OK, so Oregon doesn’t have the dreamy tropical backdrop of the Northern Mariana Islands. Utah grabbed the vote-by-mail messaging out from our collective nose, and razor clams and Dungeness crab did not get their moment to shine, unlike the giant pile of cherry-pepper-studded fried calamari toted by that buff, ninja-esque chef from the great little state of Rhode Island.
No matter—we were the only ones at a rainbow-muraled light-rail station. Take that, waving grasses in a Kansas field, bucolic red barn in Maine, and windswept pueblo in New Mexico!
Oregon’s 30-second contribution to last night’s virtual roll call of delegates from around the country and various US territories officially declaring Joe Biden to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee was filmed on a recent Sunday morning. It was a logistics-heavy, tech-savvy operation that—like the other clips—pulled off the neat trick of looking pretty organic and homegrown.
It’s all part of this year’s streaming Democratic National Convention, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced both major parties to call off their every-four-years bacchanal of balloon drops, confetti, wacky hats, and furious networking.
As for that transit station, it has a deeper, much more emotional meaning: The spot was filmed at the Hollywood Transit Center, where white supremacist Jeremy Christian killed two men on a MAX train in May 2017, after they and others stepped in to defend fellow passengers who were the targets of Christian’s racist slurs. Christian was sentenced in June to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The mural is part of a memorial to the victims.
“We didn’t even know this was happening until about two weeks ago,” says Molly Woon, the Democratic Party of Oregon’s deputy director. “It did involve a lot of different moving parts. In some states, where they had one person in a field, it was probably a little easier. In Oregon we had two senators, two speakers, one secretary of state candidate.” That would be state Sen. Shemia Fagan, whose adorably masked-up kids also made it into the video—the DNC ask that no more than five people be in the frame, Woon said, but a cute-factor exception was made.
In order to pull it off, the Democratic National Committee shipped every state and territory a boxful of equipment, Woon says, including ring lights, a tripod, signs and sign bases, and a phone for filming; it took five separate takes, with a DNC official connected via earpiece to the spot’s director throughout, giving feedback. Everyone involved had to be vetted, and the script went through 10 different drafts.
Some states, including Minnesota and Pennsylvania, had their senators doing the talking. But in Oregon, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley ceded the speaking to two Democratic Party of Oregon officials: Dr. Rosa Colquitt, a former researcher at OHSU who chairs the state party’s Black Caucus, and Travis Nelson, a registered nurse and Democratic National Committee member.
The local party considered highlighting the July presence of federal law enforcement officers in Oregon, sent by President Trump to quell the city’s Black Lives Matter movement, Woon says, but ultimately followed national requests to highlight inequitable access to the health care system for BIPOC communities, which has been laid especially bare by the coronavirus pandemic.
While they were filming, Woon says, they had to stop periodically so passerbys wouldn’t be caught in the frame.
“We had one woman walk by who told us, ‘I didn’t vote last time, but I am sure as bleep going to vote this time,’” Woon says.
The convention festivities continue tonight, with speeches from Sen. Kamala Harris, the party's vice-presidential nominee, and former President Barack Obama. The Republican National Convention, which bounced from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, before settling on an online format, is scheduled for August 24–27. Among its speakers are the St. Louis couple who waved guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who were passing by their home and, of course, Trump himself.