One-on-One Q&A: Paul Krik, "Able Danger"
Writer/Director, Able Danger
Paul Krik’s Able Danger, which premiered at the 2008 International Film Festival Rotterdam, is a fast-paced, very good-looking, modern-day independent film noir about a conspiracy theorist/Brooklyn bookstore café owner who unassumingly gets in the middle of a 9/11 cover up when he helps a femme fatal keep a secret that leads to murder and espionage. Below is an One-on-One Q&A between Paul Krik and The Film Panel Notetaker.
TFPN: How did Able Danger come about? Were you interested in conspiracy theories? Do you have a message?
Paul: The message is that truth won’t be handed to you. There’s a lot going on in the world that most people don’t know about. I wasn’t really a conspiracy theorist before I started writing and researching. When Bush won the last election, I was inspired to do something to contribute to the culture, to try to affect the zeitgeist. The café Vox Pop is a real café. I came to know the owner, Sander Hicks, who’s been an activist for years. I came to be a big fan of his tireless efforts to promote the truth. Vox Pop is a cool hangout place. It’s great for the neighborhood where people come together for wireless Internet and get some coffee. It’s also a bookstore with books you don’t find in mainstream bookstores. He’s also a micro publisher. He wrote a book, which is in the movie, the Big Wedding. My initial feelings about this conspiracy theorist café owner was something ofthe everyman perspective on conspiracy theorists, these sort of kooky whack jobs who are screaming, “Dig for the truth.” But because I liked this café and what he was doing in the neighborhood, I invested the energy to read the book and I kind of fell into the abyss of conspiracy theory. It was such a well-written academic very interesting treatise on 9/11 and also a bigger picture of things that are going on we don¹t know about that will never make it to mainstream media. He was the basis for the main character. He’s not exactly modeled on him, but the idea that hopefully the character is a bit of a goof, but underlies the seriousness of the issues he’s talking about. For a year, I sort of read everything on the Internet and some of the best conspiracy books I could find. I wasn’t a conspiracy theorist before, but on that day something didn’t feel right to me. I’m not a 9/11 academic or researcher in the strictest sense, but I do think that the official story is clearly flawed and covering up quite a bit. That’s really the main point. Everybody acknowledges that, even the official Keane Hamilton report, it’s clearly not a final story. Our understanding of 9/11 completely determines the post-9/11 world and that’s why I think it became an important issue. At the same time, I don’t really want to be the person who’s drudgingup the old issue that no one really wants to think about, but it’s the issue that sort of informs our world more than anything else. I really wanted to start dealing a blow to how we understand it.
TFPN: The black & white cinematography and overall production/art design is really fantastic. How did you put it all together? Was there a limited budget?
Paul: My budget was very limited. It’s a completely self-financed project. I begged, borrowed and stole to get it done. I work in post production for Jump Editorial. I’ve been editing television commercials for a number of years. I did edit it myself, but called in all my post-production favors. I was fortunate enough to enlist the immense talent of a great director of photography named Charles Libin. He was willing to work on the project forless than his normal rate because he liked the script and the subject matter. He certainly informed the look quite a bit. The reason why I chose black and white is that it is a film noir homage. When you’re in the noir environment, you’re assuming that there’s something darker than what appears on the surface. We accept in a noir environment that people have ulterior motives. No one is perfect in a noir environment. The vocabulary of evil can be played with in a way. We live in the noir environment and we can play with it and have witty banter, but it’s sort of understood that things are darker than they appear. For me, conspiracy theorists see past the mainstream media what is offered as the truth. In a way, they live in this noir environment. When I watch news now or read mainstream media, that’s not really the story. We don¹t really want to drop bombs on Iran because they want to develop nuclear weapons, we want to drop bombs on Iran because they’re going to be undermining our economy when they set up a bourse that sells gasoline in Euros, therefore undermining the dollar. But that will never make it to the mainstream media. Originally noir came about because we saw the depths of the depravity of the human condition during World War II. We saw what Godlessness means. I feel like it’s a similar time now, but we are the perpetrators of this sort of Nazi-like evil. Using the noir genre brings us into a space where this moral depravity is a really current topic.
TFPN: I like how you show all the TV broadcasts in color. It’s a bold contrast to the black and white. What was your intention with this? Were you trying to make a statement about the media?
Paul: What we see on the television, because it’s on TV, it’s more readily accepted as true. The cooler the logo and brand are, the more interested we are in watching it and the more we accept it because if they’re paying all this money for production value to sell their news, then it must be true. I think that’s how Americans take their news. The glossier and slicker it is, the more they’ll buy it.
TFPN: What was the reaction from audiences at the film¹s world premiere inRotterdam? What was it like doing a Q&A?
Paul: The reaction was amazing. We had three sold out shows with about 400 people in the seats. It was sold out weeks in advance. I’d literally been working 20 hours a day for months. I got into the festival and then actually had to finish it. I was kind of on an insane course just to get it done. And so I showed up and really sort of watched it for the first time finished with a crowd. When you’re doing a Q&A, it distorts your experience, because it’s kind of about you and less about the movie. I’m worried about what I’mgoing to say. For the first screening, it was a little weird, because you’re watching it and the crowd is reacting. At the Q&A, people were really interested. They were asking question for what seemed like at least an hour. They had to boot us out because they were going to shut down the theater. For the third screening, I was able to be a fly on the wall. I didn’t have to introduce the film. I sat in the back and just observed the crowd. It wasactually amazing how into it they were. They were laughing the moments that felt small on a small monitor, but on the big screen these moments got stretched onto a larger canvas and the audience picked up on all the humor. These small moments became real moments. People were laughing as much as I had hoped, but more than I expected and really getting into it.
TFPN: Who are some other filmmakers or films that you admire and that mighthave inspired you for your film?
Paul: It is a noir homage. It’s first and foremost a hats off to Humphrey Bogart, Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammet; that kind of fast talking detective story. I’m also a huge Kubrick and Coen Bros. fan, and of the film Pi. It’s a similar sentiment that there’s a truth that takes a lot of scraping to get at. If you find the truth, you’ll go blind maybe or crazy. My take on my conspiracy theorist character is, he sort of knows the truth and he’sconsidered a kook because of it. For me, the object was to make an entertaining good date movie where hopefully by the end of it, your head explodes, or at least you’re asking questions like, what, that’s really true? I did a fair amount of research and I think in 25 years, pretty much everything that made it in there, what’s considered now an out thereconspiracy theory will basically be common knowledge or will be accepted as true.