How did you chose the title for this film and is it misleading? Gun violence in schools is nothing new, how do you feel about the media hype surrounding this one incidence?
(Although the events surrounding the shootings at Columbine High inspired this film) it didn't end up being the centerpiece because I don't really think the issue is Columbine...Initially it was the thing that triggered it because I thought it was very interesting how all this was going on in the suburbs and rural areas. And now it's getting all this attention [violence in schools], but that is not why I made it. I wanted to say something much larger about how people are manipulated, about how society is manipulated by the politicians and corporations into being in a constant state of panic and fear. And about how once you get the population whipped up like that, conservative regimes can get just about anything they want from the people without firing a shot.
What are some of your thoughts about American on American violence?
I think the root cause is that we as Americans were founded on fear and greed... I am much more interested in these state sponsored acts of violence against the poor both at home and around the world, than I am about these individual acts of violence because as animals we will always have this tendency to behave or misbehave in this way; that probably isn't going to change about our nature. But what's really sick about America is that we figured out a way to do that collectively...
(During the interview Moore discussed how capitalism, an atmosphere of fear, and greed influence some of the faults in America's health care system.)
The solution is, instead of having Welfare to Work, what if we had a President- what if we had any kind of leadership that said- just like we had a President one time that said 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself'. Or we are going to put a man on the moon in 9 years.' You know, real leadership, like here's a goal, here's a vision. What if we had a leader who said that it is a right in America to have a job. We are going to have full employment and everyone is going to get a living wage. Would you agree with me that if the person living next door to you is making $40,000 a year, that the chance of that person breaking into your house and stealing your TV is just about nil and that person will not jump you on the street.
When asked why he did not state that outright in the movie, Moore explained that he was not giving a sermon. In fact, this film poses many questions to the audience in efforts to make people think and ask questions too. "I can take you 90% of the way, but you have to go the other 10% . Because if it is just Michael Moore imparting the wisdom and you could just sit there, then it becomes a passive activity for you. I need you to be an active citizen when you leave the theater."
When asked why he went after Dick Clark in the film (because of his connection to a Welfare to Work tragedy) even though he may not have had direct knowledge of the impact of his investment (and in my opinion he should), Moore responded:
I do not believe in the good German. 'I only drove the train. I didn't kill anybody.' I don't believe that K-Mart has the right to say that 'We only put the bullets on the shelf. We didn't kill the kids at Columbine'. I believe that we all have a collective responsibility for our actions. When Bush drops those bombs on Iraq, I believe that those are my bombs. I pay my taxes. I am not a tax resister. I personally feel responsible for the people that those bombs will kill that is being done in my name with my tax dollars. I will not sit back and say 'I didn't vote for him. It's not my fault.' It is being done in my name with my tax dollar.
This is the Dick Clark Restaurant. It is his name. He is a shareholder and he profits from it. He didn't put the gun under the bed. He didn't shoot that little girl. He didn't make that woman poor. But he was trying to make a quick benefit from her poverty. He was trying to get a tax break. He wasn't motivated by altruistic reasons, 'Let's try to employ as many poor black women as we can to raise their standard of living'- no. 'Let's try to get workers at the bare base minimum wage and let's get a tax break so that we don't have to pay our fair share of the taxes that could help alleviate some of the poverty'. That's his little role in it. And he can't just divorce himself from it.
Moore did contact Clark for months in advance of filming the encounter. He faced repeated resistance.
What advice would you give to documentary filmmakers trying to get controversial footage and in the door for tough to get interviews?
You should follow your heart. You should do something you are passionate about. You should not do a film to get a movie deal. You should make something that you would like to go see. You should be authentic. You should be yourself.
He also advise filmmakers to embrace their subjectivity, as long as they put forth accurate facts. There is not objectivity in journalism, according to Moore, and to pretend that there is misleading.
Outtakes: Moore brought the same kind of gun used to kill the little girl in Flint in a bag to show Charlton Heston. He chose to edit that part out because he thought it was too harsh. I think he should have left the scene in, if for not other reason than he shot it and it would have been very dramatic.
*For those who have not read Stupid White Men, it is worth a read for the trademark cynical political humor. The film mocks Bush Jr. and the 2000 election/appointment.
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