All-In: The Poker Movie is part of the Art Theater’s Documentary Film Festival. The movie follows the world of professional poker, and takes a detour to follow the FBI’s crackdown on online poker playing. All-In will be playing Thursday, April 5, at 9:30 p.m.
Here’s the trailer:
Producer Susan Bedusa was kind enough to speak with us on the phone on Monday about the process of making the film. She wanted to be sure to remind everyone that if they miss Thursday’s screening, the film will be available for download on April 24.
Smile Politely: Have you been the producer on previous films, or does your role vary from film to film?
Susan Bedusa: Nope, I’m usually the producer for all films that come out of our company (4th Row Films), sometimes with other producers. If Doug’s directing, or if anyone else is directing that’s a 4th Row Films production, I am producing.
Smile Politely: At what point do you get involved?
Susan Bedusa: We get involved in all different stages. With a film like All-In, [director] Doug [Tirola] is the president of 4th Row Films, and that was his vision, so that was an internal project. So, we were involved from the idea stage. A lot of the films that we’re involved in, whether we’re working on it internally or with an outside director, we’ll get involved at an early stage. Some of them, while they’re in production, and some of them not until after the film is finished, in a distribution way. We just want to find good movies, and if there’s something that we can do to help that film, we will, and if there’s not, we’ll go see it in the movie theater when it comes out.
Smile Politely: When did this process start for making All-In?
Susan Bedusa: This was a long-term project. In the timeframe it took us to make All-In, we made and released three or four other films. We started, I guess, in 2008 or 2009; it’s all together. We had an original release date in July of 2011 — that was when we were originally planning on releasing the film — and then Black Friday happened, and we decided to pull it so that we could tell the rest of the story. So, we went back and shot — we were shooting until December of 2011.
Smile Politely: OK, so Black Friday being when the FBI cracked down on the online poker sites?
Susan Bedusa: Right. So, it was the kind of thing where we thought we were done, and then we ended up going back and doing a lot more work on it. I think it was the right thing to do.
Smile Politely: So, how interested were you in poker when this whole process began?
Susan Bedusa: I did not know anything about it. The director, Douglas, had sort of a passion about it. He used to play when he was a kid — by no means was he an expert, but he had an interest in it. And he just thought that this was a way to explore a lot of other themes through poker, and we saw the cinematic value in it. When we were in the early stages of production, he actually brought in a professional poker player to teach everybody who was working on the film how to play poker, because a lot of us didn’t know. Since then, it’s been such a big part of our lives, everybody has a soft spot for it now.
Smile Politely: Do you have an office game that got started?
Susan Bedusa: Not really. If we had time, I bet we would (laughs).
Smile Politely: So, your time commitment at this point, has it eased off now that the movie’s in theaters, or is it just as intense as it’s been?
Susan Bedusa: In some ways it’s more intense. We’re releasing the film in over 40 cities, and there’s a lot of interest. We’ve made a lot of movies where people are interested, but for this film both the public and media are just so passionate about the subject. So, we’re getting a lot of people who are asking for the film to come to their local theater, and we’re constantly trying to do bring it everywhere that people are asking for it, which is tough. We’ve been in really close contact, as much as we can, with all the fans of the film out there, and people who want to see it. And then on top of that, we have upcoming digital download release, VOD, DVD, all those other platforms. So, it’s a lot. It hasn’t calmed down yet, which I guess is a good thing. It means people are interested.
Smile Politely: You have a lot of recognizable names that were involved with this, from Matt Damon to Ira Glass to a lot of big names in professional poker. How did all that come together?
Susan Bedusa: We filmed in a total of 14 states. We spent a lot of time in Vegas and a lot in New York, but some interviews were done because we were either at the World Series of Poker, or we approached them. It’s something that a lot of the people in the film weren’t used to being asked about, and were eager to talk about it, which is nice. But since Black Friday, we’d gone back and re-interviewed a lot of people. It’s sort of a mix of everything.
Smile Politely: You mentioned some of the themes that the movie deals with earlier. In your mind, what are some of the themes that All-In touches on?
Susan Bedusa: I think that the main thing that our director wanted to get across was the theme of the American Dream. I know that it touches on politics, and government, and obviously things like that, but a recurring theme was the American Dream: how poker is that American Dream, with Chris Moneymaker, for example, going from a regular guy to a millionaire overnight. And now, maybe it’s not just an American Dream, it’s a worldwide dream. Another part is just America and personal freedoms, bringing all the Black Friday stuff into it. I think he wanted to discuss, using poker as an example, why this is how people choose to spend their money and spend their time, and the government is not allowing that. So, there are people talking about how in the film it’s not just freedom. And I think he just wanted to open that conversation up. There’s a part in the film where it talks about, “What if it’s bowling next, or golf next?” that we won’t be able to play.
Smile Politely: And right after there was the huge jackpot in the [government-sponsored] Mega Millions lottery…
Susan Bedusa: Right, which is a game of pure luck, or gambling. It’s an interesting subject that he wanted to have a conversation about.