The urban creative class, especially in Brooklyn, is an easy target for derision these days – with their expensive condos, yoga classes and technology dependence. What made these people exciting to you as movie subjects?
I think there’s an aspirational quality to that lifestyle, which is why I wanted to make the film beautiful to look at. Basically, Brooklyn is a brand at this point — if you go to Paris, everyone wants to talk about Brooklyn. It’s a lifestyle and a mentality that’s been exported, and I think it’s where most middle-class college graduates want to be because you get to sort of be an artist but you also have a very comfortable life style — you get to make stuff instead of pushing numbers around like a banker. It’s a world I’m familiar with, having negotiated it for the past fifteen years I’ve spent in New York. I also think these characters have become almost archetypal in our culture. They’re not heroes, but they’re becoming almost an everyman at a certain economic level. And theirs is very much a livable world — but it’s also trouble in paradise. These are not happy people.
Anxiety is a key theme in this movie. Do you think anxiety is inescapable in the digital age? And if yoga isn’t the antidote, what is?
I think anxiety is inevitable for modern humans — it was probably inevitable even for our ancestral early humanoids, but their anxiety was a genetic advantage because it kept them from being eaten by more powerful predators. So it’s a fundamental part of being human, but I don’t know if there is an antidote or solution to anxiety, other than that there has to be an engagement with anxiety rather than distractions from it. I actually think a cure is the wrong idea. We have no idea how many people in our culture are taking anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication — I expect the numbers are higher than we know. This notion of treating anxiety rather than engaging with its existential nature is something I’m interested in. Maybe ten years ago, in Adbusters Magazine, there was a picture of a woman sitting up in bed with her head in her hands and very worried look on her face — it was probably taken from a pharmaceutical ad, and the tag line said BREAKDOWN. You turned the page and it was the exact same photo, but the tag line read BREAKTHROUGH. This for me summed up the best of Adbusters in the way that it argued for shifting the linguistic assumptions and even the visual assumption of what life’s all about. If you can’t get up for work because you’re troubled about something — if you can’t make money and be a good consumer, is the answer to take a pill that’s been tested for three months? The solution to anxiety, if there is one at all, is to go deeper into your problems and examine them.
You pepper your cast with hipster, tech and media luminaries like Reggie Watts; Gavin McInnes, formerly of Vice; and Heems from Das Racist — can you discuss these casting choices, and why you went with real people from the world you are scrutinizing in Creative Control?
There’s also Jake Lodwick — the guy who invents Augmenta in the movie is the actual guy who invented Vimeo. My feeling is that if I have access to people in this world, why would I cast actors to imitate them? What I’m trying to do is to connected to what is going on right now, or the world five minutes from now.
by Charlie Olsky