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Fifth Annual Festival
Director: Gabriel Cheifetz
Producer: Phillips Community Television
Winner of the Jury Award
Sponsored by Netflix
ABOUT THE FILM
More About Battleground Minnesota from Director Gabriel Cheifetz
Chris, Glenn, and I had worked together before on projects for Phillips Community TV (PCTV); in fact, that was how we met. When Minnesota was officially declared a “battleground” state, in the spring of 2004, I wanted to investigate what that meant exactly, for all of us as Minnesotans, and do it in a way that wouldn’t be completely boring—especially for younger people. I only had a vague idea of what the piece was going to be about when I first approached Chris and Glenn. I had worked with Glenn a bunch before on other PCTV stuff, and I had seen Chris host Our Turn, which is a great local access cable show that PCTV produces. At the beginning I had some sort of lame ideas for what we should do—stuff that was sort of dangerous, and that’s pretty embarrassing to talk about now. Luckily, Chris and Glenn quickly took over a lot of the creative side, brought in music that they produced on the spot, and basically turned the film into what it is.
It was super tough to get Battleground Minnesota done in time for the election. It was what you would call a “hard deadline,” and we just barely did it. We wanted to do screenings all over the Twin Cities, and hand out free DVDs at the screenings. Unfortunately there were lots of delays with the DVD duplication, so we wound up, Chris, Glenn and I, at the Kinko’s in uptown Minneapolis, late at night, making color copies of an early version of the DVD art and sticking them into the plastic sleeves on the DVD cases. There were dozens and dozens—I forget how many—and we would carry plastic sacks full of finished DVDs from the Kinko’s to the car, going back and forth. Luckily we eventually got funding from Target and Best Buy, which both have their headquarters in the Twin Cities, as well as a bunch of very generous individuals. So we were able to have DVDs made professionally and in bigger quantities.
Once we had a lot of DVDs, Chris and Glenn and I would drive around, handing them out. Chris was really into giving them to the people at the McDonald’s drive-thru window. So they would hand us our three medium fries or whatever, and Chris would hand them a DVD. We also did a bunch of screenings at high schools in the area, with a sort of Q&A session afterwards. The response was usually pretty good, except for at this one high school, where the projector was really blurry and the students all got bored and tried to run us out of there. A lot of people—way more than we would have guessed—also saw the broadcast on TPT, the local PBS station, and Chris would get recognized on the street, on the bus and even at the polling place when he went to vote.
We had all figured that no one would care about Battleground Minnesota after the election, but there’s still interest. Just today, actually, Chris’s principal at Volunteers of America Alternative High School called up and said he was going to get 1,000 more DVDs made, which is fantastic news. Meanwhile, Chris and Glenn and I are still working together. At the moment, PCTV has us working on a video with a youth group at Kwanzaa Church in North Minneapolis.