By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
CP: Do you see yourself as a journalist? Documentary film, after all, is a kind of journalism.
Wilson: I have such a disagreement with you about that [laughs]. I don't think documentary film is anything like journalism. I run into so many people who refer to Michael Moore as a journalist. That kills me. I think it does journalists a big disservice. To me, Michael Moore is a filmmaker--a very talented filmmaker. When you walk into a Michael Moore movie, you have to understand what he's doing. And that's all my film is about. It's about saying, "Here's what he's doing to you. Be aware of it."
CP: So it's criticism then. You're a film critic.
Wilson: Maybe, yeah. I'm certainly not a documentary filmmaker--not by any stretch. At St. Cloud, I wrote my senior thesis on why I thought [St. Cloud State] should have a screenwriting program. I was inspired by Kevin Smith--I continue to be inspired by him. [Michael Moore Hates America] was just something I was really passionate about. I saw Bowling for Columbine and thought, Someone needs to look at this, and nobody will--so I guess I'm gonna do it. I surrounded myself with a lot of really amazing people who've worked on documentaries.
CP: What do you think about the current spate of documentaries?
Wilson: My friend Penn Jillette said it really well. He says, "You go to see Spider-Man 2 and you know it's fiction; you go to see a documentary and you're in this gray area." You're seeing things presented to you as fact, but the film is a construct of someone's mind--as much as Spider-Man 2 is. Or at least that's how [documentary film] is nowadays. You look at guys like Albert Maysles [Salesman], who's sort of the godfather of documentary filmmakers: He'd follow [his subjects], let the camera roll, and let the chips fall where they may. He didn't lie to people or take advantage of them. Michael Moore's films aren't documentaries; they're polemics.
CP: Wouldn't you say that your film is a polemic?
Wilson: Sure--although I like to think there's a lot more honesty in my film. You can never get rid of bias completely: Everyone on the planet has it to some degree. You watch the news and you see [TV reporters] trying to cover their stories in the most objective way they can--being human beings who are prone to bias. You expect the news to have some objectivity; you expect it to be truthful. You at least expect to hear both sides of the story.
CP: Are you saying that network TV news, with its obligation to be objective or at least appear objective, is more honest than, say, Michael Moore's films?
Wilson: You know John Stossel? He does these op-ed pieces on 20/20. I asked him, "Why do you think it is that [Moore] can get away with so much more than you can?" He said, "There's not a lot of difference. I do op-ed reporting and so does he. The difference is that I have a lot of overseers: There are people who'll fire me if I don't do the right thing, if I don't get the facts right." Michael Moore calls his own shots. Period.
CP: What if the shot-calling overseer at the network is Rupert Murdoch? Or Ted Turner?
Wilson: I don't buy the argument that the media is conservative--or that it's liberal, either. It's not like they have a Morning Liberal Meeting at NBC or the New York Times. I think the media has traditionally had a liberal slant, but I don't think it's by design. You talk to journalism students and none of them will tell you they're there because they want to report the news. They'll say it's because they want to make a difference. It's an idealistic point of view--a traditionally liberal point of view. So as a journalist in the newsroom, you're surrounded by those kinds of people. I believe in the free market, so I think that what Fox News does is great. Because it's an alternative. And CNN is an alternative to Fox, and NBC is an alternative to CNN, and so on. It works: You surf for your news, you get different perspectives, and then you make up your mind. That's what America is. I believe in letting people make their own choices.
CP: You're eager to get your film out before the election. What do you see as the connection between the two?
Wilson: On the plus side, there's a big market for the film now--because of the election. But whatever happens with the election will change Michael Moore's film, which then changes my film. And that sucks, because I'm trying to make something that's fairly timeless, you know? I want people to look at it in five years and still get what it was about.