Sometime in August when the polls were showing an Obama surge and the mainstream press continued to ignore increasingly dismal economic news and even more disturbing developments in the Middle East I decided I had to do something.
The NY Times told me the most distressing thing in my life was that Republicans wanted me to pay for my own contraception. Forget war in the Middle East, or a $16 trillion debt … there was a War on Women going on!
America is the richest country in the world. Five percent of the world’s population generates 21 percent of the world’s wealth. But Americans don’t seem to understand it’s a luxury to argue about contraception. And we are going to lose our luxuries fast. With that debt growing close to 10 percent annually, we will soon be arguing over whether we can feed our own people.
Our country is really in trouble. I knew this. But how do you explain it to an electorate who knows more about the Kardashians than the Constitution? Sex and humor! Olivia Newton John’s song “Let’s Get Physical” came to me. That was the answer. We needed to “Get Fiscal.” A YouTube video, a parody of that song with lyrics that spoke to the issues, hot girls singing, and a silly cameo by a Paul Ryan poster.
This was the answer.
Writing the lyrics, finding a conservative Olivia Newton John sound-alike, and a free recording studio was easy. What was hard? Finding someone to star in it.
A few years back, I had made a stinging short film about a photo journalist who gets an abortion and ends up grieving, eventually running into a truck and dying. Needless to say, it was pro life. I was inundated with actors and actresses wanting to be in it. To a person, almost all of them were pro choice. Did the story’s theme bother them? Not really. They wanted tape for their reel, publicity if the film did well … no one cared that the film argued for something they supposedly found reprehensible … putting limits on abortion if not outlawing it completely.
I assumed “Paul Ryan Girl” would be the same. Nope. No liberal would touch it. One woman at the casting call gave us a horrified look, “you mean this is pro-Ryan?” “Hmmm, yeah” She shuddered. No, she couldn’t do this and ran out of my house.
Conservative actresses who had nary a commercial to their name refused. “It would hurt my career.” “My agent wouldn’t allow me to do this.” “My manager thinks it’s a bad idea.”
Enter Maredith Walker. Not only did she audition for the part, she wanted her name on it. She was beautiful, talented and would show up early on a Sunday morning for an all-day shoot. What was not to like? Well, she was a true conservative. She had things like, oh, principles she lived by. One, was that marriage is sacred. You don’t come on to other women’s husbands. I agreed with that principal but … this was fiction. We had a YouTube video to make!
We had an opening scene and a mid-point Obama Girl scene, this piece was going to be longer than three minutes. This was a parody. It had to be sexy, funny, and *outrageous* to work. But she could not body slam the poster, on principal. It was wrong. There is a line and we were trying to walk it. A line that “Saturday Night Live” walks well, in which you go over the top and it’s no longer sexual, it’s well, funny.
Singing to a shirtless poster of Ryan was amusing, but to work, she had to dance with him, body slam him, be like a crazed Justin Bieber fan. But as a director I had to figure out how Walker could do this without compromising her principals. Our country was at stake.
Needless to say, we did it. Walker is both sexy and ridiculous and wonderful in the piece. But … unlike everyone else working on it … she wanted her name on the opening. Her name? Conservatives are swatted like mosquitoes and careers put out to pasture for less. She inspired me. Put my name on it, too! To hell with them.
Within 48 hours of uploading the piece to YouTube, Walker was being interviewed on national TV, we had 82,000 hits, twelve media outlets had run a story on it and more were seeking interviews. A well-known conservative producer wanted Walker’s contact to put her in a feature film he was casting.
Because I’m a story teller, I like morals to them. The moral of this story? Even when it seems like having integrity will not pay off. It does. Even when standing up and saying “I’m a conservative” feels like a stupid thing to do. It very well may not be. This was, after all, why I loved Ryan. He touched that “third rail” of politics because someone had to. He was willing to risk his career for something more important, saving the fiscal health of our country.
Walker wanted to be in a YouTube video that honored Ryan but did not dishonor his wife. She refused to hide under a rock for “her career” because she knew that the gifts God had given her, her looks and talent, could serve something bigger than herself. And in the end, she has not ruined her career. She just launched it.