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AOLer Phil Campbell's Life Hits the Big Screen

Jul 18, 2012

AOLer Phil Campbell has a lot to celebrate these days. He loves his job as an AOL Senior Collections Representative on our finance team, and he's celebrating his new movie which just hit the big screen at a theater near you. "Grassroots", a film directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Maggie and Jake, pictured above), recently opened in limited release in theaters across America and to glowing reviews from outlets like The New York Times. Campbell's book, Zioncheck for President, a memoir published in 2005 about an eccentric local political campaign Phil once managed in Seattle for a friend, was the basis for the movie, and as a result, Campbell is now experiencing new fame from the movie's release.

The book chronicles the period from Campbell's sudden firing to how he was able to regain a balance in life and figure out who he was. "I wrote the book because I had a strange experience in 2001 where I was fired from my job at an alternative weekly in Seattle and I was trying to figure out what to do with my life next. I had an identity crisis and ended up jumping on my friend's political campaign for local office."

Zioncheck was adapted into a movie after Gyllenhaal was taken in by a copy of the book provided by Campbell's publisher in 2007. The movie took years to come into focus, but both Campbell and Gyllenhaal wanted to see it through. The process wasn't without some challenges: "You can pack a lot more into a book, but for a movie everything gets boiled down and condensed," said Campbell. "Parts are tossed out wholesale, which was quite a challenge, but suddenly in 2010 it was really happening."

When discussing Jason Biggs, who plays him in the movie, Campbell admits that he didn't know who he was. "I didn't see American Pie, so I didn't really know him," said Campbell. "Everyone told me he was a great choice and when I met him he seemed intent on widening his range as an actor and show that he could do more than just pie jokes. After being on set for four days I was very impressed. He played the role the way it should have been played."

Last year, Phil was featured on You've Got... on when he shared the story of the Phil Campbell relief effort in Phil Campbell, Alabama. An off-beat convention of Phil Campbells from around the world, organized by Campbell, was scheduled to take place in that Alabama town when it was devastated by an EF-5 tornado. The convention turned into a volunteer effort that attracted heavy media attention; the Phil Campbells worked together to raise $42,000 in 6 weeks. AOL's Phil Campbell is now working on a documentary about the project called I'm With Phil and credits the event as "one of the most profound experiences I've ever had. Connecting with total strangers to help out a place that we didn't really know very well was incredible."

An AOLer since 2007, Campbell's favorite part about working at AOL is the people. "I love my team and supervisors and I just really love coming into this office because people here are really friendly. Compared to other places I've worked, this is a place you actually want to work at."

On top of the documentary, Campbell is working on a second book, and can't live without the time needed to "think and create and use my mind to try apply creatively to any kind of problem, whether inside or outside of the office." As his list of accomplishments continues to grow, Phil still cites the birth of his son as his single proudest moment. "He's four years old now and he's really smart and just incredibly gregarious. Watching him grow up has been an incredible experience."

Find out where you can see Phil's new film, "Grassroots", by visiting Moviefone. (Bookstore Photo by Robin Hellmold.)