On Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted out a cinematic trailer for his 2020 campaign. The video, which had been viewed 2.5 million times as of last night, presents a dramatic montage of clips from Trump’s 2016 election and his first three years as president. The video’s brooding, Christopher Nolan–esque tone is partly thanks to its thundering score, which is in fact a Hans Zimmer track titled “Why Do We Fall” from The Dark Knight Rises. (Warner Bros. filed a copyright complaint over use of the music, and the tweet’s video component was disabled overnight.)
The video’s opening title cards feature a play on the quote “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” which Trump (and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton) has misattributed to Gandhi. Except, in the trailer, the quote has been modified to read, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they call you racist.”
The auteur behind the trailer, who has not received credit for his work, is a visual effects artist named Brandon Kachel. He posted the original video in 2016, about a week after Trump’s election, and did not know about the president’s tweet until Slate emailed him. The president appears to have used a version of Kachel’s trailer that had been ripped off and modified by other YouTube users for the 2020 election. (The version tweeted Tuesday surfaced on the pro-Trump Reddit board /r/The_Donald in recent days.)
Kachel has an extensive résumé working as a concept artist and “matte painter” on movies like La La Land, Guardians of the Galaxy, and A Wrinkle in Time. He also was a professional wrestler who went by the names Kid Krazy and Brandon Bonham for a decade. Slate interviewed Kachel late Tuesday about his professional background, how he created the trailer, and his thoughts on Trump. Below is a transcript of the conversation, which has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Slate: So what’s your reaction to your video being tweeted by the president?
Kachel: It’s definitely cool. It’s funny because I actually sent that video to the Trump campaign several times with the hopes of getting it out there.
When? During the election?
It was a victory video, so after he had won.
Why did you make this trailer in the first place?
Seeing all these political campaign videos throughout the entire election from the primaries on, I thought it’d be kind of cool to frame one with a more cinematic approach, rather than the whole campy “We’re going to do it for America” kind of thing. I just thought it’d be a little more fun and interesting and compelling to make a high-end, cinematic sort of a thing and apply it to politics. It was more of an exercise.
This was the first time I’d participated in voting, actually, so when I was watching this whole thing, I was observing this from maybe a different standpoint from other people. To me it was more of a show, almost more of a professional wrestling event. Professional wrestling influences a lot of how I see the world. Growing up watching professional wrestling and then getting into it, when I view these presidential candidates, to me it’s really a popularity contest. The idea is to rally everyone up, the same you would do with a wrestling show. You get the Rock: He cuts the promo, he says his shtick in character, and that gets everyone jazzed up. That’s what these politicians are doing when they go up there.
When I made the video, I looked at it as more “How can I tell this story between these two characters?” The original video that I made, I feel, was very accurate in the narrative that was being established by the Trump campaign and the people following him.
What was the story you were trying to tell with the video?
The idea was aimed more at Trump supporters. It wasn’t really so much about Trump himself. [His opponents] aren’t just laughing at Trump; they’re laughing at anyone who takes this guy seriously. Your vote proved them wrong. It’s almost a big eff-you video.
How long did it take you to make?
That particular video I think took me 20 or 25 hours.
It looks like you’ve made a few of them. Is this a hobby of yours?
No, I just made three. For the first one, my buddy had hit me up and told me I should make Trump videos. Then I was at the gym one day and I had a random playlist on, and that Kid Rock song “American Bad Ass” came on. I thought, “Oh my God, this song is made for Donald Trump.” I went and cut that “American Bad Ass” video. Actually, after Trump had won, Kid Rock tweeted that video out, which is how it got so many clicks and views.
So this wasn’t the first time one of your Trump videos blew up.
It’s funny, with the Kid Rock one, too, somebody took my video and uploaded it onto their own channel, and that’s the one Kid Rock tweeted out. I’ve been sourced a couple times by the anonymous YouTube crowd. It is what it is.
What do you think of the changes that were made in your video that Trump tweeted out?
I was a little bummed out about that. The pacing isn’t exactly where it needs to be to tell that story. I think if Donald Trump saw the video that I made, he would be like, “Holy shit, this is awesome!”
I don’t feel like [this version] has the kind of momentum that it needs behind it. When they make these movie trailers, they’re trying to sell something. I felt like the video I made captured that a little more, whereas this one drags. I’m not dogging on it, just so you know.
Talking about music, for your trailer, you used the Inception soundtrack. The one Trump tweeted out used the soundtrack from The Dark Knight Rises. This seems like a very Christopher Nolan spin on the election. Why do you think his style fits with Trump?
I don’t know if it necessarily fits with Trump. I guess it could. To me, that [election] was a monumental, larger-than-life thing that happened. The music that I used is very big, iconic, dramatic-sounding stuff. When I made the video, I was watching trailers for Christopher Nolan movies. I thought it would work really well for this. Knowing that Inception trailer, I just referenced that pretty much when I made it.
Did you get the rights for the music?
No. I didn’t monetize the video. I have no affiliation with any copyright things, which is why I don’t get super angry at someone who took my work and did what they did with it.
The opening quote in the trailer is a play on one that Trump attributed to Gandhi. Why did you put that in, and why did you change the last part to “Then they call you racist”?
It had to have some sort of tag line in there. It can’t just be “Make America Great Again.” I wanted something very dramatic. It seems like the other side, a lot of the time, will cast these labels and throw them around, not knowing the implications they can have on people.
With Donald Trump, he came onto the political scene and everyone laughed at him at first and thought he was a dope. In the end, they resorted to calling him a racist asshole. That just piled on.
In the video, you spliced in clips of Bryan Cranston and Amy Schumer. Why those clips?
The video is about the people who support Trump. It’s about how their votes mattered. All these upper-echelon people, celebrity culture, talking down to people. I remembered this specific thing that I read of Bryan Cranston saying that if he met a Trump supporter, he would educate them and talk to them and blah blah blah. [Editor’s note: Here are Cranston’s full comments, which are about listening to people who supported Trump.]. And then the Amy Schumer thing, it was her saying that if Trump wins, she was going to move out of the country.
What is it about Trump that you like?
I like Trump as a personality and as a character. His appeal to me isn’t really political. He’s not the most articulate guy on the planet. With him, I like him in the same way I would like Hulk Hogan. He’s really good at setting the stage.
From a political standpoint, the biggest thing that grabbed my attention when he was running is that in the industry I work in, a lot of it is subsidized through other countries. Up in Canada, they offer massive tax incentives and credits. Film studios sent work over there. With Bernie as well, when he and Trump talked about trade and outsourcing, that’s where I fell on the spectrum.
Do you approve of his performance as president?
Yes and no. I’m not really sure. I’m not upset with him. There are things he campaigned on that haven’t really come to fruition. Overall, I’m fine with him.
Could you talk a bit about your professional background? What exactly does it mean to be a matte painter?
I’m a visual effects artist. I work on movies, TV shows, commercials, game cinematics. I create digital environments, primarily in Photoshop—things that don’t exist, or that they weren’t able to shoot. That’s what matte painting is. It’s a digital art form for creating synthetic environments.
The coolest project I’ve worked on from a subject-matter standpoint was probably the John Adams HBO miniseries. The time piece, the colonial stuff, and how it looks was a lot of fun to work on.
What is it like to be a Trump supporter in Hollywood?
Not really too bad. I’m not really the most vocal, political person. I don’t really have a problem with anyone’s political leanings, and it’s not something that’s overly discussed in my field. The vast majority of my friends in visual effects are liberals. That’s totally fine with me.
Has the White House credited you or reached out to you at all for your video?
Not that I know of. I would love to work on the campaign and produce content for them. I think that’d be fun.
Are you going to make more videos?
I’m so busy all the time with work. I don’t foresee me having time to do it. I guess if I could get paid to do it, it would be more worthwhile. At this point in politics, it’s not really as theatrical as it will be when we get into the election.
Thanks so much for talking to me.
OK, no problem. Now don’t go get me blacklisted from Hollywood.