The Undefeated, Stephen K. Bannon’s upcoming documentary about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, is the introduction America never got to Palin in the hot political days of late August 2008 and the resignation speech that was never heard in July 2009. It tells the story of a caring, dogged public servant, focusing especially — in close yet compelling detail — on her time as chair of Alaska’s oil and gas regulatory commission and as governor, shaking up a previously corrupt and unaccountable relationship between energy companies and the state’s government. The Undefeated shows the substance behind the headlines, crass websites, and comedy routines about Palin, the mention of whose name always seems to elicit an impassioned reaction.
The Undefeated hits a reset button on the political career of Sarah Palin by bypassing the mainstream media — and even her own bus rides and Fox News spots — and going straight to local movie theaters throughout the country.
The Undefeated also puts controversial conservative media voices Andrew Breitbart and Mark Levin in full and fair view, giving context to their political impatience. In his fearless way, Breitbart’s closing comments will jar and even offend a Washington, D.C., audience.
But, along with introducing Palin, The Undefeated introduces the director himself. He is a conservative filmmaker who has produced documentaries on the Tea Party movement and the fall of the Soviet Union. He was approached by Sarah Palin’s political-action committee late last year to do short videos for the governor, but decided instead to finance an independent feature-length movie, which will premiere this summer in key primary and caucus states, and then be shown in theaters around the country. Here, he discusses his product, motivations, and intentions with NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: When exactly were you approached by Sarah Palin’s PAC?
STEPHEN K. BANNON: The weekend after the election, Conservatives4Palin held a conference in Chicago during which I screened my film Fire from the Heartland and introduced it with a short talk about Governor Palin. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Rebecca Mansour from Governor Palin’s PAC to see if I would be interested in making a short film that could be cut up into YouTube videos regarding Palin’s record in office. I had less than zero interest in that project as I am a feature-film writer and director, and at 57 years old, I have neither time nor the energy to focus on projects that I’m not passionate about.
I discussed with my partners at Victory Film Group and, in particular, Glenn Bracken Evans, my producing partner, about going back to the Palin camp and telling them that we had a strong interest in doing a feature film where we would put up all the money, take all the risk, and have absolute editorial and creative control.
All I would need would be access to several key people in her administration and the political process at the time in order to tell the story. In particular, I needed to meet two key members of the group that was called “The Magnificent Seven”: Marty Rutherford and Tom Irwin. Shortly after we laid out these conditions, Rebecca Mansour and Tim Crawford from SarahPAC came back to me and said okay.
LOPEZ: Why were you keen on telling her story?
BANNON: This woman is one of the most covered individuals in our media-saturated “global village,” yet I felt that she was totally unknown. The real person was hiding in plain sight.
There were two books I read. One was Sarah from Alaska, written by CBS correspondent Scott Conroy and the Daily Beast’ s Shushannah Walshe — who certainly are neither ideologues nor “Palinistas,” yet who wrote a gripping story of her rise from obscurity. In addition to that, the first half of Going Rogue I found fascinating in that it detailed her struggles against the vested interests in Alaska.
The raw material for the story was there, but no one had bothered to put it on film. The risk my partners and I talked about was quite simply: Had the meme about “Caribou Barbie” already been set in stone in the nation’s mind and could we create something that people would at least give the benefit of the doubt to, to watch and consider? Glenn Evans and I argued about this a lot, and finally we decided that not just the American people but even the mainstream media were both fair and decent — that when presented with something that represented a completely different point of view they would be at least open to considering it. With that understanding amongst ourselves we got down to business.