MAPLEWOOD — Local farmer, Chris Gibbs, is featured in a 2020 independent documentary film, about Trump voters changing their mind about former president Donald Trump, that is making its way around independent film festivals and taking home awards.
The filmmaker, director and writer of “The Game is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories,” Melissa Jo Peltier, of New York, is hoping to find a network to pick up and stream the film, which was mostly self-funded.
“The Game is Up” is about the stories of a cross-section of Trump voters, why they voted for Trump in the first place, and how they gradually changed their minds about him before the 2020 presidential election.
“It is not a Trump bashing film in the least, it’s just uncovering layers of why they changed their minds,” Peltier recently said in an interview at the Santa Fe Film Festival, where the documentary was chosen as an official selection to be shown.
Peltier was inspired to make the documentary when seeing former Illinois 8th district U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh’s transformation in real time from 2015 to 2018 on Twitter. Walsh, a conservative turned Independent, is a former Congressman, 2020 Republican presidential candidate, author and host of the conservative talk radio show “White Flag with Joe Walsh.”
Co-producer/Editor Marilys Ernst, of Portland, Oregon, said during that same Santa Fe festival interview, the film will help those who don’t understand why anyone would vote for Trump through the stories and journeys of the characters in the film, “especially since they are all very different stories.”
Peltier told the Sidney Daily News she hopes the film will change some people’s minds. The goal, she said, is to find a home for the film so it will become available to stream for family members who are Trump supporters to open minds.
“I wanted people to have permission to change their mind about Trump. I knew a lot of people going to bed with a sick stomach,” Peltier said of the tension in America during the Trump presidency. “I wanted to appeal to people’s hearts. I wanted to tell the personal stories (to help people) to identify with them.”
“I wanted the documentary to be nice. We never say Trump is stupid; he is smart. It says this guy pulled one over on you,” said Peltier. “Trump is not stupid. He is a genius of rhetoric. He is a con-man.”
Gibbs, a 2016 Trump voter and also former Republican turned Independent, was contacted in 2019 to participate in the film after he was seen voicing disapproval of Trump, and how his policies effected his farm, in various national news interviews.
“I gave 20 years to the Republican party. I gave, other than family, what I consider my most valuable possession, and that was my name, only to find out when the Trump Administration came into office, what I had advocated for was a lie … all of those tenants that the Republican party adhered to went out the window,” said Gibbs on why he agreed to participate in the film. “What we’ve got is a populous movement that started within the Republican party that started years ago. …”
“I watched the film for the first time on my computer in my hotel room and was blown away,” Gibbs said. “The director wasn’t trying to make a political statement. All she (Peltier) was trying to do was document stories. So, I was very pleased and relieved that the film was something that I was very proud of and that my name was associated with.”
“The Game is Up” was shot in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Peltier, Ernst and other co-producer Mary Kerry Craven, of Florida, had to get creative to make the film once COVID hit the United States. Production shut down for a period of time, and other than Walsh’s segments, eventually local cinematographers were brought on to film subjects in their hometowns or remotely.
The film’s budget of $150,000 to $160,000, was mostly paid for by Peltier, other than the approximately $35,000 to $40,000 the American Dignity PAC contributed. The American Dignity PAC describes itself as a team of bipartisan creative pros, producing media to restore dignity to America.
“The Game is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories” has been at more than 30 independent festivals since 2021, with several more festivals coming in 2022. The film has won numerous awards, including 2021 Best Documentary at Lady Film Makers Festival and also at the City of Angels Women’s Film Festival, both in Los Angeles in September 2021.
The film is not yet available for the public to view, but Peltier and her team are actively working to find a platform to make it available.
“We are hoping to lock in a deal with a producer’s rep this week,” Peltier said Monday about a deal with the person who will take the film to the various outlets and try to find it a home. “I’m praying we can find a home where everyone can see it before the November midterms.”