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Endgame doc trails Ohio voters

Swing state vote at center of political pic

Jim Stern’s Endgame Entertainment spent the weekend shooting an untitled documentary focusing on the political battleground of Ohio.

Stern, a hedge fund manager-turned-producer, director and financier, usually aims at bigger game. He’s a producer of Broadway’s “The Producers,” “Hairspray” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and an investor in films including “Proof,” “Hotel Rwanda” and “Beyond the Sea.”

But Stern picked up the docu bug when he made “The Year of Yao,” a film about the rookie season of Chinese sensation Yao Ming that has been bought for distribution by Fine Line.

Stern will co-direct the political docu with his “Yao” cohort Adam Del Deo. They planned it as carefully as they could, considering they came up with the idea just a few days ago.

“I was in Chicago, reading an article about how the Republican Party sent 3,600 volunteers in Ohio to challenge voter registrations, and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make a movie about the voting process, as crystallized in Ohio,” Stern said. “By Monday, we had 10 crews crisscrossing the state, finding compelling story lines from both sides.”

Bipartisan cooperation

Despite the late start, Del Deo said both Democrats and Republicans have cooperated with the production. The filmmakers have gone door-to-door with vice presidential candidate John Edwards, filmed California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stumping for President Bush and Bruce Springsteen singing for Sen. John Kerry at Ohio State. They also are trailing undecided voters and closely covering the attempt by Republicans to scrutinize the voting rolls.

“This is the quintessential expression of democracy, and democracy run amok,” Stern said.

Stern and Del Deo, who would not disclose their own political affiliations, were unconcerned by questions of whether anyone will care by the time the film is finished and ready to be submitted for next spring’s Cannes Film Festival.

Del Deo said the specific and nonpartisan focus of their film will make it relevant regardless of how the election turns out.

“A film about what happened in Florida after the last election would have been relevant long after that election,” he said. “This is a serious examination of the most fundamental right we have as Americans. We have to make it entertaining, but we are certain about the relevance of the film’s emotional core. And we’ve taken great pains to get both sides so that it is not dismissed as a partisan tale.”

The field of election docus has slimmed somewhat. For instance, a TriStar docu featuring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog bow-wowed out of the race after the Republicans adopted a “no dogs allowed” policy at the Republican National Convention and locked Triumph’s creator, Robert Smigel, out of the proceedings.

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