LOS ANGELES - When Paramount Vantage and Overture announced Michael Moore's long-gestating follow-up to "Fahrenheit 9/11" in May, executives stressed the film's foreign-policy scope. "This is going to tackle what's going on in the world and America's place in it," Paramount Vantage chief Nick Meyer said.
But as the political winds shifted in the months before the election -- and gusted after it -- Moore subtly began reorienting his movie. Instead of foreign policy, the film's focus now is more on the global financial crisis and the U.S. economy.
The untitled movie will contain an end-of-the-empire tone, say those familiar with the project, and Moore no doubt hopes that this will give it a more general feel that will untether it from a specific political moment.
But some political and entertainment experts wonder how much Moore's incredulousness and occasional pessimism about the state of U.S. policy, which served the filmmaker well during the George W. Bush years, will play in the current hopeful climate brought on President-elect Barack Obama.
"If Moore offers a prescription for how to improve things, he may indeed find an audience that at this moment is eager for change," said Craig Minassian, an entertainment consultant and former Bill Clinton aide. "But it's going to be hard for him. What this election shows is what's right with America, and sometimes what Michael Moore does is highlight what's wrong with America."
In the meantime, a focus on the collapsing markets brings its own risk, Minassian said. "The problem with the financial crisis is that it's changing so quickly. I'm not sure how relevant is going to be in six months, and I'm not sure if people want to hear it; my sense is they already have a pretty good idea of a lot of the people who are to blame for it."
An election favoring the Democrats would remove some of the factors that put Moore in vogue both in the U.S. and abroad during the Bush years -- and pushed his three theatrical movies during that time to more than $300 million in worldwide boxoffice.
It's worth noting that Moore famously shoots a lot of footage and makes many critical decisions later in the production process, so the tone could still shift; it's tricky to know what any Moore movie will ultimately look like before he completes the film.
Overture and Vantage declined comment.
Still, Moore is feverishly shooting, and the movie is expected to come out as early as this spring, with Vantage and Overture hoping to capitalize on the current high levels of political awareness.
Moore has also said that in some ways he sees the movie less as a sequel to the Middle East-themed "Fahrenheit 9/11" than as a bookend to "Roger & Me," the director's breakthrough nearly two decades ago. That movie featured the U.S. economy and the auto industry at its center, and that, if nothing else, could again prove a timely theme.