How Alex Gibney finished 2 documentaries during the pandemic

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Alex Gibney filmed his documentary “Totally Under Control” with a remote setup that was mailed to interview subjects. Photo courtesy of Neon.

Alex Gibney is one of the most prolific documentary filmmakers working today, but this year was a banner year even for him. The documentarian behind “Going Clear” and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” has two documentary projects out this fall. They include a two-part HBO series “Agents of Chaos,” about Russian meddling in U.S. politics, and “Totally Under Control,” which tracks Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibney began his work on “Agents of Chaos” in 2017, when he got a directive from HBO to look into the story of Russian interference and collusion with Donald Trump’s administration. The end result was a two-part documentary series featuring interviews with high-level officials and others close to the story, which aired on HBO last month.

As Gibney was finishing “Agents of Chaos,” he decided to start  another film, “Totally Under Control.” He described the move as “absolutely insane.” The second documentary, also about the Trump administration, tracked its response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

For interview subjects who weren’t comfortable speaking in person, the team used a remote “covid cam” setup. The interviewees received equipment in the mail and connected it to the internet, and Gibney’s team conducted and recorded the interviews remotely.

Working with his co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, Gibney rushed to complete the documentary amid a chaotic news cycle, finishing just one day before Trump’s positive COVID-19 test result went public.

Credits

Guest:
Alex Gibney - director of “Totally Under Control” and “Agents of Chaos” - @AlexGibneyfilm

Host:
Kim Masters

Producer:
Kaitlin Parker