Follow the money. It’s one of the basic rules of investigative journalism, a catchphrase used throughout the Academy Award-winning film, All the President’s Men. The phrase also summarizes the methodology of a Montana journalist as he explores the proliferation of anonymous corporate contributions into American politics. Filmmaker Kimberly Reed in turn followed the story for six years while producing Dark Money, a political thriller with a touch of the Watergate movie’s intrigue, premiering on Nashville Public Television and PBS Monday, Oct. 1, on the POV independent documentary series.
Reed and Dark Money are the focus of NPT’s initial Another Perspective podcast. The podcast was recorded in front of a live audience on Sept. 12, 2018, following a free screening of Dark Money at the First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt University campus. NPT’s Jessica Turk and the Nashville Film Festival’s Robin Robinson talked with Reed, who also answered questions from the audience.
Dark Money was part of the May 2018 film festival, where Turk and Robinson each introduced a screening and follow-up discussion of the film.
“I saw that there was this huge community that loves documentary films and I enjoyed the conversations I was having not only with the filmmakers, but the people who were attending the film,” Turk said. “It made me feel like this was something we needed to explore. NPT had talked about having a digital first property and podcast seemed to lend itself to it.”
A grant from Our America: Documentary and Dialogue made NPT’s Another Perspective possible. “Our America focuses on communities within the Midwest, South and rural areas,” according to Erika Howard, POV’s senior director of Station Marketing and Audience Engagement. The project aims to create spaces for bipartisan discussion in the divisive climate borne out of the 2016 presidential election.
“I’ve seen that for quite some time that podcasting has a way of really engaging people who love documentary film,” Howard said. “It also helps to engage with audiences that are consuming content in different ways. There’s a lot that’s happening in the digital space, on your mobile, your laptop that I think those audiences would love to hear more about public media and should hear more. Maybe the only place they’re going to get it is through the podcast.”
NPT’s Another Perspective audience was not only riveted by Dark Money, but also motivated to act in their own communities. “We had a good turnout, we had a really engaged audience,” Robinson said. “I like a crowd that kind of talks back to the screen, I liked hearing the moans and reactions, the mutters and the gasps.”