As the daughter of a legendary conservative screenwriter (John Milius), it’s not all that shocking that Amanda Milius would follow in her father’s footsteps. However, unlike most progeny of famous and/or talented parents, Milius — with her first feature film ("The Plot Against the President) — has escaped any real or perceived shadow cast by her dad.
What may surprise some is the relatively unorthodox path Milius followed in becoming a creative triple-threat (writer/director/producer) in an industry so lacking in both conservative and female filmmakers.
Twice last week, I had the privilege to speak with Milius to find out more about her journey, growing up in Hollywood, movie-making and working for the president of the United States.
(Courtesy of 1AMDC Productions 2020)
Michael Clark: How and, more importantly why did you make the switch from film to government and back again?
Amanda Milius: After graduating from USC, I toured the festival circuit with my 2015 thesis film ("The Lotus Gun") and I began focusing more and more on politics, foreign policy and in 2016 decided to go the closest swing state near me (Nevada) to volunteer and ended up staying through the election. To me, the film industry was and still is looking pretty bleak, boring, corporate, and unexciting. The industry is now basing art on a quota system of gender and race and putting less attention on story, style, and craft. At the same time, politics started getting exciting and after the election, I was assigned by the White House to work at the State Department where I oversaw content. After witnessing the "Russiagate" fiasco both inside and out, I felt I was ready and qualified enough to make the movie.
MC: Don’t take this the wrong way, but your movie has the high-end look and feel of a live-action movie, not something you normally see in a documentary. Can I ask how much it cost to produce?
AM: Just under $1 million.
MC: Does that include advertising?
AM: We had a strategy that didn’t require traditional advertising that worked.
MC: Besides your father, who were your biggest creative influences?
AM: In general Terrence Malick, Harmony Korine, and Robert Altman. On this particular film we were heavily influenced by Alan Pakula’s paranoia trilogy especially "All the President’s Men" (1976), with the dark and heavy brutalism government architecture filmed in angular abstract views.
MC: So why did you choose to make a documentary instead of live-action movie?
AM: A lot of documentaries being made by conservatives while certainly informative tend to ignore the emotional and stylistic elements. Movies are supposed to make you "feel" and guide you through a story without forcing an opinion on you. The storyteller shouldn’t tell the audience what to think.
MC: What was the hardest aspect of making the movie?
AM: I would say balancing the tone of my approach. I wanted to make something that was entertaining and would appeal to those who consume political news every day and other people who wouldn’t normally watch a documentary about politics. Making something as potentially dry as Congressional investigations as exciting as a spy thriller was the goal.
MC: Did you ask President Trump to be interviewed for the film?
AM: No, because the story is not about him but rather what was done around him.
MC: Did you approach any Democrats for interviews?
AM: We reached out to many individuals who were either unreachable, declined to participate, or were cut due to time.
MC: To me, the shot of the Capitol Dome reflected in the Lincoln Reflecting Pool during the opening credit sequence struck me as ominous and signaled I was about to watch a thriller.
AM: That was shot towards the end supplemental production. A great deal of the story takes place during the winter and I wanted to include images — trees without spring leaves for example — to set the mood.
MC: I was amazed that you were able to make the movie available on Amazon. That’s not a company known for being tolerant of conservative viewpoints.
AM: Because the film was privately financed, we had more options for distribution. I didn’t want to give anyone exclusive platform rights just in case they wanted to pull a “catch and kill” sort of thing. Amazon didn’t require an exclusive deal, but it is the only platform where you can watch the movie for free. It is also available on Vimeo, and two ‘free speech friendly’ platforms — MyMoviesPlus and Special Project. It will soon be out on iTunes and VOD on all US cable networks. I was confident the movie would attract an audience on its own without advertising which it did. It went to number one on Amazon and [as of Jan. 15, 2021] has over 14,000 verified user reviews, the most ever for any political documentary on Amazon. The movie has over 10 million unique viewers so far.
MC: I heard there is a four hour cut of this movie — is that correct?
AM: Four-and-a-half actually. It will be available mid-February and on subscription platforms where it will be divided into individual chapters. The DVD will also include interviews with additional players such as Gen. [Michael] Flynn, who was restricted from doing interviews at the time of filming due to legal proceedings.
MC: Do you know if President Trump has seen the movie yet?
AM: I know that he is very excited about it and is pleased with its success. I also know he has not watched it yet. He lived through it; I don’t think he needs to watch it and I don’t think he really has a lot of free time to watch movies.
MC: How do you think your dad would fare as a filmmaker in today’s ultra PC environment?
AM: It’s hard to say because his work was so influential on the content that’s very popular now. If he didn’t talk about his politics I think he would be very successful, but I don’t see him ever not talking about his politics. It’s simply not his nature.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles and is one of the scant few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.