Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher takes it off in 'Swing State.'
In the years after he lost a bid to become governor in 1998, Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher was itching to get back into politics. So when Ted Strickland asked Fisher to be his running mate in 2006 election, Fisher agreed, quitting his cushy non-profit job and making the campaign his new full-time career.
At the time, Fisher’s son, Jason Zone Fisher, was a Syracuse University broadcast journalism student with no clue what he would do with his life. But when his dad decided to run, Jason -- who’d filmed the last 30 days of his dad’s failed gubernatorial campaign in 1998 -- realized he’d found the perfect way to delay entrance into the real world. So he and two friends decided to make a documentary of the last months of his dad’s campaign. ...
The resulting movie, Swing State
, made its premier last night at the Cleveland International Film Festival, in two sold-out Tower City theatres. Though they’d been working on the film for two years, they didn’t finish editing it till 4 a.m. the morning before.
In the front of the room, Jason sat at the dais wearing a t-shirt with the words “Ohio” written in black script. “I’m a little nervous,” he admitted, talking about the premier. “But probably not as nervous as the rest of my family. Be easy on them please,” he laughed.
The warning wasn’t without merit. Though the story is ostensibly about the 2006 election and its importance on the national political scene (with cameos by John Kerry, Barack Obama, Madeline Albright, and Hilary Clinton, among others), the main storyline details the stresses that a campaign can place on a family. Fisher and his friends filmed his mother registering voters at a Burger King Drive-thru; his family’s struggles to celebrate Lee’s 55th birthday because of incessant phone calls; and Jason’s mom recounting her “romantic” one-year anniversary dinner – which she shared with 25 politically-connected strangers. In one memorable scene, Lee sits shirtless at his computer at 2 a.m., typing furiously away at his computer, because his lack of a message was “eating me.”
At the end of the film, audience goers gave the movie a standing ovation. Lee Fisher, there to support his son’s filmmaking debut, stood proudly in the back of the theatre. He made just one request: If this film gets picked up for distribution, he said, “would someone please put a shirt on me?”
The festival added another showing of the movie for Thursday at 9:30 am. Get details here.
– Rebecca Meiser