10 Questions with ... Todd Cassetty
June 24, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After a stint in record promotion with Warner Bros. Nashville in the late 90's, I started my own digital marketing company in 2000 called Hi-Fi Fusion. We work with all major record companies in Nashville and with multiple artists. In 2006, I also opened a video production company called Todd Cassetty Welding Service (we "weld" stories together...get it?) and we've created television programming for NBC, CMT, GAC, E!, Hub, Comcast-on-Demand and more.
1) Congratulations on producing your first documentary film, "5 Days in Denver," which was just showcased recently at the Nashville Film Festival. For anyone not familiar, can you give a brief description of the film?
Our story follows a group of activists calling themselves Re-create 68 as they organize and protest at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Amidst pepper spray, competing demonstrators and bad press, this controversial band of brothers expose the complexities of modern day protest in America and reveal how difficult it is to exercise First Amendment rights in a post 9/11 democracy. FYI, you can see the film's trailer on our website: www.5daysindenver.com.
2) What prompted you to try and take on such an enormous project?
Our company produces a lot of music-related television programming (specials for Taylor Swift, Scotty McCreery, Reba McEntire and more), so I know enough about production to be dangerous. And since I'm a big fan of feature length documentaries, I've always wanted to make one myself. So in 2008 with the major political conventions on the horizon, I realized that I'd never seen an in-the-moment documentary about protesters at those events and figured that there was a more complex story to be told there.
3) How long did it take, and were there points along the way where you thought it might be impossible to finish?
Since I self-funded the film, there were lots of points where "paying gigs" took precedence over the documentary. In turn, it took three and a half years to finish. Admittedly, it took too long, but I was hell-bent to finish it.
4) Aside from the creator/producer, did you direct the film-how big of a crew did you have?
During the 2008 DNC itself, I had two teams of six people following protesters at different events over the course of eight days. It was a logistical challenge, but everyone on the crew was so passionate about the project, we were able to cover way more than even I expected as the Director & Producer of the film.
5) The film covers the 2008 Democratic Presidential Convention in Denver-what was that experience like in a nutshell, and did you spend a lot of time in Denver?
In addition to the eight days we spent there during the DNC, we also went to Denver four times in the three months leading up to the DNC so that we could cover all pre-protest preparations which included a Federal Court case against the Secret Service and City of Denver, lots of bickering between protest organizations and a large dose of bad press. So, in a nutshell, my experience was that everything involved in the protest process is far more complicated than a "regular American" like me would have ever realized.
6) You covered a group of protestors, who call themselves "Re-Create 68." So, were those people at the now celebrated, 1968 Convention in Chicago? They had to be pretty interesting.
A few of the Re-create 68 member were at the DNC in 1968, but most were not. To me, one of the most interesting aspects of their organization was the diversity of ages, sex, race, etc. It was truly a "melting pot" of Americans who were all joining together for a common cause.
7) How did your opinions evolve about 'protest' in general, while doing this film if at all?
Honestly, I thought I would be making a somewhat entertaining documentary about a bunch of crazies who liked to yell in the streets. I thought I'd see more of what's portrayed on the news: a bunch of bottle-throwing, car-burning nut-jobs. But very quickly, I learned that the people we were following are thinking Americans who just choose to exercise their interpretation of democracy differently than most of us.
8) Is it true that you were sprayed with 'pepper spray' and did you get arrested?!!
On Monday night of the 2008 DNC, a huge group of protesters (and non-protesters) were boxed in by the Denver Police Department on a street in Downtown Denver. It's a big moment in the film when over one hundred people get arrested. And while we were trapped with those people for many hours, the police were somewhat selective in whom they arrested. Fortunately, we dodged arrests somehow, but we did get pepper-sprayed in the fracas that surrounded that night's events.
9) What is the next progression for taking this film to the masses?
So far, we've been invited to five film festivals and will continue to go to as many as will have us. We're also trying to get the film into the hands of distribution companies who can help get the film released on television or in theaters.
10) Will the making of this film take your video/marketing company Hi Fi Fusion in a different direction, and who is running the store back there anyways while you're out there protesting!
Four words: power to the people!
1. Since you made a documentary, name a few that everyone should see.
King of Kong, The Cove, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Dear Zachary, Man On Wire, Hoop Dreams. Control Room, Capturing the Freidmans, Anvil, My Kid Could Paint That. Depending on what you're into, there should definitely be something on that list that interests you.
2. Did you meet some famous Hollywood folk yet? Have any power-lunches at Wolfgang Puck's in Hollywood?
I know Jim Asker at All Access, does that count? Unfortunately, he has never bought lunch.
3. What was the last movie that you and your lovely wife watched?
We have a 3-month-old, so we watch everything on Netflix (where you can watch tons of documentaries as well). Recently we watched All Good Things, an odd but pretty interesting narrative film with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.