“Voters Assemble,” a 90-second animated video written and produced by Bryan Warner, Common Cause North Carolina’s director of communications, was announced recently as the $25,000 grand prize winner in the $64,000 Democracy for All Video Challenge.
The contest, launched last summer by People for the American Way and Say No to Big Money to promote the proposed “Democracy for All” constitutional amendment, attracted more than 100 entries. The 30-90 second videos highlight the damage done and threats posed to American democracy by runaway political spending and the need of a constitutional amendment protecting every citizen’s ability to be heard.
“I’m thrilled, surprised, and very humbled to have won,” Warner said. “The challenge big money poses to our democracy may be the most important problem facing our country. I hope all these videos can be spread far and wide to carry that message and spur action on the Democracy for All Amendment.”
The grand prize award was presented to Warner during a luncheon at the National Press Club. Contest judges included filmmaker Michael Moore, actress Kathleen Turner, and television producer Norman Lear.
Introduced in 2013 by Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, the Democracy for All Amendment won the backing of 54 senators in 2014, a majority but fewer than the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster. The amendment would authorize Congress and state legislatures to set “reasonable limits” on political fundraising and spending. The proposal was drafted in response to a series of Supreme Court decisions that equate spending on politics with free speech and allow wealthy contributors to use their resources to drown out other voices and buy influence with candidates and officeholders.
Warner’s winning video depicts a meeting of the “Conglomerate of Evil,” a collection of “the most diabolical villains of all time” who plot world dominance from deep within an underwater volcano. During the meeting, the Conglomerate’s newest member, Bill, wins the group’s backing for a scheme to gain control of American elections by secretly pumping millions of dollars into a new super PAC.
Warner, 37, is a self-described lifelong movie buff who has been dabbling in video production and animation since he was a teenager. He said he modeled the Conglomerate’s characters after the Legion of Doom villains in the “Super Friends” cartoon series he watched growing up. Working alone, he produced the video in his spare time, over a period of several weeks.
“I thought the Conglomerate could be a good vehicle to show how unnervingly easy it is for wealthy special interests to exert undue influence over elections and public policy in this post-Citizens United era,” Warner said. “And I hoped that the comic-book villain angle, along with some humor, could engage people in an issue that is incredibly consequential, but can sometimes seem abstract.”
Want to see the video? Check it out here.