Chris Smith, director of American Movie and The Yes Men, is back with his most poignant documentary to date, Collapse. In Collapse, Smith interviews Michael Ruppert, a reporter who predicted the current economic crisis in his independent newspaper, From the Wilderness, several years before it occurred. The film, shot in an abandoned warehouse, has Smith digging deep into Ruppert’s beliefs about the current problems and what he feels the future will bring.
Through Ruppert’s interpretations of current problems and lifestyles, he predicts the downfall of the industrial civilization. Throughout the interview, Smith analyzes Ruppert’s thoughts and beliefs, dissecting a man who may be on the verge of collapsing himself.
Collapse opens in theaters and on Video On Demand on November 6, just two months after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. So far, screenings have left viewers and critics shaken up from Ruppert’s prediction of the country’s future.
Smith spoke with MM about his exhilarating trip he’s taken Collapse and why it was important to him that Ruppert’s voice be heard.
Michael Gerali (MM): Your new film, Collapse, is debuting in theaters and on Video on Demand on November 6, two months after it debuted at Toronto International Film Festival. With how quickly the movie is debuting, what have the past two months been like?
Chris Smith (CS): A bit insane. We’ve had to make all the materials for the release in such an accelerated period that it’s just been from one thing to another. On the positive side, it’s been really exciting and seems to have kept the energy that we had coming out of Toronto.
MM: Vitagraph Films, LLC is in charge of the theatrical release, while FilmBuff is handing the VOD release. What was it like working with these two companies?
CS: This is the first time we’ve done a VOD/theatrical release. So far everything has been going really well as both teams really know their niche. [Vitagraph founder] David [Shultz] has so much passion and energy in what he does. He’s the only distributor I know that could get a film into theaters on such short notice. Working with Cinetic on FilmBuff has been equally great as they have really pioneered that space for independents and understand what it takes to get films to work there.
MM: Why did you decide to release the film both in theaters and on VOD? What do you see as the main benefits to a multiple platform release?
CS: Collapse is such a viral and timely film that we were looking for an option to have it available to the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time possible. The theatrical release gets the film out there in the major cities, while the VOD component allows people anywhere to be able to see it at the same time.
MM: Why did you decide to use Michael Ruppert as the focus of your documentary? What do you hope people learn from this film?
CS: We originally contacted Michael about his alleged recruitment by the CIA in the 1970s. When we met with him he had just finished a new book about the collapse of industrialized civilization [Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil] and was literally consumed by this idea. He talked for three hours straight and it was a fascinating train of thought monologue. The way Michael takes in and processes information is so interesting that we asked him if he would be open to filming an interview for a few days. He showed up a few weeks later in the basement of an abandoned meat packing plant in downtown Los Angeles. He had no notes or questions beforehand. We just turned on the camera and he started talking.
I’ve always been fascinated by people like Michael. They’re outsiders who look at the world in an entirely different way than the rest of us. Michael is truly living outside the mainstream. He’s been criticized and ostracized for trying to get across a message that he fully believes in. The film is more a character study on Michael than it is a full examination of the issues he presents. It’s about a theory he’s developed over thirty years, how he ended up here and the effects it’s had on his life.
MM: What do you plan to do after Collapse?
CS: I have a number of narrative projects that I was exploring at the time we met up with Michael, so basically will just get back to where those were left off. I’m most excited about an animated project and a horror film idea.
For more information, visit http://www.collapsemovie.com/.