Director Nick Rosen and Producer Caroline Beaton are behind “Cardboard Cory: The Documentary,” which tells an incredible story about the life and times of a cardboard cutout of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and the political activists who made him happen. The film was funded by the Payback Project, which is a project of the progressive group, Indivisible. The Colorado Times Recorder interviewed Beaton and Rosen via email about their 15-minute film, which we reviewed in July.
Rosen has been making documentary films for over 13 years, creating award-winning documentaries such as The Dawn Wall, Valley Uprising, and the global film tour REEL ROCK. In the 2018 election cycle, his team was active in creating progressive political videos for Colorado Resistance and other entities. Beaton is a short film producer, impact strategist and journalist. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, VICE, and many other publications.
CTR: How has the documentary been going? Any good stories? Is it doing what you hoped?
Nick: We made the Cardboard Cory documentary not only to tell a story about the folks behind Cardboard Cory, but also to amplify their message (that Senator Gardner is doing a terrible job), and help average Coloradans get their voices heard. We’ve been able to get a lot of eyeballs across social media platforms and I think help solidify Cardboard Cory as a dynamic in the election. The Hickenlooper campaign has really latched onto him, and it was fun to get a supportive tweet from comedy legend Judd Appatow.
Overall, I think Cardboard Cory has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. He has defined the senator in a very powerful way that gets right to his biggest weaknesses (an absentee, fake, cloying Trump loyalist), which has hounded him RELENTLESSLY. I think Gardner wanted to just fade into the background over the last four years, and Cardboard Cory made that impossible. So, while our film was just a small part of that mission, I would say Mission Accomplished – just look at the polls.
Caroline: In our outreach efforts to get the documentary widely seen and used by Coloradans ahead of the election, so many people have responded to our emails and said they’ve already seen and shared it. Some people we emailed realized that they’re actually in it and celebrated with us. There’s a really cool, enduring camaraderie around this cardboard man, and I’d like to think our film contributed to that.
CTR: What did you like most about working on the documentary?
Nick: The best part was being able to work with these amazing citizen activists in Colorado who had devoted their lives over the last four years to resisting the Trump Agenda and holding Cory Gardner accountable. These are people with school-age kids, full-time jobs – and as a busy person myself who also wants to get involved, I found that really inspiring. These folks are not just earnest and hardworking; they are funny and creative –happy warriors who are clearly enjoying themselves. And they are doing the kind of work that more Americans need to do if we are going to save our country from Fox News and the MAGA crowd.
Caroline: I agree with all that and would add that it felt unfamiliar and awesome to witness people actually getting out in the world and doing something about a massive problem, rather than just moaning about it on social media. I learned a lot about organizing, the utility of props, and that the key to both shooting a good film and getting unresponsive, poorly-representing senators out of office is just repeatedly showing up.
CTR: Do you think, if he had to do it again, Gardner would avoid town halls like he did over the past few years?
Nick: I’ve thought about that a lot. My sense is, the moment Gardner decided to fall in line and embrace Trump early on, he was done. As our senator, he still needs to go out and explain himself to voters and listen to how pissed they are, and he was too cowardly to do that. But even worse than being a no-show is a voting record that is just totally out of step with his constituents in Colorado. He betrayed us. So he’s going to lose his job. That’s democracy.
CTR: Would you have included Hickenlooper using Cardboard Cory in his ad, if you could have?
Nick: I don’t know. I want Hick elected as much as the next guy. But Cardboard Cory was never a pro-Hickenlooper thing. It pre-dated his candidacy and remains strictly independent as a movement. But I do think it’s a compliment that they co-opted the idea for one of their big ads.
CTR: What’s in store for you next?
Nick: At Sender Films our day job is creating the annual REEL ROCK Film Tour, which will release online in December, and we have a feature documentary called The Alpinist that was accepted to the Telluride Film Festival and SXSW that will premiere in the spring.
But we do intend to keep working on projects that support progressive political causes. If anyone has any good ideas, please reach out!
Watch the documentary here: