Rocky Anderson hopes new docuseries prompts viewers to live 'more activist life'

Rocky Anderson hopes new docuseries prompts viewers to live 'more activist life'

(Rhea Monroe/Vimeo)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two filmmakers spent the better part of a decade following former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson around with cameras to make their new web series, but Anderson says the series isn’t really about him.

“Citizen Rocky” starts in 2007, chronicling Anderson’s last year in office as mayor. It follows him through his 2012 presidential run with the Justice Party, and includes various updates from the years that followed, Director Rhea Monroe said.

The most important part of the title is “Citizen,” because it can apply to everybody, Anderson said.

“This series is not about me, even though it’s sort of centered on some of the things I was involved in," Anderson said. "I think what’s most important about the series… is that people of all sorts, doing all sorts of different things with their lives, can provide real leadership. They can provide important voices.”

Monroe, along with her husband Doug, were drawn to Anderson after hearing about some of the things he was involved in during his tenure as mayor, she said.

The couple, who now live in Colorado, originally thought the series would be a one-off documentary, but the story kept growing and growing, Monroe said. When Anderson decided to run for president, they had to keep filming, she said.

The documentary provides a behind-the-scenes, fly-on-the-wall look at how the political process works for a third-party presidential candidate, Monroe said. It also shows how the three branches of government interact in American democracy, as well as how they’re often dysfunctional, she added.

“It’s a history lesson, but I think it gives everyday people an idea of what they can do, what is possible,” she said.

Perhaps they’ll find examples that they could follow or even ideas that they might build upon in leading a more activist life.

–Rocky Anderson

Beyond the presidential campaign and his time as mayor, the series also documents Anderson’s activism, including his environmental awareness work and his calls to impeach President George W. Bush when he was in office.

It also features several acquaintances of Anderson’s, such as Ralph Nader, Richard Dreyfus, Bill McKibbon and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, among others.

When she first started following Anderson, he sometimes had his “podium face” on, Monroe said. Interviewing him was like listening to a speech rather than a conversation, she said. But eventually he got used to the cameras.

“We’ve just tried to show him as he is,” Monroe said. “I think it’s really much more entertaining than a lot of documentaries because it’s all fly-on-the-wall stuff.”

Earlier this year, some media reports surfaced of harassment claims involving Anderson. Two of Anderson’s former female employees alleged he harassed them and discriminated against them.

The series doesn’t address those specific allegations, but it does show some of Anderson’s former colleagues who say he can be a difficult person to work with, Monroe said.

He wasn’t just a full-time mayor, he was a 24/7 mayor, she said. He expected people who worked for him to put in similar hours if need be, and some people didn’t like that, she said.

The documentary also includes some people who didn’t really like Anderson, Monroe said.

“So you see that he really was a controversial figure,” she said.

On Friday, Anderson refuted the harassment and discrimination allegations, calling them baseless and devoid of facts. He said he fired two “very disgruntled” employees. One of them was let go due to her incapacity and refusal to do her job, he said.

Anderson said he expects people to work hard and do their best as his employees.

“I would be ashamed to do what I do and not be demanding of the people that work with me,” he said.

Working with the Monroes to make the series was a fulfilling experience, Anderson said. He shares some of the same values as them and they have developed a deep friendship.

Watching the segments of the show now brings back fond memories from the last decade, he said. He hopes that people will spring into action after watching the show.

“I hope that people will view it and they’ll be inspired by it,” he said. “Perhaps they’ll find examples that they could follow or even ideas that they might build upon in leading a more activist life.”

The series is available for purchase now on Vimeo, and is available for free on Amazon Prime through the end of July. The 10-episode first season is rolling out now, with episodes dropping every other week.

Season two will debut as the 2020 presidential campaign season begins, Monroe said. It will include an episode that brings viewers up to date on what Anderson has been doing since 2012.


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