Compliance helmer Craig Zobel talks about the Ann Dowd, Dream Walker and Pat Healy thriller.
Craig Zobel first made his mark with The Great World of Sound, a nifty little 2007 feature which starred Pat Healy as a traveling salesman of sorts. His job was to sell record contracts and studio time to poverty-stricken wannabe singers, a job he desperately needed and ultimately couldn't stand. Zobel's new film, "Compliance," is also about Pat Healy talking other people into things--but that's about where things end. It all takes place on a busy Friday night at a fast food restaurant, when manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) gets a phone call from a man (Healy) who tells her that he's a police officer, and that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a patron. Soon, Becky is in the backroom, and over the course of the next few hours, she is stripsearched and much, much worse. It is a disturbing movie, and Zobel has received a lot of feedback about it, both negative and positive. The thing is, though, that many of the events in the film really happened--even some of the more disturbing ones. And Zobel says that not everyone needs to like his movie--but he's glad that people are talking about it.
Watch the trailer at the end of this interview, and check out the image gallery.
In some ways it seems as though there are real similarities between this and "Great World of Sound," in terms of the fact that both are about people trying to talk other people into things.
Craig Zobel: You know, I'm going to be honest here and say that when I first was like, 'I think this "Compliance" movie is going to be kind of crazy,' I thought it was really, really fascinating and had a lot to talk about. And then I kind of shared it around to a few people and another director was like, 'oh, it's a new version of "The Great World of Sound,' and I was like, 'oh, it is,' but I didn't really think of it that way. So, I can't say that it was a conscious choice in that way. Anyway, I'm just fascinated with that, you know. But now that people point it out I'm like, 'oh, yeah, that's right.'
Well, they're very different from one another, but it's something that they share in common.
Craig Zobel: Well, isn't it interesting, the times where you feel, 'oh, I wish that conversation had gone differently.' You know?: Like there's something filmable. But then I've seen other people doing it and I'm just kind of like, why, that's a fascinating subject. I think it has to do with, there's a version of you that you imagine. With "The Great World of Sound," I could point to a root cause or a thing that I kept coming back to, is right around the time I had bought my first car. I bought a truck, and my father is one of those kind of guys who neighbors would ask to go with them to buy a truck. He's a salesman. And when they went and bought their new cars they always like asked my dad along because he was so good at negotiating the car deal, and things like that, and I'd been along on a couple of those, when he'd bought a car, so I'd seen him do it. I was like, 'I'm going to be strong.' And to a degree I was, when I bought this truck, but by the end of the thing I had paid for this bed liner that I totally didn't want. Do you know what I mean? I walked away and I was like, 'damn it.'
You obviously must have done a great deal of research into the actual events that kind of led up to 'Compliance.' I would be very curious, what is it that could be inside someone that would really make them want to mess with people like that, and do it over and over.
Craig Zobel: I think at some level it's a pathological problem, you know? A sickness in a way. So, there's that. But I think there are people out in the world who are incredibly insecure and, it doesn't come out in the way that they are meek, 98-pound weaklings. It comes out in the way that they show they know everything and that they're a little better than everybody else. Ultimately that attitude, when people kind of look down their noses at other people, to me that's an insecurity that's coming from an insecure place. I think that whatever this person is who can do this kind of thing, has the feeling of having no agency. Like he totally gets a lot of shit from his boss and his whole life is kind of self-marginalized and not important, and he learned that he can be the master of this thing. You know, like he can be really good at something.
It's like a Unabomber syndrome, really.
Craig Zobel: Exactly. Yeah. Right.
You've gotten a wide range of responses to the film. How does that make you feel?
Craig Zobel: Yeah, it's funny, a filmmaker friend of mine, before I made the movie was like, 'are you sure you can handle this movie?' And I'm learning about that. I'm proud of the film. Every reaction is totally valid. Even the reactions that are so resistant to it. I didn't make this movie because I knew what the answer was. I made this movie as really an attempt to push myself to make sure I've been rigorous with asking the questions. So, even negative responses, I think, are fine. It certainly is a thing where there have been a couple of people, friend of friends of friends, wives of someone I barely know or a business associate who looks at me differently now than before, and that's something I didn't really think about very much. But, what can you do, you know?I think it's more interesting to just keep making movies fascinating and this movie is something you have to talk about for a long time? And this is somewhat exhausting to talk about, but at the same time I would rather be stimulated, because if it's going to be something that I do for two years, it should be something with different colors to it.'
What's really fascinating about this is that so much of this really went down. When you're watching this movie, you keep thinking to yourself, 'why doesn't somebody just say no?' But at the same time it makes perfect sense that they don't. They can't. I mean they're all terrified of doing the wrong thing.
Craig Zobel: Yeah. I think certain people were like 'whoa,' but I think for us it was like, 'wow, that's an interesting, kind of ripped-from-the-headlines strange tale.' But it's something serious I am really interested in, and I don't think that people talk about it very much right. Like you said, small films aren't easy to make, and they're not going to get any easier to make if we try to make copies of big Hollywood movies. That's not going to work, because you don't have the time, money or talent, so I feel I'm in a place left for exploration. I think it's a good thing to do.
Compliance Movie Details:
When a police officer tells you to do something, you do it. Right?
Based on true events, COMPLIANCE tells the chilling story of just how far one might go to obey a figure of authority. On a particularly busy day at a suburban Ohio fast food joint, high-strung manager Sandra (Ann Dowd (Garden State) receives a phone call from a police officer saying that an employee, a pretty young blonde named Becky (newcomer Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a customer. Convinced she's only doing what's right, Sandra commences the investigation, following step-by-step instructions from the officer at the other end of the line, no matter how invasive they become. As we watch, we ask ourselves two questions: “Why don’t they just say no?” and the more troubling, "Am I certain I wouldn't do the same?"
The second feature from director Craig Zobel (the man behind the 2007 Sundance hit Great World of Sound), COMPLIANCE recounts this riveting nightmare in which the line between legality and reason is hauntingly blurred. The cast delivers startlingly authentic performances that make the appalling events unfolding onscreen all the more difficult to watch – but impossible to turn away from. Delving into the complex psychology of this real-life story, COMPLIANCE proves that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Why isn’t it easy to “just say no....”
Cast & Crew:
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dream Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Phillip Ettinger, James McCaffrey, Matt Servito, Ashlie Atkinson, Nikiya Mathis
Director/s: Craig Zobel
Written By: Craig Zobel
Produced By: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin, Lisa Muskat, Theo Sena, Craig Zobel
Genre/s: Drama Thriller
Release Date/s: August 17, 2012 (Showtimes & Tickets)
Compliance Movie Trailer:
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