Director/producer Todd Cassetty is used to working with pop sensations like Taylor Swift. He produced two Taylor Swift music videos and seven Taylor Swift TV specials -- most notably, her 2010 NBC Thanksgiving Special. More recently, though Cassetty has set his sights on a culture somewhat less predictable than his streamlined singer. In 5 Days in Denver, his first non-music documentary production, Cassetty follows Re-create 68 over a five-day during the 2008 Democratic National Convention here.
You may just remember the group, led by protestors Glenn Spagnuolo and Mark Cohen, whose "overblown protest predictions.. allowed the Denver Police Department to work itself into an orgy of security spending." We certainly do.
Here's the trailer:
Westword caught up with Cassetty this afternoon before the first Denver screening of 5 Days in Denver -- scheduled for tonight on the UCD-Auraria campus at 7 pm (Plaza Building M205) -- to find out why he chose documentary filmmaking.
Westword: Your background consists of production for the music industry. What made you want to create a documentary about politics?
Todd Cassetty: When you do music productions for many years sometimes you want to stretch. I've always been a big fan of documentary and I said, 'Well I want to do that myself.' I was super motivated to do it right before the Republican and Democratic Conventions. I started thinking, 'Well I've never seen an in the moment documentary about modern protesting.' I started looking around online and found this group called Re-create 68.
Can you tell me a little bit about this protest group, Re-create 68, featured in the film?
Re-create 68 was kind of a loose affiliation of activists that got together a year and a half before the DNC [Democratic National Convention]. They started putting together the infrastructure for their protest. They filed permits and sued the city of Denver to get access to permit routs closer to the delicates during the DNC. Each day there were different days of protests for different things: One day was war, another day poverty, and another day political prisoners. This film is basically their story. We came out multiple times and filmed their meetings. We wanted to find out what made them tick and what made them interested in democracy in that way.
Is 5 Days in Denver an objective account of the protests, or was the plot intended to have a political slant?
It's very objective. I was very careful. I didn't want this group's politics to really be a major part of the show. So we really don't delve into their particular political views. It's really more about what happens if you choose to exercise your First Amendment rights in America today. What are the hurdles that somebody has to go through to do that? A lot of the film is about what happens when you decide to do that. So there's definitely no left wing or right wing slant to it at all. It's a story of people that decided to exercise democracy by taking it to the streets -- as opposed to voting in the voting booth.
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So what's next for your career in the film industry? In what direction are you headed?
I still do a lot of music production. But I am extremely passionate about documentary and would love to continue doing it -- see where the next interesting story is.
What can your audience expect at tonight's first Denver screening of 5 Days in Denver?
The most important thing about tonight is the fact that this is the first time the people featured in the film [Re-create 68] are seeing it. I wanted to be there when they see it, and suffer their wrath accordingly depending on how they respond to the film (laughs).