'Truth' docu aided by 'small miracles'
EmptyPARK CITY -- "I was 100 percent certain we weren't going to get nominated," said "An Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim, whose film picked up two Oscar nominations Tuesday, for best documentary and best song. Despite stellar reviews and big boxoffice, he noted that the Paramount Vantage film missed key nominations, including the DGA, "so I didn't think the documentary branch would go for it."
Then again, Guggenheim on Tuesday pointed to "a series of small miracles" that began even before his feature's Sundance Film Festival world premiere a year ago.
"We thought the victory was just to get the film made, and maybe get some teachers to show it in classes," Guggenheim said. "After (producer) Laurie David said 'There's an Al Gore slide show we should see," people said, 'You can't make that' into a movie!' " But with producer Lawrence Bender and funding from Jeff Skoll's Participant Prods., it went into production.
"Then when we decided to do it, people said, 'You can't do that in six months for Sundance,' " he continued. "Then when we got in, there were people inside our group that thought, 'This can't get a theatrical release.' Then John Lesher chose it as his first acquisition for Paramount Vantage. Then we told him, 'We need you to put together a campaign in two-and-a-half months' when it normally takes nine, and with Megan Colligan and Guy Endore-Kaiser, we did it. Then we wanted to bring it to Cannes, and it happened."
It took many villages to raise "Truth" to a nearly $24 million gross, and the way several of them worked together was yet another miracle, Guggenheim said.
"In the nonprofit world, many groups compete for attention and money," he said, "but this is one of the rare cases where they threw aside their differences and said, 'This is bigger than ourselves,' without getting territorial or petty."
After the Natural Resources Defense Council was recruited, other organizations jumped on the bandwagon, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Council of Churches, the Rainforest Alliance and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. Web giants MySpace, Google, Yahoo! and Netflix also joined in to promote the cause.
Soon, the film seemed to take on a life of its own. "It was really like a wildfire," Guggenheim said. "My father-in-law called me one day and said, 'Fifty churches in Maine are showing your film tonight.' "
Al Gore came to Sundance last year to promote the film, and he might just show up on Oscar night. "I had a nice talk with Al. I said. 'Are you ready to go to the show?' He said, 'I'll think about it,' " Guggenheim said, laughing.
As many public triumphs as "Truth" has given the first-time feature director, the most valuable one might be Guggenheim's most private: His late father, documentary director Charles Guggenheim, was nominated for an Oscar 12 times and won four.
"I know he's looking down on me and smiling," he said.
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