TRIBECA — "This is certainly the most diverse panel at the Tribeca Film Festival," Time magazine’s political analyst Mark Halperin proclaimed as he introduced the writers of "Knife Fight," Bill Guttentag and Chris Lehane, a consultant for the Democrats, and their co-panelist, the political strategist Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign.
The four discussed the film — a satire that follows a political operative, played by Rob Lowe, through an election season, complete with behind-the-scenes spin, damage control and dirty maneuvering — after its premiere at the BMCC Performing Arts Center at the Tribeca Film Festival Wednesday evening.
They also discussed the impending U.S. presidential election.
"I think we all knew Mitt Romney would be the nominee," said Schmidt. "But this has just been the strangest process — it's been like a reality show."
The selection of a vice president, however, should be less exciting, according to the man who brought us Sarah Palin.
"There’s a very small group of people who will pass the test. There's not going to be any Sarah Palins this year — it will be a vanilla pick," he said.
Halperin seemed to believe otherwise. "Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump," Halperin reeled off, recounting the surprises this year.
"Give it some air — there will be a game change. There's plenty of time," added the co-author of the book "Game Change," which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the McCain-Palin campaign and became an HBO movie.
Actor Richard Schiff, who plays a covert operative in the film, summed up our fascination with politics in the movies: "There are few areas that are rich with potential dramatic stories and show conflict under great pressure."
Schiff, who starred with Rob Lowe in the long-running, hugely successful political drama "The West Wing," acknowledged that police, medical and sports shows could be rich with drama, but said he believed "politics is the only instance where it can affect the whole world."
Edward Burns attends the Tribeca Film Festival, whether or not he wants to.
"It’s literally, right outside my front door because I live down here," he explained. "Even when I'm not participating in the festival, I feel like I'm participating by walking to the deli and getting a cup of coffee." He added, "You can feel that the neighborhood is more alive in the two weeks [of the festival]."
The writer and director is both attending and participating this year, with a short film called "Doggie Bags," the story of a down-on-their-luck couple, which was the result of an American Express competition that asked people to submit film concepts. Once the thousands of entries were whittled down to 10 finalists, Burns chose the one he felt he could make into a film. It came from aspiring screenwriter Susan Brennan.
"It's kind of in my world a little bit — it's funny and it's a funny premise as well," he said. "I cast all my friends, and here we are."