Washington DC, May 30, 2014
Executive Producer Geoff O’Gara interviews Secretary Don Rumsfeld
Behind the scenes with NBC newsman Pete Williams
Making a documentary about Vice-President Dick Cheney, you know you’ll have to go to Washington, D.C., for archival research, b-roll and interviews. With Wyoming PBS shooter Kyle Nicholoff, I spent May 26-30 in the capital, and suffered the expensive frustrations that come with this kind of work, and these kinds of people.
First, we’re dealing with Important People, who are as likely to fly off to Malaysia on a moment’s notice as I am to run off to Thermopolis. Interviews that appear to be firmly on the schedule, evaporate, leaving you with an empty morning to watch the rain drip off the nose of the James Madison statue.
Second, sitting around on a production is EXPENSIVE. You have spent bundles to ship equipment (lights, cameras, etc.). You are paying support crew a generous day rate. You are providing room and board for the folks you bring out from Wyoming.
Third, time is your most valuable asset. When Paul Wolfowitz takes off (Malaysia, that’s right), or Cheney’s heart doctor has a root canal, or NBC spirits Pete Williams off to NYC to do commentary on Edward Snowden, you lose a day and a half of work – and you’re booked to fly out of DC four days later.
But we persisted. We got the doctor three days later (with one cheek still puffy from his dental ordeal), we had a lively session with Donald Rumsfeld, we got Pete Williams back in NBC’s Washington studios (where the guys working the control room generously dumped some DC b-roll onto a disk for us), and had a particularly insightful session with Peter Baker, the Washington bureau chief of the NY Times.
There will be another trip or two to DC, and one to Texas as well, to tell the story of Cheney’s years at Halliburton. We’re pressing – so far unsuccessfully – to add former President George W. Bush to our Texas agenda. He’s not in Malaysia, but he’s painting and clearing brush, and we’re one of many interview requests he’s declined. Who can blame him? A root canal is sometimes easier than talking to us.