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Prime-Time Presidency: Producing ‘The Reagan Show’

"We're doing a textual analysis, or an excavation of a time capsule."

For documentary

The Reagan Show

, filmmakers Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez spent almost four years working entirely with archival footage, from both news sources and the Reagan Library.

“The reason we remained within the archival record for the whole film is that we wanted to talk about not just the story, but how the story got told: how the narrative of the Reagan presidency was propagated and reinforced,”

Pettengill tells Penny Lane

. “And in order to do that, we needed to remain within the bubble of the archival record, which shows exactly how the Reagan narrative was developed.

“We’re doing a textual analysis, or an excavation of a time capsule, to see how that story was made and what tools were used to do it. And so, the absences in the record, the things that the Reagan Administration and news media were not focusing on – those were just as important to us as what was included. Between the news archives and the Reagan Library footage there was, I think, about 1,000 hours of material. And our approach was to let the archival tell us what the film would be.”

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Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez on How Reagan Created the Modern Political Playbook in The Reagan Show