GOP's Paul Ryan Goes Hollywood to Sell Federal Budget

To explain the complexities of his plan, the House budget chairman and his filmmakers found inspiration in a BBC documentary by a Swedish global health professor. For real.

Budget season in Washington usually means the arrival of big, heavy books and endless press conferences. But yesterday, something else drifted into the capital scene: A polished, "Morning in America"-type video on YouTube in which Rep. Paul Ryan argues that the Republicans’ 10-year budget plan is the only viable path toward financial health for the country.

Politicians using YouTube is nothing new. But this is probably the first time a Congressional politician used the medium to galvanize support for that most dreary of Washington topics, the budget.

"It’s often a challenge to effectively communiciate complicated budget issues in a compelling way," House Budget Committee spokesman Conor Sweeney tells Fast Company. "This video did a really good job of making the complicated simple."

There was something else about the video, titled "The Path to Prosperity: America’s two futures, visualized," that merits mention—and we’re not just talking about the fact that, by last night, it already had nearly 50,000 views. That’s nothing compared to how quickly those babbling toddler twins went viral, of course, but this is, after all, a three-minute video of a Congressman talking about the budget.

No, what merits mention is the video’s stylistic approach. There’s no suit sitting behind a oak desk with graphs hovering over his right shoulder and the American flag on his left. There aren’t even any faux-homey images of a checked-shirt-clad, "regular-guy" politician meeting "regular people" at the corner diner or off in some corn field.

Instead the video includes gorgeous, impressionistic images shot in Capitol Hill buildings—in Ryan’s office and in the House Budget Committee hearing room. And then when it comes to data—the meat of the argument—Ryan doesn't reference a bunch of Power Points. Instead, he seems to paint graphics out of the air in front of him. (Watch it below.) 

The filmmakers, Dan Hayes and Clay Broga, of Washington, D.C.-based Freethink Media, say the video, which was shot in the Capitol on Sunday using DSLRs, took its inspiration from a BBC documentary by Swedish global health professor—and stats nerd—Hans Rosling. "The Joy of Stats" uses the same kind of drawing-charts-out-of-thin-air technique to make complicated bits of data accessible, as in the clip posted below the Ryan vid.

"When people are talking about budgets, the audience has a tendency to doze off," Hayes tells Fast Company. "We wanted to make the visuals compelling."

"Most people are not going to read his ‘Path to Prosperity’ [the 72-page Republican budget proposal], and they’re certainly not going to dive into Excel spreadsheets of data," Hayes says. "They want a comprehensive summary of what he’s arguing, and why, and what the stakes are."

And YouTube, he says, combined with some imaginative filmmaking, provides just that.



E.B. Boyd is's Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.

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  • Nordberg John

    "GOP's Paul Ryan Goes Hollywood to Sell Federal Budget"
    While it makes a catchy headline, neither the Swedish guy nor the BBC have anything to do with "Hollywood". The filmmakers who did the Ryan piece are from Washington, DC, not Southern California.

  • Travis Price

    Brilliant for the fast growing micro minded generation. Needless to say, all that increase in human life span and quality needs massive fuel. The anti-entropic minds will create those benign fuels without global downfalls I believe. It is a refreshing attitude of human progress vs the doom and gloom of liberal nay sayers who always want someone else to clean up the mess while they pout. Go Baltic!

  • Bob Shea

    So the news always trumps substance.And ironically, Obama's been criticized for just that. Guess he and the Dems need to upgrade their slick. The Swedish academic's presentation wasn't driving a political agenda that anyone is aware of. So it would be interesting to know who funded Ryan's little "Hollywood" production. "Simplifiying" complex issues in service to an agenda which serves those who fund Mr. Ryan isn't the same as actually informing people. But, hey...neat graphics and "viral" marketing. Helps to remember though that a "virus" can have deadly consequences.

  • Mary Ann

    Loved the Swedish guy's presentation!

    However, why did you not provide the capability to watch Paul Ryan's?? I would like to see it and it seems a natural given that you should have provided his link as well since the article IS about his budget presentation!