When I made the documentary Ain't Easy Being Green in 2006 and 2007 (it was my senior thesis at the University of Pennsylvania), I had no idea that five years later, Rick Santorum would be running for president. Furthermore, I was flabbergasted when it became clear after the Iowa Caucuses that Santorum would be a contender for the GOP nomination.
But Rick Santorum is only a featured character in Ain't Easy Being Green, even though I originally set out to create a film about the end of Santorum's style of conservatism. In 2006, it seemed clear that Pennsylvanians had shifted to the left, leaving little room for someone like Santorum, with his staunch right-wing views.
However, early in the filmmaking process, when I sat down for a one-on-one interview with Santorum's then Democratic challenger (and now United States Senator) Bob Casey Jr., I figured I should warm him up with a couple of softball questions before asking the hard-hitting ones that I'd planned.
My opener was, "How has the Green Party candidate affected this Senate race?"
Casey stared back at me for a while, and finally said, "I can't answer that question."
Stumped. On round one. Seriously?
For the remainder of the interview, Casey did answer my questions. However, my mind was still stuck on the one that he would not discuss.
When I arrived home, I immediately called Carl Romanelli, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who was tossed off the ballot in Pennsylvania by a Democrat-led effort to prevent him from gaining access to the ballot. As my film demonstrates, Pennsylvania law heavily discriminates against third party candidates, requiring them to get an obscene number of signatures before getting their names onto any statewide ballot. This film documents Romanelli's plight.
(Note: The issues discussed in my film led to Pennsylvania's Bonusgate scandal in which numerous political operatives -- both Democrats and Republicans -- were convicted of crimes.)
When I created Ain't Easy Being Green, few Americans were talking about the pitfalls of America's two-party system. However, in the wake of heavy media coverage of the Tea Party movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the SOPA/PIPA protests, the time is now right for Americans to have more choices and be exposed to alternative views. Non-profit organizations have sprung up en masse for the purpose of utilizing technology to create good governance by mobilizing the American people, with the goal of breaking the duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans on the political process. I'd like to think Ain't Easy Being Green was a precursor to these movements.
I shot Ain't Easy Being Green on a budget of less than $5,000, which came from my savings from a summer job and from three small grants from various departments at the university. In America, film distributors require that filmmakers pay for Errors and Omissions insurance, which, for a film like mine, can easily cost some $4,000 per year. Knowing that I didn't have that kind of money to spend, as distributors who wanted to acquire my film wouldn't pay these fees, I decided to release it on YouTube. (I can thank the virality of Kony 2012 for giving me the confidence in YouTube as a distribution platform.)
So sit back, relax, and enjoy Ain't Easy Being Green: