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Bexley Native Brings Political Doc Home

Hope Madden Hope Madden Bexley Native Brings Political Doc HomePhoto still from American Mayor.
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It’s been a 10-year journey, but Bexley native Travis Irvine thinks the timing may be perfect for his trip from failure to success to more failure to – well, maybe this is the time he can make the biggest impact.

In 2007, filmmaker Irvine ran for mayor of Bexley.

He’d recently graduated from Ohio University and had completed his first feature, the horror comedy about killer raccoons Coon: Night of the Bandits of the Night. After a yearlong stint in the Bahamas and a frustrating misadventure with another feature length script, Irvine returned to his family’s home in Bexley.

“I moved back home, lived with my parents,” he says, “dejected, broke, not sure what I was going to do with my life.”

But he had a kind of epiphany listening to his neighbors complain about zoning problems.

“When I got home I found that my neighbors were still fighting with City Hall about an issue they’d had with Capital University,” he says.

According to Irvine, Capital was using unsavory practices to buy up Bexley homes, tear them down and build dorms.

“Our mayor Dave Madison was retiring after 30 years and there were only a few people running,” Irvine remembers. “I thought, what if I ran for mayor, voiced this issue that my neighbors have, and we make a documentary about it? We can teach other young people how to run for office.”

The film American Mayor was born.

“It was 10 years ago,” he says, “and I will say a young Walker Evans in charge of Columbus Underground gave us one of our first endorsements for the mayor’s race.”

Irvine’s documentary, though funny, manages to highlight his own learning process in his attempt to run for public office.

“Not to spoil anything from 2007,” he says, “but I didn’t win. The point of the documentary, just by running – just by standing up and voicing an issue – you do have impact. Especially at the local level.”

That was a decade ago, and his film has traveled an interesting path through years of re-editing, then the festival circuit, then shady distribution, to its current state. American Mayor will have its local premiere on Monday, September 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Bexley’s Drexel Theatre, and it will be available to stream on Amazon by September 19.

“In failing to make a movie I succeeded at running for office,” Irvine says. “And in failing at winning I succeeded at making a documentary, and I failed again at making money on the documentary but hopefully we’ll succeed again at getting it out there.”

Irvine likes the timing. He believes a documentary aimed at motivating young people to run for office is even more relevant now.

“Because Trump is so awful,” he says, “we’re really hoping that getting it out there now will motivate people to run for office and show them how. That was the original intent of the film: this is how to run for office in your own hometown.”

American Mayor screens Monday, September 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Drexel Theatre, 2254 E. Main St.

For tickets and information visit drexel.net

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her movie podcasts THE SCREENING ROOM and FRIGHT CLUB.

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