Filmmaker Kimberly Reed talks “Dark Money”

Nayomi Santos/Fourth Estate

Mason hosts a film screening and Q&A with Kim Reed


Mason’s Film and Media Studies department invited Kimberly Reed, the director of “Dark Money,” to an event that featured her film Tuesday, Oct. 30.

As part of the Visiting Filmmakers Series, the film was shown in the Johnson Center Cinema followed by a discussion of the documentary. Cynthia Fuchs, the director of Film and Media Studies, hosted the event.

Dark money is money donated to nonprofits to influence elections. The documentary is set in Montana, the frontline place of resistance against this practice which has been on the rise since a landmark 2010 Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In it, the Supreme Court decided that there should be no limit as to how much a corporation can contribute to a candidate. They ruled that campaign contributions are protected under the First Amendment right to free speech—a practice that the movie brings out into the open.

“[The fact that] dark money can take over state government is frightening,” said junior Sara Deriso, who attended the event. Deriso majors in government and international politics and is a member of Transparent GMU, a student organization that is fighting Mason’s dark-money influence from the George Mason University Foundation. “[I’m going to] practice my civic duty,” Deriso said about voting on Nov. 6.

After the screening, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions. Richard Craig, the director of the master’s program in Film and Media Studies, moderated the Q&A—which was composed of not only film students, but any student or faculty interested in learning about dark money and the injustices occurring in current politics.

Many students were curious about the filmmaking process. An audience member asked Reed about the cinematography and what she wanted to focus on. “I tried to make it as beautiful as possible,” Reed said when talking about her work in the Montana landscape.

“Every time I came to D.C. to shoot, everything was under construction,” Reed said.

Yet she took this opportunity to create a metaphor that is important to the topic of her film. “This is democracy under construction,” Reed said.

Students also asked about the editing process and how Reed was able to pack so much information on campaign laws into a film. “There is a lot to unpackage,” Craig said. “It is amazing that you make [it all] clear.”

“It’s the puzzle that I find really intriguing in filmmaking and storytelling in general,” Reed said.

Did anything shock Dark Money’s director when making the film?

“The impact of dark money on judicial elections,” Reed said. She was surprised to find the influence this practice has on the elections of judges and how it continues to affect elections all over the country, mostly in secret.

Reed also spoke about her decision to film the attorney for Western Tradition Partnership, a dark-money group.

“When I’m considering something for myself, I want to hear all sides,” Reed said. “At the end of the day, it makes your argument stronger.”

Reed has also been fortunate so far in that she has experienced little backlash over the film. “I’m doing OK so far, but I changed all my passwords,” Reed said.

As her final thought, Reed told students, “Just get engaged. Find a way to get involved.” The film’s website,, lists ways to get involved to fight this corruption. “I want you guys to walk out of here with the hope that you can change things,” Reed said.

“Dark Money” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and to view on PBS.