When Cullen Hoback was at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th shooting material for “Q: Into the Storm,” he knew that something dangerous was going to culminate at that location. “Anybody who had been really tracking QAnon and MAGA more broadly… knew that some things were kind of coalescing on that date,” he said during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). It got to the point that he was having trouble sleeping in the lead up to that day and was one of the most frightening days of his life. “It was a project full of nerve-wracking experiences, but that one was by far the most. I still am grateful that it wasn’t worse than it was.”
“Q: Into the Storm,” which currently available to stream on HBO Max is a docuseries that thoroughly examines the QAnon conspiracy theories that have burrowed into the American political landscape. While there are varying versions of the conspiracy’s details, the main idea behind it is that there is a global cabal of cultural elites (mainly Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities) who are secretly cannibalistic pedophiles. Subscribers to this also generally believe that Donald Trump was the one person who would bring this whole system down culminating in arrests and even executions of the people responsible. Belief in this started on the 4chan website after an anonymous user named “Q” started posting cryptic messages on the site.
The other incredibly tense part of the docuseries came in seeing 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan trying to flee The Philippines after an arrest warrant was issued for him. Hoback says that how it’s portrayed in the series is not sensationalized and that it was even more stressful than it appeared. “The power was out that day, we had Corona on our heels, that once again, his lawyer had screwed up and didn’t have the correct documentation to get out of there.” The need to get Brennan out of the country was heightened by the fact that he has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, which stunted his growth and required the use of an electric wheelchair. “I strongly suspect that, given the conditions of the prison system there and the fact that COVID was really picking up that someone like Fred with his condition would not have survived.”
The way Hoback made this series was very unique because he knew he was making something that would be a series in a completely independent way. HBO didn’t even come on board until September of 2020. “That DIY approach was really helpful in gaining access and adding intimacy, but man, I mean, no one’s ever made–I mean, I guess they could exist, but doc series generally you don’t make independently.” The key to getting HBO behind it was getting it in front of Oscar and Emmy winner Adam McKay, who came on board as an executive producer after viewing 65 minutes of edited material. “I just, I thought he was the guy. I thought he was going to get it and a friend of a friend of a friend helped, you know, a bunch of emails got in front of him and he did, he got it.”
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