Amy Rice and Alicia Sams' documentary on Barack Obama has been filming since summer 2006, before the president-elect was even seeking the Democratic nomination. But the directors were inspired by the Illinois senator's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and thought he'd be worth following. Actor Ed Norton's Class 5 Films put up some money, the Obama camp provided inside access and now the bet is paying off, and not just because the candidate went all the way: HBO, it was just announced, is paying in the low seven-figures for the film, and theatrical rights are still available. Chalk it up as yet another Obama win against the Clintons!
The Obama documentary, you see, is already set to gross more with just the HBO deal than Bill Clinton doc The War Room, directed by D.A. Pennebaker, which took in around $900,000 all told. Unlike the Obama doc (untitled, it seems), The War Room covered only a portion of the Clinton campaign, after he was already seeking office.
It still made for dramatic viewing, and turned Clinton aides George Stephanopoulos and James Carville into stars. (It also aged well; click the video at top for Carville's end-of-campaign speech to staff.) Will Norton's film likewise make celebrities of some Obama advisors? It's possible! But unlike The War Room, the Obama doc is expected to include plenty of backstage footage of the candidate himself, thus reducing camera time for the secondary players.
An interesting twist: at one point it looked like some of film's distribution proceeds might be headed back in the general direction of the Obama camp. As of eight months ago, Endeavor Agency's Ari Emanuel was the agent for the film. Emanuel, of course, is the brother of Rahm Emanuel, just named Obama's chief of staff. He was also an Obama fundraiser. Reports today credit Endeavour's Graham Taylor as handling worldwide rights; presumably the filmmakers, still in production, would prefer to keep a greater distance from their subject.