The two of you started filming long before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president - how did he and his staff react to you when you first showed up to work?
I think they were a little bit bemused by us. They kind of liked the idea of what we were doing, but I also think they didn't quite know what to make of us. Barack came up to us one of the first times we were shooting in his U.S. Senate office and he said, "So what are you guys doing?" And we're like, "We're just documenting your journey." And he kind of smiled and was like, "Uh-huh." And he turned around and walked away. And we were kind of jokingly saying "journey." At that point, we were all wondering, "Is he going to run? Is he not?"
Were there other people trying to cover him in the same long-form way you were?
When we came on board, I don't think anybody else was chasing him at that time. The key was to start really early to prevent that from happening and to build a relationship with him. I don't think people started calling until after he announced his candidacy. We were always paranoid that somebody would come in and kind of bump us out, even though we'd been shooting for months. So I'd check in with [press secretary] Tommy Vietor, like, "So are you getting lots of calls from other documentarians?" And he's like, "Yeah. There's so many documentarians calling, and it's great because we just can say, 'Oh, we already have somebody making a documentary.' But this woman Barbara Koeppel [a Washington-based investigative reporter] keeps calling ..." And I, with a pit in my stomach, said, "Oh, don't worry about her ..."
Once the media machine reached full throttle, what did you learn from being so close to it without the task of keeping up with daily news reporting?