CNN's Howard Kurtz grilled director Jay Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong over the accuracy of their movie "Game Change" on Sunday's "Reliable Sources."
The HBO movie, which premiered on Saturday, documents Sarah Palin's experience on the 2008 campaign trail as told by the book "Game Change." It received some criticism about its accuracy, and Kurtz presented the filmmakers a wide array of concerns on Sunday.
Kurtz asked if their characterization of the project as a "dramatization" meant that " some of it was a little embellished." Roach rebuffed that notion. He said that adjustments were made to tell a sixty-day story in a two-hour movie, but insisted that the film was based on factual information that had been repeatedly checked.
Roach explained that they spent time with "Game Change" authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Strong added that he conducted twenty-five interviews with people in the McCain campaign. "We were able to interview almost every character that appears on screen and several people within the campaign who don't appear on screen," he said, noting that McCain, Palin and Mark Salter were the exceptions.
Kurtz questioned the filmmakers about a specific scene where McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt was swarmed by reporters at the Republican convention, which the CNN host said never happened. Roach explained that Schmidt had in fact been confronted by those questions throughout the campaign, and that the scene condensed them into one moment.
"That's part of the dramatization process," he said. "During the convention was when all the stories started to break about Governor Palin, which he was having to refute."
Kurtz wanted to know how they re-created a private conversation between Sarah Palin and her husband as well. "Since you didn't talk to the Palin family, how do you know what was said?" he asked.
Strong said that they had looked at Palin's book "Going Rogue," and interviewed people who discussed the Palins' relationship. "That was all dialogue built upon true anecdotes," he said.
Kurtz then presented the filmmakers with another piece of criticism. He suggested that perhaps Schmidt and former McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace, who became increasingly critical of Palin after the campaign, gave skewed accounts.
The filmmakers hit back at that idea, as well as others' suggestion that the film portrayed a "false narrative." Strong reiterated that their research had been comprehensive.
"The stories that we heard were corroborated by ten, twelve, fifteen people so it was never just one or two persons' account of the event," he recalled. Roach added, "The interviews with them were consistent with interviews with a dozen other people."