IOP Hosts Premiere of HBO Film
On Thursday night, the Institute of Politics hosted the premiere screening of “Game Change,” an HBO film based on the best-selling book that chronicles the 2008 presidential race.
While the book examined the Republican and Democratic nominations in addition to the general election, the film chose to focus on the campaign of Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin.
In a panel discussion after the film screening, filmmakers explained how they selected parts of the book to highlight in the film.
“There were lots of stories in the book, and we were initially interested in doing the Hillary and Obama story...but it didn’t really pop in a way that we felt was going to really gain momentum,” said Len Amato, the president of HBO Films.
The film highlighted Palin’s experience campaigning alongside McCain. Amato said that HBO felt that Palin’s surprising nomination and the fallout that ensued afterward made for a poignant story line.
“The Palin story had all the elements that make a great story: a compact time frame, colorful characters, an underdog story—it has elements that are very relatable,” he said.
Mark E. Halperin ’87 and Harvard Kennedy School graduate John A. Heilemann, the two journalists who co-authored the book, also sat on the post-screening panel. The authors said that they were impressed overall with HBO’s treatment of their book.
In an interview prior to the screening, Halperin and Heilemann said that they had an “elaborate relationship” with the director and screenwriter of the film. The pair said that they worked very closely with the filmmakers to ensure that the movie accurately captured the emotional energy of the campaign.
Halperin is Time Magazine’s senior political analyst, and Heilemann writes politics pieces for New York magazine.
Heilemann said that the book emphasized the “human” aspect of the race.
“We tried to get as far behind the curtain as we could, to tell this as a deeply human story, and to show how these famous people experienced the campaign,” he said, adding that the movie took a similar approach.
During the panel discussion, audience members asked the authors to respond to the charges of bias and inaccuracy some have made against the movie.
Halperin pointed out that many of those critics have yet to watch the film and also noted extensive interviews with campaign insiders that supported the film’s representations.
“As with the book, [the film] was based not on opinion or analysis, but reported facts,” Halperin said.
Halperin and Heilemann said that they conducted over 350 interviews with those involved in the campaigns for their book. Screenwriter Danny Strong did additional research on McCain and Palin just for the film.
“The book and the film are as balanced, accurate, and fair a portrayal of Sarah Palin in those 60 days as anything that’s been done,” Halperin said. “There are many favorable things to be said about the job she did, and about the difficult challenges she faced...and there is a lot to Palin that is polarizing.”
—Staff writer David Song can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.