Ellen Hubbard isn’t a documentary filmmaker by trade, but she decided to pick up a camera after getting fed up with the sheer volume of government waste clogging the country’s coffers.
Hubbard also found inspiration from late Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart, who taught her that anyone, at any time, can impact the media narrative.
The result? “Museum of Government Waste,” a new documentary she says will hit theaters later this summer in the heat of the presidential election season.
“This is kind of a marriage of entertainment and journalism,” Hubbard tells Big Hollywood. “Andrew Breitbart touted citizen journalists. You’re seeing a rise in that.”
“Museum” takes a cheeky but ultimately serious look at government waste, from millions spent on unnecessary pet projects to the power of lobbyists to get virtually anything paid for with taxpayers’ dollars.
Radio personality Greg Knapp is the film’s Michael Moore-esque hero, an Everyman trying to get an actual Museum of Government Waste paid for with tax dollars. Ludicrous, right? Not necessarily. Hubbard was astonished to see how seriously lawmakers took such requests.
“They honestly don’t really care what the earmark is, or its merit,” she says. “That doesn’t factor into the discussion. It’s eye opening.”
It’s all about the next election campaign, she says, and whether the politician can wring a contribution out of the exchange.
Hubbard previously ran the right-leaning American Film Renaissance Institute, an experience which taught her a crucial component of making movies today.
“We’ve seen thousands of independent films over the years, and even though filmmaking has become more democratized, the one thing that people still don’t get is you have to have a story, and it has to be entertaining,” she says.
“Museum” began roughly five years ago, a time Hubbard calls the “heyday of earmarks.” And the self-described Republican quickly realized the problem wasn’t simply a Democratic conundrum.
“Republicans used [earmarks] to protect lawmakers in vulnerable districts. We’re supposed to be the party of smaller government,” she says.
Her research into government waste showed her how many museums received federal funds – including a Teapot Museum. Hubbard, who created the film along with her husband Jim, says they didn’t let their lack of formal film training slow them down.
“We surrounded ourselves with people who did have film experience, but it’s not rocket science,” she says. We watch a lot of movies. We know what works and what doesn’t work.”
“Waste” isn’t an overtly conservative film, she promises. Among the talking heads lined up for the film are GOP Pollster Frank Luntz and former Clinton strategist James Carville. And when legislators refused to appear on camera, the Hubbards opted to use a hidden camera to get the material necessary to tell their story.
“Museum of Government Waste” is in its final editing stages, and Hubbard says she has the money to complete the project. What she needs help with is raising enough cash for an actual "Waste" museum.
Hubbard’s Kickstarter.com page will go toward building a brick and mortar museum dedicated to earmarks and other politically expedient ways to waste our tax dollars.
"All along we wanted to see how far we’d get in the process ... but it became more obvious getting federal funding was a possibility. Ethically, I didn’t want to take the money," she says.
Hubbard clearly got a crash course in the way our political system works, but she thinks a full blast of sunshine could be the best way to ensure the government wastes less in the future.
"I came away thinking transparency is the ultimate goal here," she says.