(Steve Wise with Jen Feuerstein, Sanctuary Director, of Save the Chimps)
Your output through the years has been really remarkable, so I imagine you have to be really greedy with your time, right?
Hegedus: We sometimes let our passions get in the way sometimes. [They both laugh.] And if the person is trying to take a personal risk. . .
. . . and it means everything to them. Those are type of characters we push for, whether its Jacquy Pfeiffer in our last film "Kings of Pastry," or Steve, who has spent his whole life, really, pursuing this very exacting goal, that he's written books on. He's been so patient in the whole process. That's the type of person you look for, who it means the world to.
But it makes it especially hard for us, as filmmakers, for a project to go on this long without knowing the ending. People like to buy things or fund things when they know the ending. This happens to all our films. It's a gamble. When we were in the "The War Room" with the Clinton campaign I think it was the same thing. If they had lost, it would've had a film about the staff of a losing candidate, a totally unsaleable film.
But did you have a sense, while filming the "The War Room," that Clinton would win?
Pennebaker: It's not a sense, it's like a horse race: You bet. Then that's all you think, that your side's going to win. There was a moment, on Election Day, when something came up from CBS that said we could lose, and I thought, Impossible! What could she be talking about? Once you cast yourself, it's very Roman. You can only see the outcome in your favor.
So do you have a pick this time? Is your side going to win?
Pennebaker: Oh, absolutely!
Hegedus: He's the optimist Pennebaker: If we were only looking for a winner we would never have done "Kings of Pastry," although we assumed he would win because he was so good. But that didn't ruin the film when he lost. It just made us think harder and dig deeper. And in this case, I think [Wise] may well lose. But the people backing him tell you that the issues are going to come up that will never go away. And that's really as important as winning.
Your films so often capture a giant cultural moment. I'm wondering if you're aware of it when it's happening -- and if you feel it with this.
Hegedus: I definitely was aware of it for "Startup.com," because I'd been hearing about what had been happening with all this venture capital money and the Internet and it was really intriguing to me. Some others, when we did "Kings of Pastry," chefs for a time became sort of rock stars for a brief moment, and I think we hit on that.
It's definitely a moment now. It's been there in a lot of different ways, whether it's about people writing about not eating animals or how we're abusing animals in agriculture and the food industry. How smart they are, not just how cute they are, and why we should protect them. It's the time for animals right now.
Is this one of the longest it's taken for you to finish a film?
Hegedus: Getting to be there.
Pennebaker: . . ."The Energy War."
Hegedus: "The Energy War," on Jimmy Carter's natural gas bill, had the longest filibuster ever, that was a really long process. But this is inching into getting to be longer.
And you still don't know when it will end!
Hegedus: And we don't know when it will end.
Pennebaker: He's willing to spend the rest of his life on it. And boy, that's something, you know.
And are you willing to spend the rest of your life on it?
Hegedus: No, but I'm just too curious to not get to the next step.
Pennebaker: He started climbing this miserable mountain, and he knows in a sense, more than we do, what the risks are. And we sort of have to go with him. That's our role. There may be easier ways to make films, but when we pick something, you go with it.