One was an Oscar winner, a Hollywood royalty. The other, the outspoken/loudmouth Queen/Bitch/Witch of the US network television shows. That was the production and it was easy because they were safe harbors: I knew them and they knew me because they were dear friends of Daphne. Plus there was the 45th president of the US in the big picture.
“What — I worry?”
I, Erbil Gunasti, producer of this documentary and partner of Daphne Barak, director, was familiar with lots of celebrities. Daphne who is also, author of “Saving Amy” or for that matter “scooper of the scoopers,” delivered time and again, the biggest rating making exclusive sit-down interviews to the US network television prime time news shows like ABC 20/20, CBS 48 Hours, or Dateline NBC had introduced me to a lot of her famous friends and colleagues over the past two decades. So, it was supposed to be an easy production. Piece of cake for someone who has also been behind hundred or so big at home sit-downs Daphne scooped.
When we started filming by April 2020, it became an altogether different production. Now, it was time to meet a new set of, talented, accomplished, hard-working, and decent Hollywood personalities or musicians or rappers, and then an athlete, a comedian, a reality tv star, a radio host, one of the biggest producers of Hollywood and equally big director. Meeting anyone first time is always a tenacious journey. But when these meetings were to take place during Corona quarantined days, it seemed to be an even bigger task than what could they have been. We were to reach out to famous personalities in their own right that we did not know or had mutual friends with while they were afraid to meet anyone of their close relatives not to mention some total stranger walking into their lives with tons of equipment and company because of the epidemic.
The next step was even more of an impossibility. How, where and when to set up the stage to film also become a task for the ages, due to Corona restrictions. First of all, there was no place available to film. Studios and hotels were closed. Going to the home of the celebs was not a big option either because homes were crowded places during an epidemic when loved ones congregated in one place during such an emergency, we learned. Coming to our spacious country club homes was their option but that required them to take a trip when no one was traveling because of the epidemic. So, it was a production!
Yet, no one changed their mind once they decided to take part in it. Basically, no one had a second thought. Simply, no one walked out from the set! Everything seemed and was “kosher” for everyone on the set. Interviewee, the crew of two, and us – producer and director, were it and we were keeping our distances in check and with masks, most of the time, especially when not filming. It was a production to witness.
In the end, there were more than two dozen interviews conducted. Who does that many within two-month span, not to mention when no other production would dare in America, scared of the epidemic but also because of the impositions by authorities and social pressures! Considering we also had to put up with the inconsistent and out of this world restrictions of some states, and two of them being the leading liberals, California and New York. During this one of a kind journey, we also witnessed the difference between divided America, how Texas and Florida kept the life and death decisions to individuals, while the liberal states imprisoned everybody by restricting everything like a Communist Russia or China would.
Wash DC was a story in itself. It was like Moscow in February during the hot summer months. Stately buildings, row after row, separated by equally very large streets that turned them into blocks were all void of humans. Not a soul around. Hotels, restaurants, stores were all closed. The only hotel that was able to accommodate us during one of the filmings had only two floors open where the lights were turning on and off if we walked as the sole customer of the hotel. Mind you this is a five star historic hotel near White House where there was no bell boy to pick our luggage over the stairs, not to mention someone had to unlock the door for us to get into the lobby. Don’t even bring the issue of service inside the hotel or food: No bottles of water, coffee or anything in the rooms.
It was a production. How we exactly did it is another story. Never mind getting on a plane and what to do when inside a cabin: It was a production on how to get a plane in the first place. Mother of all productions, if only Saddam was alive to compare.