TODAY   |  January 22, 2014

‘Mitt’ director: Romney was uncomfortable with film

Greg Whiteley, director of a new documentary about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, said the film made the former Massachusetts governor uncomfortable, but that Romney was ultimately touched by it.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> move now to a rare inside look at what it's like to run for president. a new documentary called "mitt" appears on netflix this friday followed mitt romney 's failed campaigns in 2008 and 2012 . we'll talk to the director of the movie in a moment. but first, here's peter alexander .

>> reporter: it's a rare and intimate look at the man who could have been president. the new documentary mitt capturing a candidate most people never saw. private moments with his family.

>> no matter how it turns out.

>> reporter: and candid comments behind the scene.

>> they become a loser for life.

>> reporter: but no scene is more striking than this.

>> where?

>> that's not good.

>> reporter: election night inside romney 's boston hotel room as he and his family learn the presidency is slipping away.

>> what do you say? what do you think to say in a concession speech?

>> reporter: film maker greg whitely who is mormon was granted exclusive access to the family over six years and two presidential campaigns.

>> one of the big questions is why could this 90-minute documentary by a film maker convey a personal, human warm side of mitt romney that his team of very high-pay strategists could not?

>> even after his biggest triumph, the first presidential debate , down plays the victory chalking it up to an overconfident incumbent.

>> george herbert walker did, george w. did, because they feel who is this whipper snapper coming in here who knows nothing. i'm president of the united states .

>> mitt romney 's oldest son tag tells nbc news the documentary was very fair and real. the film providing an unprecedented window into a family's hard-fought presidential campaign . for "today," peter alexander , nbc news, washington.

>> well, we're glad to have greg whitely with us now. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> presidential campaigns are notoriously locked up. so hard to get access. somehow you were able to get inside for two presidential campaigns on the romney side. how did you convince them to let you in?

>> i am not sure to this day. back in 2006 , i read a blurb in the newspaper that described the governor of massachusetts was going to be getting together with his family over the christmas holiday to discuss whether or not he was going to run for president. and something about that sounded like the beginning of a great movie. so i just reached out, a mutual friend introduced me to tag romney . pitched him the idea and he said, great. he took it to mitt and mitt said no but ann said yes. he said i think if you show up on christmas eve , i don't think my dad would throw you out. i packed up my family, drove to park city , stayed with a friend, knocked on his door. he opened the door, rolled his eyes and let me in. i filmed that night and kept filming for the next six years.

>> it seems you never left. the family embraced you. you said the staff of the campaign didn't. they really didn't want you inside strategy sessions and stuff like that.

>> i didn't take it personally. i think the idea of a candidate being filmed by a documentarian was nerve wracking and anxious. these are guys that are smart, they've been through elections past and elections fail and campaigns fail for reasons that are very small. and so they saw me as a large risk.

>> you see a much more personal side of mitt romney . the film doesn't get into things like the 47% remark. and some of these issues that were political issues in the campaign. was that by design or a function of the kind of access you got?

>> well, i felt like my strategy in making the film was show up and shut up and just film. i asked him about 47%. he just didn't give me an answer that he hadn't already given 100 times to other reporters. that wasn't the strength of my footage. over six years of filming him, when i was done after the election, i didn't want to rehash stuff people had rehashed. the strength of my footage was these candid personal family moments and we edited them and strung them together in a 90-minute arc.

>> what did mitt romney say to you after he saw the film?

>> he didn't say anything about whether he liked it. and if he did, i'm not sure i could believe him. he's very polite and gracious. after the screening there was a q & a, and he was in the audience and so i just asked him him, he said, there were things in the film he would not have put in. it was uncomfortable for him to watch. but he was touched by what he saw his family go through. and he was touched by their support in the film.

>> well, it's an extraordinary inside look. congratulations on the film. and we want to mention mitt romney will be our guest here live friday on