Disruption and Zen: An Interview with Mark McKinnon of Trumped

The executive producer of Showtime's documentary Trumped reflects on the new administration, the press response and keeping calm.

Posted on February 24, 2017, 12:12 pm
5 mins


For those of you heading to Missoula, Montana for the closing weekend of this year’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, listen up. The closing night film has been changed, and the new film is a doozy. Sunday, February 26 at 8:15pm, the Wilma will now be screening the Showtime Documentary film, Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time.

Made by the creators of the Showtime series The Circus, Trumped chronicles Donald Trump’s presidential race, from the primaries to his electoral victory. A Q&A with one of the film’s stars and executive producers, Mark McKinnon will follow the screening in Missoula. For those who can’t make it all the way to big sky country this weekend, we had the opportunity to ask McKinnon a few questions of our own.

We spoke with McKinnon over email about the timeliness of his film, the state of journalism today and how to cope under a Trump presidency.

Mark McKinnon and his trademark hat.

VANGUARD Seattle: Trumped comes to us pretty quickly on the heels of the election results. What do you think of the timing of the documentary? Could it be too soon? Or does this new quick media mean that we just have to process things like this more quickly?

McKinnon: The unique concept of “The Circus” is that it was a “real-time” documentary. Viewers didn’t have to wait six months or a year to see what happened. We produced 26 documentaries during the campaign. So, we wanted to get a full movie version of the documentary up as soon as possible. Yes, it’s soon. But that’s the whole purpose. People are trying to process this election now.

VS: What role do you think the press has under this new administration, which has so far been so hostile to journalists?

M: I think this is actually going to be the golden age of journalism. It’s when we have the administrations hostile to the press that journalists do their best work. Just look at the Nixon administration and the Washington Post.

VS: How can we learn to trust the media again when they were so off base when it came to predicting the election results? How did we get it so wrong?

M: The media got the election wrong because it relies too much on polling. And polling tries to predict the future based on past performance. And we’ve never had an election environment like this in history.  And there is something called the “spiral of silence” which means that supporters of a candidate who is not popular with the mainstream elites and press will consciously either not answer pollsters calls or will intentionally mislead them.

VS: The film suggests that you had intimate access to the campaign, and you’ve said in other interviews that Trump didn’t act too differently whether the cameras were on or off. Still, do you have any insights on things you witnessed that weren’t captured in the film?

M: In person, Trump is as warm and diplomatic as any politician you’ll ever meet.

VS: How are you doing now that Trump is in office, mentally, spiritually, physically? Any advice for others on how to keep going in such a chaotic time?

M: The way I dealt with the election is I left for a month and trekked through Bhutan. Got me a duffle bag of Zen to hold me over for awhile.

VS: Any closing thoughts?

M: Disruption is going to happen. It won’t be all bad. It won’t be all good. But, I think we can already see that Donald Trump isn’t simply going to “moderate” now that he’s in DC and president, as many thought he would. Buckle your seat belts.


Molly Laich is a writer and media fan. You can find her at mollylaich.com and doghatesfilm.com and on twitter @MollyL