Citizen Weiner

Citizen Weiner star Zack Weiner is an actor who ran for local office in New York City in 2021 and ended up a subject of tabloid fame.

His high school friends Daniel Robbins and Joe Gallagher made a movie about the experience that just premiered at Slamdance — but they don’t call Citizen Weiner a documentary. Gallagher prefers the term “reality film.”

“It’s reacting to the real world,” Gallagher, who was also Weiner’s campaign manager, told Moviemaker. “Instead of reality TV, it’s a reality film, where it’s a guided reality.” 

Robbins adds: “This was planned everyday.” 

Some Background on the Zack Weiner Tape in Citizen Weiner

We won’t reveal details here, to avoid spoiling the film, but the campaign is best known for a surprising video that Gallagher flagged to The New York Post that drew unusual attention to his failed city council campaign.

If you’re suspicious of actors who run for office — and make movies about it — you’ll understandably be on alert throughout Citizen Weiner. The directors are fine with that. They want their film to address the fakery of politics, and of performative kindness.

Robbins likens the disingenuousness of politics to wrestling. 

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“In wrestling, the wrestlers know it’s fake, and the audience know it’s fake. But they’re all acting like it’s real. And politics is beginning to feel like that. Especially with the candidates getting more and more zany and theatrical,” he says.

“We know what they’re doing is fake, but we all treat it like it’s real – all the demonizing of their opponents, all of the quippy comments and all of the grandstanding. And we just felt like we wanted to dig into this element that’s becoming even more theatrical.”

A clip from Citizen Weiner from

Robbins explains that Citizen Weiner was shot with “a group of really talented actors, and we had an idea where it was going like it is a campaign, how it’s going to end with the primary and that’s going to be the climax.”

He adds: “Well, I guess the climax would be the scandal that might have been orchestrated. So, this process is a lot more like improv, just going through each day and trying to write the story as we went along. So, we had a lot of conversations about trying to crack it.” 

And though some things may be orchestrated, interactions with real New Yorkers were not, Robbins says.

“We wanted to try a different approach where all of the people that you meet in the film, that Joe and Zack interact with, we don’t prank any of them and every interaction with them is genuine and unscripted. And real.

“And all of the pranking goes on the larger media and on maybe some of the other candidates. And, in terms of what’s real and what’s not, it’s tough to say.”

The filmmakers took Harvey Milk’s position that “politics is theater” as the starting point of Citizen Weiner

“So much of it is entertainment, between the 24/7 news and everything, but I think what we discovered in undertaking the project was the synergy between politics and filmmaking in the sense that, at a base level, you can feel really overwhelmed by what’s going on geopolitically, but you can just literally go out onto your sidewalk and see the issues in your neighborhood,” says Robbins.

Citizen Weiner was shot over the course of seven months – the length of the campaign – and editing it was nothing short of a “nightmare,” says Robbins. “We had three editors and we’ve had multiple cuts. We had a black-and-white version, and we had a version that focused on jokes. We had a version that was a little too serious. It took a lot of back and forth to find the finished film. I think a film like this just required a ton of hours of editing to find it and get it right.”

Main image: Citizen Weiner.

Editor’s Note: Corrects headline.