Jacob Kornbluth's last foray into Sundance territory came back in 2004 with the Mary-Louise Parker-led "The Best Thief in the World." Nearly a decade after, the Berkeley-based director has his first documentary feature in "Inequality for All." A self-taught filmmaker, Kornbluth's background as a working-class aspiring artist provides a personal connection to a hot-button political issue. Kornbluth spoke with us about his film's primary subject and how that collaboration has affected his future pursuits.
What It's About: "'Inequality for All' is a kind of 'Inconvenient Truth' for the Economy in which we explore widening income inequality in a way that is easy for everyone to understand."
Now What It's REALLY About: "'Inequality for All' is a movie that takes a big-picture look at one of the most important issues of our times: widening economic inequality, and how that widening gap is affecting not only our economy but also our democracy. Our way in is to look at the topic through the eyes of Robert Reich. Reich was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and Time Magazine named him one of the top cabinet members of the last century. He has been talking about, railing against, and generally doing whatever he can about the problem of widening economic inequality for the last 35 years.
"The key to our version of this story is tone. Reich is a comedian at heart, and we try to tell our story with a light touch. Our goal was to make a film that was surprisingly approachable and entertaining given what could be a dry and serious topic. Our story has no villains: we walk the difficult line of sounding the alarm bells to a genuine crisis while not pointing fingers. The underlying message to our film is that widening economic inequality really is an issue that affects us all – even the rich would do better with a smaller slice of a growing pie than a larger piece of a shrinking economy."
Biggest Challenge?: "The biggest challenge was there was just so much to understand that I didn’t have the education or background to grasp with any authority in the beginning. I’m a concerned citizen and I read all the time, but I just didn’t know enough to feel comfortable making assertions until I did well over a year of research. I now think of this as period as a kind of informal 'grad school' I was putting myself through. This sort of led me to my approach to the film — I wanted to make a film that made this seemingly complex material accessible to everyone. So, in the end, I think the biggest challenge was also my biggest strength."
What I Shot On: "We shot our film in lots of different formats – RED, Canon 5D, Canon 7D, Canon C300, and Sony F3. What we were after was the shallow depth of field that I think makes video feel cinematic. Our primary cameras for that were Canon C300 and Sony F3."
What I Want Audiences To Remember: "I want the Sundance Audiences to be surprised at how entertained they are by a film about widening income inequality. My wife is teaches kids and hates economics, and she likes the movie because, as she said, 'I get it now.' I hope people at Sundance feel the same way as she does."
Films Used for Inspiration: "Well, I wasn’t trying to match it in style, but the fact than 'An Inconvenient Truth' seemed to contribute to the national discussion about climate change was a kind of inspiration to make 'Inequality for All.'"
In the Works: "Well, I’d like to keep collaborating with Professor Reich. I feel like there is a lot of work to do to get the word out on this stuff, and I’d like to push them all. We have a TV idea, we’d like to keep making viral videos, and I’m sure there are lots of other ways we can push these ideas out there that we haven’t even thought of. I’d like to help make this issue of economic inequality is a topic that everyone talks about, since that’ll affect the solutions people put forward to fix America.
"I’m also a writer and a narrative filmmaker, and the experience of making this film has changed the way I think about my work. I have several scripts that I’ve written that I’d like to revisit, and bring some of the lessons I learned to my narrative work as well."
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.