The Many Meanings of Chris Smith’s “Collapse”

The Many Meanings of Chris Smith’s “Collapse” (photo)

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“Collapse,” the title of Chris Smith’s new documentary, is a loaded word that applies to the film in a variety of ways. Its obvious implication concerns its main subject Michael Ruppert, a former police officer who turned in his gun and badge for a library card and a newsletter-turned-web site called From The Wilderness, which prizes itself on intensely researched investigative work about government corruption, corporate malfeasance and suspicious activity in every corner of the globe. When presented with the idea that he’s a conspiracy theorist, he quickly replies, “I deal in conspiracy fact.” And the facts he presents in “Collapse” are both overwhelming and chilling, as he lays out the ways the world is headed towards economic and environmental Armageddon.

“Collapse” could also refer to how Smith has wasted no time in releasing the documentary — it’s been only eight months since he first met Ruppert for a narrative film he was developing and just over a month since the film made a triumphant premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. In a sign of the times, “Collapse” will be released simultaneously in theaters and on VOD through Cinetic FilmBuff, where the claustrophobia-inducing nature of Ruppert’s analysis of the global financial crisis will literally hit home. Yet “Collapse” may resound most as a compelling portrait of a man whose views have alienated many and whose work has come at a great personal cost. Shortly after putting the finishing touches on the film, Smith called to talk about the film’s reception in Toronto, dropping everything to finish it and getting inside Michael Ruppert’s head.

Why the rush to release this?

It felt like the movie was very much about what’s happening now. It’s very much a film that people, when they see it, want other people to see it so they can talk about it — parts they agree with, parts they disagree with. Seeing that energy out of Toronto, it just made us all the more want to get it out as fast as we could.

It’s explained very succinctly at the beginning that you met Ruppert while working on another film about the CIA’s connection to drug smuggling, but why did you decide to switch gears to make this film instead?

We were looking at a lot of different narrative projects and one of the directions we were going in was the CIA-drug connection and in doing that, we set up to meet with Michael Ruppert. At the time, I’d said to myself that I was going to stop working on documentary films and move back to narrative, which is where I started in 1996 [with “American Job”]. It’s funny how you can think and plan what you want to do in your life, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

I think when we met Michael, he was such a fascinating character that it just was just too hard to pass up. Initially, it was more [like] let’s do this small side project where we’ll film him for a couple days, cut it together quick and see what happens. Then of course, as you get into a project and you start getting further and further invested on a creative level, it can evolve and change into something else. It just seems exciting that from inception to release has been something like eight months. When you compare it to our past films and probably most independent films, that period is generally much longer.

Your previous documentaries like “American Movie” and “The Yes Men” have had a vérité style that has let life unfold, but I would imagine this was a different experience since you have a controlled environment and appears you knew more about what to prepare for, to a certain degree.

Well, I’m glad that it appears that way. [laughs] This one was incredibly challenging because to be able to question Michael and to even try to debate him on certain things required so much research in terms of trying to take in everything that he was going to talk about. He covers so many different subjects and his breadth of knowledge is so vast. But yeah, we had much more control. In the other documentaries at least, and even to some degree on the way we made “The Pool,” you’re at the mercy of the situation. In those films, it was really about trying to capture as much as you could in the period that you were filming and then put it together in the end, whereas this one was really about trying to prepare as much as you could before so that you could then allow the interview to unfold in a way that felt natural. I wanted to be able to have a dialogue with Michael. When he’s working off of a train of thought is when he’s at his best — when you can keep the conversation going as opposed to stopping and saying okay, let’s get back to this subject and do these in order. I think one of the things that worked really well in the way that we made the film was the ability to just roll with it and let him go off on tangents and be able to follow up with questions that furthered that conversation.

11022009_collapse_1.jpgDid Ruppert seem immediately interested when you proposed a movie?

I think he was okay with it. He wasn’t interested in going back to the past and trying to work on something about that period of his life because he felt so consumed about what was happening now. That was very clear to us. So we wrote him a proposal of what we wanted to do, a sit-down interview about his book and the material that’s covered, but beyond that, his life and how he’s gotten to this point. Ultimately, to me, the film is more a character study on Michael than it is a full examination of the issues that he presents.

Many people have made movies [about the breakdown of society] whether it’s food or energy or economics or population, but all those deservedly have been films on their own or are big enough issues that you could make a film on each one. What we thought was so interesting [about] Mike as a person [is] the way that he thinks about the world.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.