I've generally avoided this little contretemps, as other, abler hands have tackled it. In fact, I was originally sympathetic, as a lot of the earlier press was about what crappy credits the writer and director had. That's unfair -- as Ken Levine once showed by posting the previous credits of The Sopranos writers. Then, however, the writer and director turned out not to be journeymen, but brave vanguards of the Insurrection against Liberal Hollywood. Ahhhh. Beside the sheer stupidity on ABC's part of not having a fact-checker or two around, there is --
-- actually, sidebar. Some people have expressed amazement that the ABC or Disney folk could let such a blatantly false "documentary" get so far along the production cycle without realizing what was up, and suggest calmuny. I would disagree. TV executives are not dumb, but they are hellishly busy, and their lives are 24/7 television. I assure you, not a one read the 9/11 Commission Report (full disclosure -- I just skimmed it for the naughty bits). Hell, most don't even know who Sandy Berger is, or the difference between Sunni and Shiite. Again, not because they're ignorant, but they have shit to do -- namely running one of the only American industries with a positive trade balance, thank you very much.
My point being, they are very easy to lie to, primarily because they are not expecting someone to lie to them about such important stuff. I would bet my mortgage that the following conversation occurred at one point during a notes session:
ABC EXEC: Jesus, I can't believe that we had Osama right there and this Berger idiot let him go. And Albright actually called to warn Pakistan? Did that really happen?
CYRUS NOWRASTEH: (dead straight face) Yes.
ABC EXEC: Wow. Just ... wow. Good work.
Oh, and yes, I did just use the word "lie." The findings of the 9/11 Report may be up for debate among reasonable people, but claiming you are filming incidents from the 9/11 Report, that are not actually in the 9/11 Report -- that is a lie. I have done many unpleasant things in my career. But I know the difference between "Inspired by true events", "Based on a true story" and "The official true story, totally true, it's documented and everything" as a credit.
Where was I? Oh yes, there is a small industry aspect to this we may find interesting. Lance Mannion starts it, and all I can do is add a little.
Of course Jason Apuzzo and Libertas are wrapped up in this foolishness. Although I hadn't heard they were now partnered with Horowitz's slush fund. There's a new form of hack welfare in Hollywood, and I want a taste.
There's nothing wrong, of course, with an advocacy group financing films they believe in. Before, I've defended Libertas and the Liberty Film Festival, in principle, even as I've slammed the fact that the guy running it plainly doesn't know anything about working in Hollywood other than a.) he'd like to and b.) he can't cut it. If you handed Libertas to one of the many working screenwriters or directors of a conservative bent (I can name five off the top of my head), it would make a lot more sense. Of course, the problem is, those working screenwriters and directors are all busy out there actually making movies
Which is the real problem, and one of the reasons the show was a creative train wreck. (Catwoman didn't get such bad reviews. And I know for a fact that movie was so bad, it once went out and got drunk and killed five small adorable orphans with its bare fucking hands.) It can all be summed up in the mission statementof the organization the director, David Cunningham, helped found, The Film Institute:
"dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry."
Nothing about making good films or television in there. Just fighting the corrupt system, baby.
Now, just for a lark, let's look at the front-page mission statement of Apuzzo's opposite number, the liberal-bent production company Participant Productions:
"Participant believes in the power of media to create great social change. Our goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all."
If you can't see the difference, stop typing, because you ain't going to be a screenwriter.
The Libertas Syndrome is actually symptomatic of one of the factors of when you're recruiting for an insurgency. (Stay with me here). You have a system you want changed. You have money. What you need are people who are disaffected by the system. Resentful of the system. People to whom you can say "Hey, your lack of success isn't your fault. You are being thwarted by the system! Work with me to TEAR DOWN THE SYSTEM, MAN." (note that this is regardless of conservative of liberal bent. It's just how one does these things. I've used a variant of the technique myself.)
The problem with using this technique in Hollywood is that, therefore, 90% of your recruits are going to be people who just aren't flourishing in the industry. And, per Sturgeon's Law, that will be because most of them are shit.
The other 10% just want the work, and are willing to write or direct anything you want, regardless of quality, to advance your agenda so they get paid. That's not going to end well, either.
This was particularly a problem with The Path to 9/11. You have an agenda, and want to make a good show. Problem is, the facts in the 9/11 report don't support your agenda. So you need people with so little artistic integrity, they'll just out and out lie about the biggest tragedy in recent American history. People with such little artistic integrity will not be able to make a good show. And the vicious circle closes.
Ironically, any halfway decent screenwriter/director pair could have made that mini-series and made Clinton look like an ass without inventing anything at all -- but that would have required a talent for subtlety evident in a level of professionalism that would make writing propoganda ... distasteful.
Indeed, the crucial difference in the various approaches to advocacy film-making hinges on the fact that, despite what its critics say, Hollywood is pure capitalism at its finest. The difference, simply, is:
TALENT: "I am a working actor/writer/director who has proven myself in the marketplace. I would like to make my movie I love, that has an agenda, but is not mainstream."
HOLLYWOOD: "Here, we will invest money commensurate with your proven rate of return."
TALENT: "Hi, we have an agenda, and we would like to make movies that service this agenda."
HOLLYWOOD: "Is your agenda fucking Tom Cruise?"
TALENT: ".... errr, no."
HOLLYWOOD: "The girl will validate your parking on the way out."
All I'm saying is -- hey, we all do the money chase, we all have a viewpoint, we all have stories we want to tell. But as soon as your focus is on your agenda over your second act, you screwed up. The project will suffer, and the audience will be able to tell something's gone off in the fridge.