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Will Guzzardi, or How to Fight the Chicago Machine and Win

By Paul Biasco | September 29, 2015 6:19am
 Adam Wisneski and Laura Wilson hope the documentary shows what it's like to run against the Chicago Machine.
Adam Wisneski and Laura Wilson hope the documentary shows what it's like to run against the Chicago Machine.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LOGAN SQUARE — The story of 26-year-old Will Guzzardi's unexpected victory in a state representative race could be headed to a big screen in the near future.

Two Chicago filmmakers from Logan Square caught wind of his race early on in December 2013 and are now winding down shooting for the upcoming documentary "The 39th."

The film will provide a behind-the-scenes look at Guzzardi's campaign and eventual win over the incumbent Rep. Toni Berrios, daughter of Joseph Berrios, once of the most powerful Democrats in Illinois.

"More importantly it's that kind of story of a grassroots campaign versus Illinois' establishment," said Laura Wilson, a co-director of the film.

Wilson, 30, and co-director Adam Wisneski, 31, both worked on the Obama campaign in 2012.

The filmmakers hope their documentary will prove to show a race that exemplifies what can be achieved by a grassroots, door-knocking campaign such as Guzzardi's.

"That was part of the appeal to me," Wilson said. "Having a microcosm of what we could do at bigger levels."

The two filmmakers began filming the race in December 2013 as Guzzardi was spending day after day knocking on doors during the winter, which was one of the coldest Chicago had ever had.

What the Wilson and Wisneski hope sets the documentary apart is the behind-the-scenes look at what it's like for a person to run for office.

They filmed Guzzardi at this home, in his office and on the trail.

They hope the film also shows the human side of running a race.

"As we got into it I think Will was such an open book," Wisneski said. "He was so honest about the process on camera, and I think that’s really rare to find in anyone, much less a politician or aspiring politician." 

At one point in the approximately 150 hours of footage, the film shows Guzzardi working out in his home after a presumably long day before putting on a tie.

"Every day when I'm knocking on doors I sort of just want to come home at 7 o'clock and there's no one who would really know if I did that or stop me," Guzzardi says in the clip.

While the filmmakers are still shooting to capture some of Guzzardi's time on the job, the film will focus mainly on the election.

Guzzardi won by a comfortable margin of 1,843 votes, about 60 percent of the vote, having lost to Berrios in 2012 by just 125 votes.

"We think that the film will have a lot of potential to inspire people to get involved in politics, to inspire young people to go out and volunteer and organize," Wilson said.

The filmmakers are working to whittle down their footage and are hoping to premiere the film in May 2016.

Neither filmmaker, who both live in Logan Square, knew Guzzardi before they decided to make their film. They said the goal was never to glorify him or the race.

They said they made repeated attempts to film with Berrios but were denied.

"We want to tell her side of the story, too, and tell a really nuanced story about what politics in Chicago looks like and what it takes to win and who the players are," Wilson said.

The filmmakers are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money to cover the full costs of editing the documentary and help with additional costs to distribute the film and submit to festivals.

The campaign has raised $11,287, which already exceeds the $10,000 goal, with eight days to go.

The filmmakers think the finished product could have national appeal due to the growing progressive movement across the country.

"I think there’s this ground swell [the film] kind of taps into," Wilson said.

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