Americans generally like to hear good news. They like to believe that a new president will right old wrongs, that clean energy will replace dirty oil and that fresh thinking will set the economy straight. American pundits tend to restrain their pessimism and hope for the best. But is anyone prepared for the worst? Meet Michael Ruppert, a different kind of American. A former Los Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, he predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter at a time when most Wall Street and Washington analysts were still in denial.
Here is how I came to document his story...
Earlier this year, in the course of doing research for a film about CIA involvement in drug smuggling during the 1980's, we arranged to interview a whistle blower by the name of Michael Ruppert.
During the late 70's, Michael claimed he was recruited by the CIA to run drugs, he became a whistle blower and his life seemed to fall apart around him.
We set up a meeting with him at his house in early 2009. Once the interview began, it became clear that Ruppert had a lot else on his mind.
He tells us this is incredible timing. He was so full of energy that he could barely control himself. He doesn't want to talk about the 70's. The Collapse of Industrial Civilization that he's been predicting for years was happening all around us. There would be no time for further narrative filmmaking. He had just finished writing a book called A Presidential Energy Policy based on the connection between energy and economics. After years of criticizing the powers that be, he decided to focus his efforts on writing a book that presented what he believed to be a sensible energy plan.
He continued to talk for hours about what was coming our way, all intermixed with anecdotes and analogies that were truly fascinating. I didn't believe everything Michael had to say, but I found everything he had to say interesting and quite thought provoking. We asked him if we could film an interview with him a week later.
I've always been fascinated by outsiders. People who look at the world in an entirely different way than the rest of us. To get inside the mind of someone so convinced of their version of reality seemed worth the few days it would take to do the interview.
We had chosen to shoot in the basement of an abandoned meat packing plant in downtown Los Angeles to heighten the feeling of being let in on secret information, and to play off his past CIA claims. We wanted the film to feel like an interrogation. That the audience is fully immersed in the world he lives in everyday.
We quickly put together a crew for a two-day shoot. We turned on the camera and he started to talk. He had no notes, no questions beforehand. It was a train of thought, stream of consciousness unfolding of his beliefs.
He wants to help people by educating them, but for years so few have listened. His frustration is palpable in his anger and fanaticism, but it is also clear why he would be so marginalized as his view of things is so far from the accepted reality so many of us hold to be true.
I find Michael's perception of the world fascinating. The amount of information that is swimming in his head and the way he coalesces that information into his vision of the future. The film is a look at a man who has let his obsession with the collapse of industrialized civilization lead to the collapse of his own life. He has given everything to this cause and got so little in return.
Ultimately it's a character study of the apocalyptic imagination, a trip inside the mind of a radical thinker who truly lives outside the mainstream.