“It’s not dissimilar from what we do with a lot of artists here in Nashville,” explains filmmaker Todd Cassetty of his first documentary, set for its Music City premiere tomorrow night (4/19) at the Nashville Film Festival. “We follow them through what they’re doing in the moment, in detail, and tell their story. In this case, it just happened to be a story that involved us getting pepper-sprayed.”
Cassetty, a director and producer who has created television specials for Taylor Swift, and recent pieces for Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, is behind 5 Days In Denver, his first full-length film which follows a group of protestors at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. The film is also an examination of present day First Amendment rights, media coverage of dissent, and the relevance of protest in modern society.
“I’ve always wanted to make a documentary,” explains Cassetty. “And it was 2008, an election year, and I came up with the idea of following protestors through either the Democratic or Republican national convention because I’d never seen a modern documentary that follows protestors in the moment. I found a very organized and focused group that was going to protest in Denver at the DNC. For eight days during the DNC I had a crew of 12 following them around as they took to the streets.”
The group of protesters called Re-create 68, named for the spirit of 1968, rallies against the American government. In Denver in 2008 this included defying federal court orders and ultimately being arrested.
“There’s plenty of drama with police and riot gear and pepper spray and we were right in the middle of all that,” Cassetty continues. “We had gas masks with us, in case we needed them. We had a lawyer on speed dial. But another key part of the film deals with the preparation leading up to the DNC and how this group had to struggle to exercise their First Amendment rights. They had to sue the city of Denver and the Secret Service to get access to parade routes. They were vilified in the media. It was really eye-opening for somebody like me, who’s not very political, to see what these people had to go through. And even if I’m not interested in making a sign and marching in the street, I still feel like people should be able to do that, and I was shocked by how the government does not make it easy. Before this, the only exposure I’ve had to protestors is what most people have had: a sixty second clip on the news.”
The documentary took three years to complete due to Cassetty’s busy career, but it is now making the film festival rounds, timed perfectly during the current election and the DNC next September. He hopes to tackle more socially conscious projects in the future while continuing the entertainment work he loves.
The film’s tagline: Think democracy is easy? Think again. See the trailer below.