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Documentary Sheds Light on How D.C.’s ‘Nerd Prom’ Became a Celebrity Swarm

Journalist Patrick Gavin has covered the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner for nearly a decade, but he’s leaving Politico to put D.C.’s celebrity-driven gala under the microscope of a two-hour feature length documentary.

His project, “Nerd Prom: Washington’s Wildest Week,” will focus on why dozens of celebrities would trek to D.C. at the same time every year to celebrate the White House press corps.

A five-day series of cocktail parties, live-music parties, screenings and brunches and other dinners now surround the Saturday evening event itself, a bit ironic as its growth has come as White House correspondents grapple with new pressures from social media and other digital platforms. Gavin says his project will capture that aspect of WHCA, along with views of the fans of the event as well as those who have criticized the coziness of journalists and sources. Tom Brokaw, for instance, has been critical, saying, “If you go, it’ll steal your soul.”

Gavin, who has been at Politico for five years, has more than 20 hours of footage of interviews with association board members, past headliners, celebrities, event planners and correspondents who have been part of the dinner.

The project is different from a History Channel video that the WHCA will screen at its annual event. The video, featuring interview with President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, will chronicle the origins of the association in 1914, and its evolution over the past century.  The History project, in fact, seems designed to turn the attention of the annual weekend back to its original focus: the White House correspondent.

Photo: Conan O’Brien at the 2013 dinner.

 

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