Sean Cooley, Andrea Buchanan, Kathlyn Horan, Denise Plumb and Gabrielle Grant just finished editing their new documentary this afternoon, narrowly making the deadline for the Sundance submission by a few hours. Now, sitting in their Craftsman-style, Sunset Boulevard office, surrounded by boxes of T-shirts, the filmmakers drink Diet Coke and discuss women’s rights, specifically April’s pro-choice March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C.
“CNN and C-SPAN covered the march. The next morning it was on the front page of all the major papers, but I don’t think a single headline reported the accurate number of 1.15 million,” complains Cooley. “One paper said ‘300,000,’ another said ‘hundreds of thousands,’ and after that you never heard about it again. It should have been on all the nightly news shows with discussions for weeks.”
If these five friends get their way, people will be talking about the march for a long time to come. The film they just sent off to Sundance, Voice for Choice, artfully and cohesively brings home the current crisis regarding women’s reproductive freedoms in America. Compiled from the footage of 12 camera crews, Voice for Choice focuses much of its attention around the march and includes interviews with high-level pro-choicers, including Senator Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem and Howard Dean.
Cooley, Buchanan, Horan, Plumb and Grant miraculously funded the entire five-month production with the sales of their now iconic “Wax Bush Vote 2004” T-shirts and a $5,000 donation from actress Maria Bello. What’s more, they’re using that grassroots spirit to distribute the film.
Instead of waiting for an offer, or even Sundance cachet, they’re selling the DVD for $10 off their Waxbush2004.com Web site and inviting people to participate in a nationwide night of viewing parties on October 10, by hosting screenings in their homes. Spurred on by the success of MoveOn.org and other grassroots political Internet phenoms, they e-mailed the four thousand people who bought their T-shirts, along with all the co-sponsors of April’s march, asking them to spread the word.
“There will be hundreds and hundreds of screenings before this election,” says Cooley, who has become so impassioned by this process he’s considering going into politics.
Buchanan, who has produced episodes of VH-1’s Behind the Music and Courteney Cox Arquette’s Mix-It-Up, first heard about April’s march through her friend, actress Catherine Keener. Buchanan not only decided she had to go to the march, she knew she wanted to make a film about it too. The others, who share rented office space with Buchanan, got on board after she bugged them relentlessly.
Plumb and her friend Michelle Agnew designed the Wax Bush logo. Buchanan put up money to print the first couple hundred shirts. The group wore them out drinking one night and sold a hundred dollars’ worth on the spot. After weeks of barhopping/T-shirt selling, they threw a benefit in a bar and raised $8,000 from shirt sales alone.
That’s when Cooley, who went to business school, did the math and borrowed $4,000 from his mom, a former nun who is married to a retired LAPD officer.
“I told her I would pay her back that following Monday,” says Cooley.
“In one day at the march we sold $23,000 worth of shirts.”
“Bush isn’t hiding how anti-choice he is,” the Texas-born Buchanan insists. “This isn’t liberal propaganda. For me, this comes down to the separation of church and state. When did it get so skewed? Is it possible that we could get a right taken away? Everyone is like, ‘No, that’ll never happen, there would be civil unrest. But, bullshit . . .’”
“It’s happening,” says Cooley leaning forward. “If Roe v. Wade gets overturned tomorrow, abortion would become illegal in 32 states. This is not a Republican versus a Democrat thing. This is not big government versus small government thing. This is the Bush administration wanting to make this a Christian nation. That means no gays, no abortions — men dominate. That means no tolerance for other religions. What is coming out of the White House is Christian theology in policy. Bush and the people who support him honestly think that this country needs some religious-based moral ethos that supercedes any kind of free will.”
“Bush needs to not get re-elected,” inserts Plumb from the other room.
“There are 21 million women who didn’t vote last election,” says Horan, who wears a white cowboy hat. “It’s really about women realizing their power.”
“Women are the majority,” adds Buchanan. “We’re fifty-one percent. We need to participate. If we don’t, it’s not Bush’s fault, it’s ours.”