MONTPELIER - A Stowe filmmaker who followed Howard Dean during his campaign for the presidency in 2004 and witnessed the sudden fall of the former Vermont governor is finishing up a documentary about the experience.
Heath Eiden hopes an early showing of his film, "Dean and Me: Roadshow of an American Primary," helps him find a distributor for the 90-minute movie.
"This is one politician's experience of what our political process has become," Eiden said Saturday after the first showing of the rough cut of the movie at the Savoy Theater in Montpelier. "I'm lucky it was about Howard Dean because he is such a character who talks about change, but really means it."
He held another showing yesterday at Merrill's Roxy Cinema in Burlington.
Eiden, 39, moved to Vermont several years ago from New York. He won awards and a college scholarship for the documentaries he made in his native Minnesota. He traces his liberal roots to a friendship in Minnesota with Ted Mondale, the son of former vice president Walter Mondale.
Eiden sold 16-acres of Lamoille County farmland to pay for the project. He said he conceived of the project after watching the artist who painted Howard Dean's official gubernatorial portrait, which shows him seated in a canoe. In late 2002 and early 2003 as Dean was leaving the governor's office, his presidential ambitious were becoming well known.
"Howard was going on a journey," Eiden said. "I jumped into the canoe, metaphorically speaking."
Eiden said he felt the need to do something after seeing how the 2001 attacks on the United States were being used to "manipulate the fears of Americans by government officials instead of uniting the world."
So Eiden started spending time with the Dean campaign, rolling his camera on the campaign trail in New Hampshire and Iowa, interspersing footage with the newscasts from the time that chronicled Dean's sudden rise to the top of the Democratic candidates seeking the party nomination to run against President Bush in 2004.
"People really felt like they were part of something during the height of the movement," Eiden said. "For many newcomers to (the) political process, it was the first time they really felt like they had a say in their own democracy."
Eiden also chronicles Dean's plunge from the top of the polls to poor finishes in the 2004 Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. But it doesn't end there. He follows Dean's comeback to become chairman of the Democratic Party, a post the former governor still holds.
Making "Dean and Me" cost Eiden about $200,000. It still needs some technical polishing, but the editorial content is complete, he said.
Eiden, who did not have another job during his five-year effort to make "Dean and Me," hopes to have the film finished soon. He hopes to take it to film festivals and find a distributor.