Exclusive Interviews
Rob Pfaltzgraff on Free-Market Movies, the MPI and the Future of Independent Films
By Anthony Wile - March 14, 2010

Introduction: Rob Pfaltzgraff is executive director of the free-market-oriented Moving Picture Institute. Pfaltzgraff has helped produce a number of well-received features including Do As I Say (based on Peter Schweizer's New York Times bestseller), The Libel Tourist, and The Cartel. MPI's controversial films have played to packed houses on Capitol Hill and helped shape some of the most pressing issues of the day. More than 80 global NGOs have tried to suppress Mine Your Own Business, an incendiary documentary about how radical environmentalism is keeping the world's poorest people in poverty. Indoctrinate U has brought national attention to the repressive climate on American campuses. And the Free Market Cure video series is helping change the American country's debate about health care. Rob Pfaltzgraff became executive director of MPI in 2006 and is now responsible for day-to-day operations, including development, marketing, public relations, and assisting with the production of MPI's ongoing projects.

Daily Bell: You're the executive director of MPI. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became involved.

Rob Pfaltzgraff: I worked for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) from its founding in 1999, eventually rising to the position of vice president of development, management, and marketing. I left FIRE in 2006 to become the executive director of MPI, which had just been founded by former FIRE CEO Thor Halvorssen. Since coming to MPI, I have executive produced "Do As I Say" (based on Peter Schweizer's New York Times bestseller), "The Libel Tourist," and "The Cartel." More on those below.

Daily Bell: Tell us about more about MPI itself, what its mission is.

Rob Pfaltzgraff: MPI is founded on the premise that film, more than any other medium, can bring the idea of freedom to life. Toward that end, we identify and nurture promising filmmakers who are committed to protecting and sustaining a free society, and support their work through grants, fiscal sponsorship, promotion, marketing, internships, training workshops, networking opportunities, distribution consulting, and production assistance.

Our work thus has three main objectives: (1) to support the development of full-length feature and short films by artists who are passionate about freedom; (2) to ensure that important films about freedom receive the aggressive, creative, comprehensive marketing and promotion that they deserve; and (3) to cultivate talented young filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, directors, and others committed to promoting freedom through film.

Daily Bell: Why MPI? Why is its mission important?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: MPI expects that in supporting developing filmmakers, placing interns, partnering with like-minded organizations, and promoting select films, we will create, nurture, and sustain a network of individuals and projects that will revitalize national understanding of, commitment to, and debate about freedom. A single well-timed film can change the way this country understands itself; a number of them can change the country as a whole. MPI is harnessing that transformative power in the service of liberty, helping bring core democratic ideas to an art form that has yet to focus consistently or constructively on them.

Daily Bell: Can you give us some stats – are you getting audience penetration? How does MPI distribute its films.

Rob Pfaltzgraff: MPI films reach broad audiences as well as key constituencies through a range of venues. We customize our distribution strategies for each film, taking into account available funding as well as the film's ideal audiences.

Some examples of our diversity of approach – and the successes we've had with customized distribution—include:

"Indoctrinate U," which has aired numerous times on the Documentary Channel after enjoying a packed gala premiere at D.C.'s Kennedy Center. The Documentary Channel reaches approximately 25 million people in several markets; the channel keeps bringing the film back because it gets such positive audience response. "Indoctrinate U" is also a cult classic on campus, where we encourage student groups to hold screenings. We offer the film free of charge for this purpose, and have thus far seen students on over 50 campuses do "DIY" screening events. This film has also attracted substantial media recognition from the New York Times, CNN, FOX News, C-Span, and many more mainstream media outlets.

"The Free Market Cure" video series – released in 2007 at FreeMarketCure.com, accompanied by a Capitol Hill screening event and associated publicity. But the main marketing approach was done electronically. This series of four short, free films on health care was designed to attract online viewers who were looking to access information about single-payer care in short, easily digestible units. The format proved to be perfect for an on-the-go population with easy Internet access, and the films have effectively promoted themselves during the years since their release. As the health care debate has heated up in the U.S., so has traffic to the site. Downloads spike as audiences download the films, forward them to their friends, write about them on blogs, and share them on Facebook and Twitter. Millions have accessed "The Free Market Cure" films.

"The Singing Revolution" and "The Cartel" – examples of more traditional distribution approaches. Each began its run in festivals, where strong success with audiences and a series of awards demonstrated that they could succeed in theaters. Theatrical release and accompanying publicity followed. "The Singing Revolution" has since been released on DVD, has aired on PBS, and continues to play steadily in theaters and on campuses years after it premiered. Its audience numbers in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions. "The Cartel" – a 2009 New Jersey release – will enjoy a ten-city national release this spring, and will then be released on DVD. More on both films is below.

Daily Bell: Give us some background and history. When was MPI founded and by whom? We'd like some background on the founder as well.

Rob Pfaltzgraff: MPI was founded in 2005 by Thor Halvorssen, a civil liberties entrepreneur who was FIRE's first executive director and who also founded – and now heads – the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF). Under his leadership, FIRE became the nation's pre-eminent student rights organization; HRF has likewise become an internationally recognized force for individual rights in Central and South America. In a 2007 feature article, the New York Times described Halvorssen as a "maverick mogul," and that about says it.

Halvorssen founded the Moving Picture Institute (MPI) because he recognized that those wishing to advance the cause of liberty have not adequately tapped into the power of film – and that they must, if the ideals of freedom are to get a proper hearing (or screening) in the era of new media. The alternative is that mainstream film's biases will simply persist, often unquestioned and unjustified.

"The Moving Picture Institute doesn't have politics per se," Halvorssen has said. "We're interested in films and we work with filmmakers across the political and ideological spectrum. The Moving Picture Institute has filmmakers who have very differing views from each other many times. What we are interested in is the product – the quality of their films and the message of their films. In that sense, we are very, very open. I personally consider myself a classical liberal in the European tradition. But we have all sorts of people who are involved with us, from conservatives to liberals. We're just interested in films that we don't think are getting attention."

Daily Bell: What do you think of Hollywood's big budget movies? Any move toward free-market oriented material?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: In today's Hollywood, even films that appear initially to have nothing to do with politics or ideology actually contain strongly anti-capitalist messages. As Clive Crook recently noted in the Atlantic Monthly, "The point is not that movies, or the culture more generally, argue that capitalism is evil. Just the opposite: it is that they so often merely assume, innocently and expecting to arouse no skepticism, that capitalism is evil." Crook goes on to list such blockbusters as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Alien," "Wall Street," "Erin Brockovich" and "Robocop" as examples of films that either explicitly "indict corporate wickedness" or that take as an "inoffensive, uncontroversial" given "the idea of routine, reckless corporate immorality." One might update this list by adding the environmentalist "Happy Feet" (which grossed almost $400 million worldwide) and "Fahrenheit 9/11," the most successful documentary film of all time.

There are occasional, stand-out exceptions. One thinks of Clint Eastwood's films, from westerns to "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino," with their strong orientation toward individual freedom and personal responsibility. Also worth mentioning are blockbusters such as Will Smith's "Pursuit of Happyness," Ivan Reitman's "Ghostbusters," and Martin Scorcese's "The Aviator." But the broader trend described by Crook is unmistakable.

Daily Bell: How did American movie-making get into this fix? Why are so many in Hollywood oriented toward socialism and are anti-business – when Hollywood is a business?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Many, many books have been written on the subject of subject of Hollywood's paradoxical psychology. Some focus on the McCarthy era as a formative period in Hollywood's culture; others propose that there is a self-serving disconnect between Hollywood's evident money-making focus and the tendencies of stars to back ideas and causes that aren't in alignment with their own pursuit of wealth. MPI's recent documentary, "Do As I Say," explores this type of doublethink in depth when it comes to politicians – and its insights are also broadly applicable to celebrities who fall into the "do as I say, not as I do" trap.

Daily Bell: Is the film-making industry controlled from the top down – so that only certain kind of movies get made? Why would that be?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: This is not as true today as it once was. Digital cameras and film editing software are increasingly affordable – so the financial threshold for aspiring filmmakers is much lower than it once was. Meanwhile, the Internet offers vast potential for distributing films (whether on YouTube, through Netflix, or via "download on demand") and for marketing and promoting them. Today, films can use the Internet to build audiences and so convince Hollywood distributors that they are worth the investment—as happened notably last fall with the sleeper low-budget horror hit "Paranormal Activity." Even more basically, independent filmmakers are increasingly using the Internet to bypass Hollywood entirely; numerous services are emerging to assist them with self-distribution. Meanwhile, Hollywood's major studios are struggling, and influential outlets for independent films such as Disney's Miramax have had to shut down.

MPI's existence is pegged to these profound shifts. We are small, extremely cost-efficient, and able to customize distribution plans for our films that maximize their audience penetration while keeping costs to a minimum. Our efforts along these lines have been praised in such venues as The Economist and National Review Online.

Daily Bell: Where is your audience? Is it young?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Our films seek to engage a wide range of audiences and constituencies. We don't take on a film unless we think it can have major broad appeal, one that transcends viewers' political allegiances and ideological affiliations. We aim to reach parents, kids, legislators, teachers, scholars, activists, journalists and opinion makers, and taxpayers of all ages.

Within that, some of our films have special appeal for specific demographics – "Indoctrinate U" is particularly popular among college students, while critique of the public education system in "The Cartel" seeks to enlist the attention of parents, teachers, and legislators. "The Singing Revolution" and "2081" have had immense impact on viewers of all ages and backgrounds—and are both being issued in special, educational DVD editions for classroom use. More narrowly, MPI films offer freedom-oriented think tanks and advocacy groups unique, high quality, entertaining content that enables them to communicate their message far more broadly than they can do with a white paper, op-ed, or scholarly panel.

Daily Bell: What kind of movies does MPI produce and how does it market them?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: MPI is dedicated to developing and creating films devoted to the ideals of liberty, no matter what their political orientation. To date, MPI has helped develop, fund, produce, sponsor, or promote films dealing with higher education's failure to defend individual rights, the corruption of the United Nations, the myths surrounding single-payer health care, Britain's libel tourism problem, fiscal hypocrisy among our progressive leaders, radical environmentalism's role in perpetuating Third World poverty, anti-communist humor, Hungary's and Estonia's revolutions against totalitarianism, the failure of American public education, and the looming threat of eminent domain abuse. Our films have screened in hundreds of theaters around the world, and have won awards and acclaim at film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. They have been featured in the foremost mainstream media outlets – the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Weekly Standard, the FOX News Channel, CNN, and elsewhere – and are significantly impacting some of the most important debates of our time.

At MPI, we see ourselves not as idea advocates pushing partisan positions via movies, but as freedom advocates dedicated to ensuring that movies voicing previously under-represented, freedom-oriented perspectives get made and distributed. Whether by promoting free markets, defending free speech, or recounting histories of liberation and stories of triumph over repression, MPI films at once advance the ideals of liberty and are themselves, in their broad diversity, a collective expression of humankind's visceral impulse towards freedom.

Drawing on the strategies used to promote "Brokeback Mountain" and "An Inconvenient Truth," our marketing style fuses traditional promotion techniques with the viral power of the Internet. Exploiting every proven outlet for drawing attention to individual projects, we place ads in print media and on radio; produce and distribute DVDs; hold invitation-only screenings for select audiences of media, industry leaders, and policy leaders; sponsor public screenings in major U.S. cities; and coordinate screenings on college and university campuses. To identify and target regional audiences, MPI creates dedicated websites featuring an online sign-up system that National Review calls "revolutionary" and that The Economist has praised as a prime example of how independent films are using the Internet to circumvent the closed world of Hollywood. We supplement these efforts with social networking and with viral video tactics that involve distributing film trailers and selected segments via YouTube.

All in all, the "buzz" we create maximizes each film's chances of securing theatrical and television distribution, building and cultivating a broad audience while simultaneously creating a media whirlwind that benefits like-minded philanthropic organizations. Properly publicized, films can recharge and reorient debates that are perceived as old, partisan, and unsolvable; they can also inspire audiences with a deep, lasting sense of the awesome gift of freedom.

Daily Bell: Where does the funding come from? All donations?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: All MPI funding comes from private donations.

Daily Bell: Do you have a fellowship program?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Yes. The MPI Fellowship Program supports up-and-coming filmmakers who have demonstrated a commitment to the values of freedom and are involved in or attached to marketable film projects. In return for receiving crucial financial support, fellows assist MPI in building contacts within the film industry, host MPI interns, and provide essential technical and creative assistance to MPI's other grantees.

Daily Bell: Tell us about some of your films. Start with "Do As I Say."

Rob Pfaltzgraff: This film adaptation of Peter Schweizer's bestselling Do As I Say (Not As I Do) illustrates how some of America's most prominent political icons have fully embraced capitalist ideas while simultaneously discouraging others from doing the same. The cast of characters includes former vice president Al Gore, who has won an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize for his crusade against global warming, but does not practice the conservation he preaches; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has declared war on mortgage lending abuses despite the fact that she and her husband were once involved in a predatory lending scheme; filmmaker Michael Moore, who claims never to have bought a single share of stock – but whose foundation actually owns stock in Halliburton, Pfizer, Merck, and more; and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who has gotten rich denouncing free markets, private enterprise, and the American government. In November, the film was released on DVD. The trailer and DVD are available at our dedicated website, www.DoAsISayMovie.com, and at Amazon.com.

Daily Bell: How about "The Singing Revolution"?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: "The Singing Revolution" documents how the Estonian people sang their way to freedom between 1987 and 1991. The late Milton Friedman said that the film "will unquestionably have the effect of strengthening the belief in freedom on the part of anybody who watches it." And he was right. Screening across North America since 2007, the film has earned glowing reviews from -to name a very few – the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Toronto Sun, The Village Voice and Variety. The New York Times made the film a "Critics' Pick," writing: "Imagine the scene in Casablanca in which the French patrons sing 'La Marseillaise' in defiance of the Germans, then multiply its power by a factor of thousands, and you've only begun to imagine the force of The Singing Revolution." The film has played to hundreds of thousands of people in hundreds of theaters across North America and Europe, has won prizes at film festivals, and has aired on PBS. It is available through Netflix. To meet strong demand from teachers, a three-disc educational DVD was released last year, alongside a lushly illustrated companion book. Watch the trailer and learn more at www.SingingRevolution.com.

Daily Bell: "Free Market Cure"?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: The "Free Market Cure" video series consists of four short, incendiary films about the perils of government-run health care. They are available online at FreeMarketCure.com, alongside expert commentary about Washington's efforts to nationalize American health care. Viewed by millions since their 2007 launch, these short films debunk the myths spread by a Congressional push to impose single-payer care on the American people. Providing a vital free-market perspective that is missing from mainstream media coverage, these films offer what Sean Hannity has called "a very different and shocking story."

Daily Bell: "U.N. Me"?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: "U.N. Me" exposes how the United Nations has failed in its mandate to maintain international security and promote human dignity. In this striking documentary, filmmaker Ami Horowitz explains how an organization created to ennoble mankind has been so ravaged by corruption that it now actually enables evil and creates global chaos. Examining the United Nations' failures in Rwanda, Darfur, and the Oil for Food scandal, Horowitz shows how the world's foremost humanitarian organization has abdicated its responsibility to international peace, becoming instead the pacifier of dictators, thugs, and tyrants.

The filmmakers have had unprecedented access to senior U.N. officials, and have also interviewed prominent government officials, military officers, international experts, terrorists, celebrities, and other controversial figures. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, former CIA director James Woolsey, former head of U.N. weapons inspection Charles Duelfer, and Nobel laureate Jody Williams all speak candidly on film about their experiences with the U.N. "U.N. Me" juxtaposes these provocative interviews with moving testimonials from people who have been directly and personally affected by the United Nations' actions and inactions.

"U.N. Me" will be in theaters in 2010. Watch the trailer and learn more at www.UNMeMovie.com.

Daily Bell: What's the future for independent film making?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Independent filmmaking is the future of film.

Daily Bell: What's the future for films generally?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: It's very good – but it's not necessarily what people think it will be. As Internet distribution comes into its own, we will be moving further and further away from the idea that feature films aren't respectable unless they are released in theaters. The theater won't disappear – you can't replace the experience of the huge screen, the amazing sound and picture quality, the dedicated, darkened experience of it all. But we are going to see more and more independent film following the "iTunes" model -niche content finding niche audiences electronically and economically, without the expensive intermediary of the cineplex. This trend, in turn, will create a much bigger market for short films, as they are better suited to online viewing.

Daily Bell: Where do you see MPI in ten years?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Ten years from now, we want to be known around the world as the go-to production company and distribution architect for freedom-oriented film. We would like to be to freedom what Jeff Skoll's Participant Media – the company behind Academy Award winners and nominees such as "An Inconvenient Truth," "North Country" and "Syriana" – is to social justice.

Daily Bell: Is it part of a larger free-market movement in films?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: As a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and creating films devoted to the ideals of liberty, no matter what their political orientation, MPI is an entirely unique endeavor. There is no other organization like us.

That said, it's important to recognize that freedom-oriented publications, media outlets, and think tanks such as Reason and Pajamas Media are beginning to recognize the vital power of film to convey their message. And, as more and more freedom-oriented nonprofits venture into filmmaking, MPI filmmakers are proving to be crucial to their efforts. MPI fellows have worked closely on film projects with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, to name a few.

Daily Bell: Any articles or films you want to mention that we haven't covered?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Based on Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, "2081" depicts a dystopian future where a totalitarian government has finally made everyone equal. Strong men wear weights, beautiful women wear masks, and the intelligent wear earpieces that disrupt their thoughts. Centered on one man's struggle to break his egalitarian chains, "2081" weaves a poetic tale of triumph and tragedy. Featuring a haunting musical score from the Kronos Quartet, and an accomplished cast – Academy Award-nominee Patricia Clarkson, "Chronicles of Narnia" star James Cosmo, Julie Hagerty of "Airplane!", and Armie Hammer of "Justice League" – this short-form debut from director Chandler Tuttle makes a timeless and accessible statement about freedom and individualism while also redefining what it means for freedom-oriented nonprofits to spread their message through new media. 2081 has just been released on DVD, and is earning rave reviews. View the trailer and learn more at www.FinallyEqual.com.

"The Cartel" exposes the corruption, waste, and intimidation in our nation's public schools. Arguing that America's public school system wastes billions of dollars each year while children learn less and less, "The Cartel" makes a compelling case for far-reaching and immediate reform centered on school choice. Accessible, engaging, and clear, "The Cartel" is the tool school reformers have been waiting for. This film can do for K-12 education what no book, study, article, or legal challenge has yet been able to do. Drawing public attention to an issue that is surrounded by misinformation, this film will be a vital tool for those who are working to support and promote education reform throughout New Jersey – and beyond. "The Cartel" played in New Jersey theaters throughout October, winning rave reviews and continuing its remarkable, award-winning run in festivals. MPI will be releasing the film in theaters across the country in late spring. Watch the trailer and selected clips at www.TheCartelMovie.com.

"An Inconvenient Tax" sheds light on one of America's messiest problems – a fundamentally broken tax code that affects every part of people's lives. With the U.S. Congress making over 16,000 changes to the tax code in the last two decades alone, many Americans want something better, but few know where to start. This feature-length documentary film reveals the many ways Congress uses the tax code to achieve political goals that have nothing to do with raising revenue. It also tackles the controversial issue of tax reform through a non-partisan presentation of U.S. tax history and current proposals to fix the code. "An Inconvenient Tax" is engaging, accessible, and timely. It also neatly transcends the partisanship that often characterizes debates about taxation, offering a "big tent" analysis that has the potential to unite Americans in a grassroots movement for change. "An Inconvenient Tax" will be released on April 15. Watch the trailer and learn more at www.AnInconvenientTax.com.

Virginia will mark a first for the school choice movement, and for freedom-oriented philanthropy. An entirely in-house MPI production, this film will tell the story of Virginia Walden Ford, whose inspirational efforts on behalf of school choice form the basis of a powerful story that can reach far beyond think tanks, universities, and legislative settings – and into the hearts and minds of ordinary mothers, fathers, teachers, and kids who want and need to believe that change is possible. This film is currently in development.

"The Battle of Brooklyn" explores the poorly understood phenomenon of eminent domain abuse. A feature-length documentary from respected filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, and David Beilinson, this film explores how real estate developers, local government, community activists, and the media have clashed over the largest single-source development project ever proposed in New York City. Widely known as the Atlantic Yards Project, this undertaking has for the past five years been a major source of contention as local residents resist a billionaire developer's attempt to use eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses. Done in the name of "development," schemes such as this one eviscerate private property rights and make a mockery of the Fifth Amendment – even as they freely exploit lucrative taxpayer subsidies, easements, and tax abatements. "The Battle of Brooklyn" will premiere later this year. View the trailer and learn more at www.rumur.com/battle.

"The Libel Tourist" is a short, online film about how wealthy Middle Eastern financiers use plaintiff-friendly British libel laws to suppress exposure of their pro-terrorist activities. Released in late 2007, the film appeared at the height of international media interest in the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, a New York author who was sued in Britain by Saudi billionaire Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz after her 2003 book Funding Evil named him as a terror financier. The work we did to publicize Ehrenfeld's case was nonetheless central to raising international awareness about libel tourism and to empowering lawmakers with the tools they needed to make the case for change. Several states have now passed laws protecting authors from predatory foreign libel suits, and Congress is considering a federal bill. Meanwhile, Parliament is looking at tightening up England's libel laws. Ehrenfeld calls the film a "masterpiece" and declares that "it should be viewed by every American and freedom-loving people worldwide." Tens of thousands of people have downloaded the film, which is available online in both English and Arabic at TheLibelTourist.com and YouTube.com.

Daily Bell: If people have created films, can they send them to you directly?

Rob Pfaltzgraff: Absolutely. Our website – www.TheMPI.org – describes our programs and funding priorities, and supplies contact information for applicants.

Daily Bell: Thanks for your time and congratulations on your good work.

Rob Pfaltzgraff: A pleasure. And thank you in return for your interest in our work!

After Thoughts

Rob Pfaltzgraff and founder Thor Halvorssen are to be congratulated on their progress in making free-market oriented films available to the general public. It is obvious that the Internet has played a role in this and what is going on in film, we think, rivals what is going on generally in the communications world as regards other media. As technology continues to bring down costs and make distribution more efficient, more and more voices are coming to the fore that would not have been heard from in the past.

While Thor Halvorssen (Mendoza) in particular may be associated with the "conservative" movement in America more than the libertarian one (he apparently writes for the Weekly Standard, for instance, and we don't share his enthusiasm for Arnaud de Borchgrave's Cold War thriller The Spike, which he tried to turn into a movie), there is no doubt MPI films thus far are focused to a large degree on an affirmation of freedom and free-expression. This not only has to do with Halvorssen's apparent sympathies but also his history as the son, apparently, of a prominent Venezuelan family that experienced considerable tragedy as the result of political oppression. Halvorssen, not surprisingly, is an opponent of the Chavez regime.

It is very interesting to note the progress of independent cinema at a time of Hollywood consolidation. The Big Movie business remains a difficult one. While Hollywood has apparently had a good year in terms of some of its top films, the amount of major movies that Hollywood makes and successfully delivers is on a perpetual downswing, along with the number of studios themselves. More importantly the technology is continually becoming available to create movies that are far less expensive to make and distribute – especially documentaries that can find a home easily on the 'Net and can even be watched online.

It is only a matter of time – if it is not already happening – before full-scale documentaries begin to populate the Internet, and as this takes place, the chances are that more and more of them will be free-market oriented, at least to begin with. When the 'Net first got going, much of the commentary on the "Net was laissez faire, and remains so even to this day. The natural instinct of creative people (like people anywhere) is to prefer freedom to large federal bureaucracies. And the Internet reflected these natural choices, and so will documentaries on the 'Net.

There has been much commentary of late as to growing signs of 'Net "censorship," but it seems obvious to us that even if government tries to regulate the 'Net, there will be many ways around the more cack-handed approaches. When Google first got into a fight with the Chinese government several months ago and announced it was withdrawing from China, bouquets of flowers apparently appeared outside Google offices within hours. These bouquets were delivered even though the Chinese government supposedly was blocking news of Google's potential withdrawal from China.

In fact, we are sure that the more adept Chinese "Net users – young and old – are capable of finding out most news and information that they want to get despite Chinese censorship. The Soviet Union collapsed despite the leverage of its tremendously authoritarian state. Most authoritarian regimes don't last very long, at least not in their initial incarnations. If times turn sour for the Chinese, let's see how long the current form of government – which has compromised away virtually all its ideology – stays in power. The EU is hitting a wall right now. In America there is a surging anti-authoritarian Tea Party movement.

New technologies inevitably get used – and used at least to begin with to their full capabilities because that's what humans do. It takes a while before a government can control the technology with any level of success, especially in a large country with many people. China has done so because the governments understanding with the ruled – we provide prosperity and you provide obedience – is currently intact. But let the Chinese economy stumble or fail, and we will not be surprised if the Internet in China suddenly becomes a good deal less "controlled."

In the future, perhaps the near future, books, full-color magazines, documentaries and films will be distributed online as a matter of course. The kinds of dedicated hand-held devices that the mainstream media is contemplating will probably look as quaint one day as a gramophone. The future is simply devices of some sort that have access to the Internet, or the parts of the Internet that the individual prefers. In this future, MPI (and others like it) will distribute its films evermore effectively and Hollywood, despite all of its blockbusters will continue to diminish in influence and size.

Posted in Exclusive Interviews
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap