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Filmmakers putting together Wellstone documentary
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The Wellstones and their daughter, Marcia Wellstone Markuson, were killed, along with five others, in a plane crash just days before last year's Senate election. (Photo courtesy of Hard Working Pictures)

Washington, DC — (AP) Historians might remember Paul Wellstone for using his Senate seat in liberal crusades against the powerful, but for some who knew him best it was his ability to connect with ordinary people that stood out the most. "He'd be walking down the hallway and cross the hallway and come to you and shake your hand and talk to you," a Capitol Hill maintenance worker says in the trailer for a documentary on Wellstone and his wife, Sheila.

"A lot of senators don't say nothing to you," another worker says.

The producers of the new documentary, "Carry it Forward," are trying to capture Wellstone's personal as well as political side. The documentary, due out next summer, is part biography, part call to action.

The Wellstones and their daughter, Marcia Wellstone Markuson, were killed, along with five others, in a plane crash just days before last year's Senate election. Wellstone's replacement on the ballot, former Vice President Walter Mondale, lost the Senate race to Republican Norm Coleman.

As a journalist, usually I find flaws, but the more I learn about Paul and Sheila, the more I think they were the real deal.
- Laurie Stern, film producer

"You want to help people," Wellstone, a Democrat, says in an April 2002 clip. "I think that's what public service is all about."

Hard Working Pictures, a St. Paul, Minn., production company, has raised $150,000 toward its $500,000 goal for the nonprofit project.

One of the film's directors, Laurie Stern, had been freelancing for NBC News when Wellstone's plane went down last October. In the ensuing days, friends who had worked for Wellstone suggested that she record the chaos and emotion of the final days of the campaign.

"So I called my friend at campaign headquarters, and asked if I could come over with a camera," she recalled. "They said come over, and I did. I rollercoastered with everyone else in Minnesota."

"We had no thoughts of making a documentary," Stern added. "All of this came together later."

Stern, who owns Hard Working Pictures with her husband, Dan Luke, was put in touch with Shayna Berkowitz, a Minnesota progressive political activist who wanted to do a tribute to the Wellstones. They decided to collaborate on the documentary.

"It's a call to action," Berkowitz said. "The intention is to inspire and energize and motivate people to get themselves to do the work the Wellstones did, and continue the work, and carry out that legacy."

The trailer begins on Oct. 25, 2002, the day the Wellstones were killed, with footage of people crying, and of campaign manager Jeff Blodgett confirming the deaths for reporters.

The film then takes viewers back more than a decade. The Wellstones and their daughter, Marcia, wave and smile from the back of his old green school bus as it makes its way down a snowy Minnesota road en route to Washington.

The 15-minute trailer mixes together archival footage and interviews with friends, analysts and other senators. Among them is a brief elevator exchange with Coleman, Wellstone's one-time opponent.

"Very nice to see you," Coleman says. "Who's producing this?"

Stern tells him they are local independent producers from Minnesota.

"Anything you want to say?" she asks. "We've got the camera, we've got the mike. You want to talk about Paul a little bit?"

Nervous laughter fills the Capitol Hill elevator.

"Big shoes to fill," Coleman says. "They weren't big - the shoes were smaller than mine - but they were big in heart and everything else."

As he steps off the elevator, Coleman says, "I'll be around. Good luck."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., chuckles as she recalls how Wellstone, early in his career, didn't know much about Senate protocol and would wave his arms passionately when giving speeches. She became first lady in Wellstone's third year as senator, before winning a Senate seat herself in 2000.

"And he told me once, he said, 'You know, it took me a while to understand that I really had to conform in my style to the Senate. But' " - and at this point Clinton mimics him pointing his finger - "'I've never conformed my convictions."'

There is also footage of Sheila Wellstone's work on behalf of domestic abuse victims. She helped rally support for the Violence Against Women Act, a bill she helped write.

"This absolutely is a documentary about both Paul and Sheila Wellstone," Berkowitz said. "Sheila also did wonderful work."

The production team is working with the blessing of Wellstone Action, a non-profit group founded by family members and supporters to carry out the Wellstones' legacy.

"We all think it's one of the main parts of telling the Wellstone story," said Blodgett, the former campaign manager and now Wellstone Action's executive director. "We're excited about it."

He said Wellstone Action is providing Hard Working Pictures with archival materials, including videos, and may make a financial contribution.

Stern said the final documentary, 60-90 minutes long, will be in three parts: Wellstone's influences and background; his career as a senator and participation in social movements; and a look at Wellstone's legacy and what's next for progressive politics.

"I think Paul was the real deal," Stern added. "As a journalist, usually I find flaws, but the more I learn about Paul and Sheila, the more I think they were the real deal."

Berkowitz said she hoped to have the film distributed on college campuses, in independent film circuits, and on public television.

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