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by Indiewire
June 29, 2007 7:42 AM
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FIRST PERSON | John Pierson: An Open Letter to Michael Moore

Michael Moore in "Sicko." Image courtesy The Weinstein Company.

There is no percentage in me, or anyone for that matter, criticizing you. And since you've effectively become America's conscience, it must be awfully hard to pause for a moment and examine your own. And I would never have become part of an attempt to make you do that if not for a classroom full of angry and disheartened college students.

With the hugely entertaining and highly effective "SiCKO" opening nationwide today, you probably think that dredging up and examining bits and pieces of your storied past is nothing but a petty, narrow-minded distraction. Since your op/ed piece (your post-documentary coinage) on the healthcare industry is a fantastic polemic and your best filmmaking by far, I almost agree with you. Almost.

But still I find myself taking a stand for the only smart and even-handed documentary that's been made ABOUT you, "Manufacturing Dissent." Many have argued that there's little or nothing new in this film, that it merely aggregates your alleged filmmaking crimes and misdemeanors. I guess this category of criticism, as summed up by Hillary Clinton's spokesman Philippe Reines in dismissing two recent books about her, has been called "cash for rehash." (Hey what's her campaign saying about "SiCKO?") The only problem is that the Canadian filmmakers don't stand to make much cash beyond recouping debt, and for many of your international fans, if far less so in media-mad America, the rehash is apparently revelatory.

I know you've heard I appear in the film pointing out the supreme irony that the installation of the Bush regime was somehow an essential ingredient for your ascent to superstardom and financial success. Let's be honest, the Clinton administration was an eight-year slog for you. Opposition is the bee's knees. But ironies aside, the majority of my "Manufacturing Dissent" screen time is spent extolling the virtues of "Roger & Me," the movie that brought us together, especially for its almost incalculable influence on the course of documentary filmmaking...which brings me back to the disgruntled students.

They were pissed off. Since I wasn't sure exactly what anyone would make of "Manufacturing Dissent" or whether it added up to a hill of beans, I screened a working version of the film for several of my film producing classes at the University of Texas at Austin. You'll be happy to know that here, like at many film schools, "Roger & Me" is embedded in the curriculum. When the students learned that you had in fact talked to Roger Smith more than once, it mattered deeply to them because they thought it undercut the entire premise of the film that launched your career. I admit not every single student was horrified by that revelation. The rest were more troubled by your inability to admit the truth eighteen years later. Frankly I was pretty thrilled to see that the current crop of university media hounds still cared passionately about the much cheapened and fungible notion of the truth. So we immediately made the film a class project before, during, and after the SXSW Film Festival.

And mysteriously an attack flyer showed up on campus about me. I don't blame the US Treasury Department, and I don't blame you. In fact in preparing our response, we asked ourselves the question "What would Mike do?" and quickly turned it into a promotional joke - leading some people to think we'd set it all up in the first place because, just possibly, that's also what Mike would do.

Did I know you had interviewed Roger Smith when "Roger & Me" caught lightning in a bottle back in 1989? No. Do I have any first-hand knowledge now that you covered it up? No. But do I fully and completely believe the testimony of people who were there with you in Flint and have absolutely nothing to gain by lying - eyewitnesses like Nader organizer James Musselman or even Roger Smith himself? Yes I do. And of all the answers you tried to give to explain this away - after starting with an all too typical ad hominem Fox News-style attack - I loved this one the most: "If I'd gotten an interview with him, why wouldn't I put it in the film?' Jeez Mike, I don't know; maybe because it would utterly destroy the structural essence of your one-man Don Quixote quest to get to GM's Chairman.

On your way to Cannes this year and continuing at your press conference there, you wondered out loud about why people haven't listened to you - the veritable visionary - all along, and insisted that you've now basically earned their belief in your infallibility.

I'm still in love with "Roger & Me.' But what is it that people were supposed to listen to in your 1989 message when GM had earnings of $5 billion rather than their current losses of $12.6 billion? Rather than asserting that the world's largest corporation was a giant about to fall, your movie argued that GM should have kept the factories open, and kept the union wages and health benefits flowing, because they had a kind of social contract with the community of Flint. What - so they could lose an additional $10 billion if in fact they'd even managed to stay in business? You utterly & completely missed the bigger story of America essentially abandoning and outsourcing all our manufacturing-based industries. And why shouldn't we since the fundamental engines of the economy are always changing. Are there any steel plants left in Pittsburgh?

As for "Bowling For Columbine," you NEVER advocate handgun control in that movie. You advocate a change in the violent, racist American character. Thus once again I'm not sure how you imagine your voice in the wilderness could've stopped school shootings or changed the VA Tech slaughter where the kid had two handguns, was obsessed with his media image, and was also certifiably unbalanced.

On Iraq, you were both right--and just about the first person this side of Noam Chomsky--to speak out publicly in the US - though not the world, or even Canada. Then of course in a fit of delusion, you took "Fahrenheit 9/11"'s blockbuster box office as a sign that you could personally alter the course of the 2004 election. Three years later, you conveniently describe that campaign as "the BEGINNING of the end" for Bush. But it looks like your ego got quite the better of you.

And that brings us back to the present. You're on the side of the fucking angels with "SiCKO" and no lapses, omissions or oversimplifications can detract from its contribution to the greater good. But please baby please, let the movie, which you have so beautifully made, do the talking.

"I think one movie can make a difference." You said this in the NY Times, and it's a beautiful sentiment. Of course there is little or no evidence to prove it. Spike Lee's astonishingly powerful Katrina documentary "When The Levees Broke" hasn't moved policy one inch. Several festival darling films about Darfur, not to mention George Clooney's millions, might have raised awareness, but haven't stopped China from buying oil from the Sudanese government. Forty years and nearly forty films into his legendary career, a documentary giant like Frederick Wiseman recently said, "Films never change anything."

But maybe they can for one person. Spike always credited Errol Morris for saving one man from a life in prison in "The Thin Blue Line." And you yourself have saved individual lives, past and present, by focussing on a specific person's health insurance crisis. Historically the national policy debate has been impacted by meticulously researched and passionately argued books like Rachel Carson's "The Silent Spring" or Ralph Nader's "Unsafe At Any Speed," not by your iconic infotainment or any filmmaking stunts. And yet, and still "SiCKO" has a great chance to galvanize debate. But this time the debate should not be about YOU.

In your own words, again in the NY Times: "I'm not doing this to market the film. First of all, I don't need to market my films. Every time I make a film, it breaks the last record. But I'm doing this because I really want to make a contribution to the national debate on this issue."

So get out of the damn way. But since your archnemesis George W. "The Anti-Christ" Bush makes only a cameo or two in the new movie, I doubt you'll be breaking the last record. But this time, everyone in America should see it.

Regards,
John Pierson


ABOUT THE WRITER: A lifetime ago, John Pierson sold "Roger & Me" to Warners for the then unheard of sum of $3 million. Michael Moore is "Mike" in John's acclaimed 1996 book Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes; his name comes second, but his lengthy chapter was the first one written.

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49 Comments

  • txfilm | April 28, 2011 5:24 AMReply

    John's the man. Yall's a buncha bitches.

    ...and Mike clearly should have been honest about the interview, how can anyone argue against that? Serious flaming for a pretty respectful criticism.

  • UTFILMGUY2006 | March 13, 2009 8:33 AMReply

    I'd like to start by saying that I was one of the students in John Pierson's Advanced Producing class to which he makes the claim "And I would never have become part of an attempt to make you do that if not for a classroom full of angry and disheartened college students."

    That simply is not true. There were about fifteen of us in the class, many of us being close friends, and I can honestly speak for the vast majority of students because we regularly made our feelings towards John and the films clear both inside and outside of the classroom.

    We only chose Manufacturing Dissent after watching many many many other films (none of which were very good, save The Pool by Chris Smith) and not really having a choice because it was getting pretty far along in the semester and we needed to have a film picked. John enticed us with his personal stake in the project and even persuaded us to pick it as he would easily be able to get it into SXSW and Sundance (we all believed if we picked this film we'd get to take a trip to Sundance)

    Even with his connections, Sundance wouldn't touch it. And we didn't particularly like it. The people who'd made it were friends of Johns and he seemed pretty apt to get us to choose for our producing workshop or whatever it was. At one point, most of us passed on it, and we even went on to watching other movies before going back to MD because it was getting to be choosing time. So we "chose it" not because we were "angry" or "disheartened" but because it was there and it seemed to be controversial and could possibly get somewhere.

    That said, most of us thought it was a very boring and the class that inherited it the next semester felt the same. We're all friends here at UT and word travels fast especially when it comes to John Pierson. Hes somewhat of a legend here in Austin but for all the wrong reasons. I'm not sure how much longer his stay will be welcome. Janet's great though.

  • triafra | October 9, 2008 9:19 AMReply

    Open letter to Michael Moore (plus his friends, fans and supporters)



    Mr. Moore,



    My name is Chris Lowel and I'm pretty much a nobody in every sense of the word, but the few folks who bother reading anything at Moorewatch might know me by the endless rants I've posted there under the handle "biafra".



    Moorewatch is where I'd been forever - what's the word - spewing the vilest, bitter, woefully hate-filled monologues against all and any (primarily non-American) visitor who's ever offered any (world)views deviating even mildly from the white, hetero, Xtian, right-wing, hard-line American Way, that is, until even the most die-hard Bush drones in charge there had had enough and decided to ban me from their site, Rightfully and even cosmically so, I've come to realize.



    Relegated to silently sulking around online, I actually read your open letters to the people posted there, along with the usual snide responses and derision they invariably drew. Lastly, I took a look into the recently released "Slacker Uprising", which documents your past efforts to swing the vote.



    During this time of "inaction", as it were, I've come around to thinking that you do perhaps indeed have God's ear - good karma, whatever the magic is called. Its on record that you saved the life(style) of a major detractor of yours, and then I, too, was recently stricken with a serious illness whilst eagerly adhering to his anti-welfare stance. I'm alive, but $50,000+ in debt.



    Thing is, after their taking the helm, constantly encouraging me to take it easy and rest, praise the Lord, read the Bible and "just get some credit cards already" several people I'd long considered my closest friends and allies eventually abandoned me for greener pastures - literally. Four months of second-hand hardship in the form of my fretting over mounting debt exacerbated by unnecessary "conveniences" that amounted to nothing more than late fees and daily runs to Starbucks, was too much for some to bear. They "fixed" my books for me, and then booked.

    Case in point: The neurosurgeon who saved my life gets all of $50/month for his efforts while that monthly Amex finance charge swallows $56/month. Oh, and that unused LA Fitness membership? A measly $42/month. I fixed that and other bondoggles, but its not enough to stave off bankruptcy. I've heard that once I'm in the "system", it won't get any better. The operation was successful, but the patient is dead.



    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/5/18/223744/567



    Either way, Moore has done it again. And there's a larger point. A society that's not constantly fretting about how to pay for medical bills is a BETTER SOCIETY, and the "magic benefactor" can easily be a single-payer system that would cost less than we pay for health care now, and provide better quality service. Moore is a genius at finding real-world ways to illustrate his point of view. This is an excellent example.



    Praise the Lord, indeed: I've come up with a simple idea to clearly illustrate what universal health care - truly caring for your neighbor - is all about.




    "Slacker Uprising" has successfully created pre-election buzz, and to keep the ball rolling I suggest you add another dimension of punch to, repeat: demonstrate how free health care, and by extension, caring for your neighbor, works.



    Race, creed, color, political leanings, religious beliefs - whoever the person in need, true humanists will always put all and any differences aside, step up and deliver. The haves must always come to the aid of the have-nots; until their vote makes it law, the good people will do so voluntarily and without reserve.



    In these, the last few weeks leading to the most important election in modern times, I say post an online donation drive for me at www.michaelmoore.com, set up a counter to show the amount of donations made, the number of donators, and perhaps even a (voluntary) tally of which side of the fence they stand on.



    Let's show those voters still on the fence how a new and improved nation will deliver on its promises, and how many are willing to lead by example, not just spout empty platitudes.



    I have little use for opulence, living large, and, least of all, waste of any kind, so what I don't need to cover my bills I could, in turn, eventually pass on to the next person in need - hey, starting with the folks at Moorewatch.



    What say you? Yeah? Or: HELL, YEAH !!



    biafra



    Proposal Two: Sign into law congressman John Conyer�s universal health-care legislation (HR676). �The Obama health plan is no good. The McCain health plan is really, really no good,� Moore said, explaining that on this issue, his support for Obama comes down to the �lesser of two evils.�

    Proposal Five: Remove the $102,000 income cap on the social security tax. �If you make over 102,000 a year, do you realize the people in that category do not pay one dime on wages they earn over $102,000 ... Why shouldn�t they have to pay the same six-and-half to seven percent rate that you have to pay on 100 percent or your income?� Moore cited former presidential candidate Chris Dodd, who said that if the cap was lifted, the resulting income would be able to fund social security for 75 years. He also told the audience to remind their neighbors that President Bush wanted to �put social security in the hands of Wall Street five years ago ... We�d all be Lehman Brothers.�

  • triafra | October 9, 2008 9:18 AMReply

    Open letter to Michael Moore (plus his friends, fans and supporters)



    Mr. Moore,



    My name is Chris Lowel and I'm pretty much a nobody in every sense of the word, but the few folks who bother reading anything at Moorewatch might know me by the endless rants I've posted there under the handle "biafra".



    Moorewatch is where I'd been forever - what's the word - spewing the vilest, bitter, woefully hate-filled monologues against all and any (primarily non-American) visitor who's ever offered any (world)views deviating even mildly from the white, hetero, Xtian, right-wing, hard-line American Way, that is, until even the most die-hard Bush drones in charge there had had enough and decided to ban me from their site, Rightfully and even cosmically so, I've come to realize.



    Relegated to silently sulking around online, I actually read your open letters to the people posted there, along with the usual snide responses and derision they invariably drew. Lastly, I took a look into the recently released "Slacker Uprising", which documents your past efforts to swing the vote.



    During this time of "inaction", as it were, I've come around to thinking that you do perhaps indeed have God's ear - good karma, whatever the magic is called. Its on record that you saved the life(style) of a major detractor of yours, and then I, too, was recently stricken with a serious illness whilst eagerly adhering to his anti-welfare stance. I'm alive, but $50,000+ in debt.



    Thing is, after their taking the helm, constantly encouraging me to take it easy and rest, praise the Lord, read the Bible and "just get some credit cards already" several people I'd long considered my closest friends and allies eventually abandoned me for greener pastures - literally. Four months of second-hand hardship in the form of my fretting over mounting debt exacerbated by unnecessary "conveniences" that amounted to nothing more than late fees and daily runs to Starbucks, was too much for some to bear. They "fixed" my books for me, and then booked.

    Case in point: The neurosurgeon who saved my life gets all of $50/month for his efforts while that monthly Amex finance charge swallows $56/month. Oh, and that unused LA Fitness membership? A measly $42/month. I fixed that and other bondoggles, but its not enough to stave off bankruptcy. I've heard that once I'm in the "system", it won't get any better. The operation was successful, but the patient is dead.



    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/5/18/223744/567



    Either way, Moore has done it again. And there's a larger point. A society that's not constantly fretting about how to pay for medical bills is a BETTER SOCIETY, and the "magic benefactor" can easily be a single-payer system that would cost less than we pay for health care now, and provide better quality service. Moore is a genius at finding real-world ways to illustrate his point of view. This is an excellent example.



    Praise the Lord, indeed: I've come up with a simple idea to clearly illustrate what universal health care - truly caring for your neighbor - is all about.




    "Slacker Uprising" has successfully created pre-election buzz, and to keep the ball rolling I suggest you add another dimension of punch to, repeat: demonstrate how free health care, and by extension, caring for your neighbor, works.



    Race, creed, color, political leanings, religious beliefs - whoever the person in need, true humanists will always put all and any differences aside, step up and deliver. The haves must always come to the aid of the have-nots; until their vote makes it law, the good people will do so voluntarily and without reserve.



    In these, the last few weeks leading to the most important election in modern times, I say post an online donation drive for me at www.michaelmoore.com, set up a counter to show the amount of donations made, the number of donators, and perhaps even a (voluntary) tally of which side of the fence they stand on.



    Let's show those voters still on the fence how a new and improved nation will deliver on its promises, and how many are willing to lead by example, not just spout empty platitudes.



    I have little use for opulence, living large, and, least of all, waste of any kind, so what I don't need to cover my bills I could, in turn, eventually pass on to the next person in need - hey, starting with the folks at Moorewatch.



    What say you? Yeah? Or: HELL, YEAH !!



    biafra



    Proposal Two: Sign into law congressman John Conyer

  • fijijohn | July 24, 2007 10:18 AMReply

    So here in the post-modern world, there is no truth. But there is always a motivating agenda which explains why anyone makes an argument?

    I'm old fashioned, and I don't buy it. Rather than calling my criticism "strange and muddled," did you ever consider the bizarre possibility that I'm deeply ambivalent about Mike? That perhaps, after loving SiCKO, I'm trying to work things through myself?

    The three acts of the letter were my attempt to engender debate on three different points. The first was the truth, or should I say facts, of his debut ROGER & ME. The second was the discrepancy between what message his films have purported to deliver and what they actually say. The third was whether documentaries, by Mike or anyone, do or don't change the world.

    SiCKO, with a lot of pushing, will eventually just squeak by Al Gore to be the third top-grossing documentary ever. This is exciting. But on fire? Whatever. Certainly not to the investors in The Weinstein Co. But if you do the math, it's interesting that only about half of the five million followers on his email list will have gone to see it. What is their problem?

    And one final go round on the question "who cares if he talked to Roger Smith?" Documentary standards are way different now than they were eighteen years ago, perhaps in large part because of...Michael Moore. But at the time ROGER & ME was released in Dec '89, there was a growing backlash against the film and its maker simply over the fact that the chronology of the massive layoffs was wrong - the friggin' CHRONOLOGY. Can you imagine how Mike might have been run out of town on a rail as a documentarian AT THAT TIME if it had become public knowledge that he did talk to Roger and also simulated a non-existent incident. It would've been a huge scandal.

    Not any more.

  • girlsrockmovie | July 18, 2007 1:50 AMReply

    It is interesting this email conversation is still going on, probably a testament to the passions an interesting filmmaker like Moore can provoke.

    fijijohn, if you'll notice I pointed not just to his quotes about homosexuality, but more importantly to his sense that he's engaged in a cultural war. And where he stands in that cultural war. I don't stand in the way of anyone who interprets the bible in any way they see fit, though I suppose you could also read it to say a lot of things no reasonable folks follow literally anymore, but that's another argument (I already have a bible, thank you). My problem is with the stance both you and Westfall have that all you are interested in is "The Truth". Well, I can't quite put my finger on the motivation for your rather strange and muddled criticism of Moore, but Westfall's sense that he's in a cultural war is pretty clear. And that's pertinent, especially since every comment about Moore by the Right involves a qualification like "distorting the truth to push his liberal agenda". I think as long as we're asking how facts and truth can be distorted by agendas, we should just be aware where everyone stands.

  • michael westfall | July 17, 2007 1:37 AMReply

    girlsrockmovie & bugmenot, our site, which is followed by thousands of people, is not a gay bashing site. That said, we make no apologies for being people of faith. The Bible is the only measure to determine what should be the correct stand on homosexuality and every other issue of importance. If you do not own a Bible I will see that you get one. Let me know, my e-mail is at the bottom.
    God loves the homosexual but does not approve of the sin of homosexuality. Both the Old and New Testaments speak clearly on this. If you are sincerely interested in our position on homosexuality please check out No hate speech and no compromise at http://michaelwestfall.tripod.com/id28.html
    Rev. Kirby, who writes for our site, wrote it.

    Fijijohn, it is interesting that this discussion is still going on.
    I think we may be having a meeting of the minds on some points. Hopefully you, and others, are beginning to get a better picture that there is much more to the Flint story. I do appreciate your communicative skills in particular. I agree with your comments that Manufacturing Dissent did show how modern day celebrity has unfortunately, in some cases, replaced true leadership. I spent my entire working life as a liberal involved in social issues so I understand the passion of those people on your site. Some of them have a lot to offer but just need to be redirected so they can learn to think for themselves.
    All the best,
    Michael Westfall
    westfallpapers@yahoo.com

  • fijijohn | July 16, 2007 5:51 AMReply

    Why am I still reading these comments?

    Hey "girlsrockmovie," way back on june 29 (above) "bugmenot" already provided all the links to demonstrate that Mike Westfall is no friend of gay people. And as I asked half a month ago, what does that have to do with whether Michael Moore did or didn't have an encounter, or two, with Roger Smith?

    Mr Westfall's much larger points about who was there at the grassroots political organizing level working hard in Flint to hold GM accountable in the mid/late 80's is far more relevant. Obviously I certainly wasn't anywhere close, but Moore, Musselman, Nader & Westfall all seem to have played a role. The only one of these who essentially claims to have been the ONLY voice of opposition, as portrayed in Roger & Me, is Michael Moore.

    And even if Mike Westfall can't see his way clear, Manufacturing Disssent does a good job of showing how modern-day celebrity has replaced true leadership and asking just exactly who we all want to place our faith in as a leader.

  • girlsrockmovie | July 16, 2007 4:42 AMReply

    Some of Michael Westfall's "documented truth" and "historical fact" that somehow don't "prop up" his opinions. Just thought since everyone's trying to expose everyone's "real" motives here, it'd be nice to know a little about Mr. Westfall:

    "WE ARE ENGAGED IN A CULTURAL WAR AND EACH DAY, AS AMERICA STRAYS FURTHER AND FURTHER FROM GOD'S 10 COMMANDMENTS, OUR NEWSPAPERS DELIVER STRONGER EXAMPLES OF JUST HOW UNIMPORTANT MANY NOW REGARD SPIRITUAL AND TRADITIONAL VALUES.

    GROUPS INCLUDING THE ACLU, THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA, THE ABORTION INDUSTRY, PORNOGRAPHERS, THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY AND OTHER GROUPS ARE INFLICTING PERMANENT DAMAGE TO OUR CULTURE IN ORDER TO ENRICH THEMSELVES AND PROMOTE THEIR SPECIAL INTERESTS."

    "On homosexuality, the one-man, one-woman nuclear family has throughout millennia been the cornerstone of civilized society. For UAW officials to support those who practice homosexuality over the profound disapproval and disgust of their members, who live in Judeo-Christian families, is a direct dereliction of duty. To suggest that such convoluted morality is the Word of God is blasphemy. Those who practice homosexuality have nothing to do with labor."

    Obviously, there's no "political agenda" involved here on either side. I'm glad everyone's interested only in "the truth". And not, you know, a cultural war or anything...

  • parisrampro | July 9, 2007 7:26 AMReply

    And as long as we are putting together next semesters reading list for the UT Austin film student, add the Irish essayist and satirist Jonathan Swift to the required curriculum. As a nation, we should worry about the next graduating class of UT Austin!

  • parisrampro | July 9, 2007 7:15 AMReply

    And, of course, Paine and Franklin were always being accused of talking bullshit and making lies because it sold pamphlets, broadsheets, leaflets and books -- in other words, what they were selling. That doesn't change anything and doesn't make them more or less suspect in their arguments, political satire, or essays.

  • parisrampro | July 9, 2007 7:08 AMReply

    I think there is a lesson for the students at UT Austin here. There are many different kinds and shades of "documentary" and two of the most popular and successful filmmakers working in this genre today do not follow the shallow rules that most people spout out as "golden".

    The two filmmakers I reference are Moore and Errol Morris. Both are essentially essayists and feel no particular obligation to "show both sides of the issue" or "interview the opposition," so to speak. And good god I am grateful for that because how dreadful would that be. Benjamin Franklin never felt the obligation to practice "balanced and objective" journalism. Either did Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, Edward R. Morrow, or H.L Mencken (the sage of Baltimore). And they were some of the greatest political writers of our history. And no less controversial than Michael Moore!

    So, I hope the students of UT Austin will learn something in all this -- it sounds like they need a good education.

  • blue collar | July 5, 2007 12:25 PMReply

    Bunk!
    I will give you that Moore is a joker but working class ... never.

    Rewriting history and ignoring glaring documented facts to make them fit the story line in Manufacturing Dissent was dishonest. Transferring the workers efforts to others and downplaying their contributions because you don

  • peggygorm | July 5, 2007 6:26 AMReply

    Excuse me - a prime example of why to preview before you post - The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

  • peggygorm | July 5, 2007 5:59 AMReply

    The truth is rarely plain and never simple.

  • peggygorm | July 5, 2007 1:59 AMReply

    Michael Moore comes from a tradition of agitprop and political theater. He is not a documentarian except as a means to his end; he is an activist. He aims his message not only at an audience that would sit through Frederick Wiseman doc, but, at that most underrated and condescended to audience, the American working class. Michael Moore has the audacity to believe that a working class audience can handle a film with a liberal or even much farther left leaning agenda. Unlike a lot of filmmakers (at all budget levels), who can see American workers only as benighted conservative yahoos (the stereotype has moved very little since JOE for most), Moore speaks to his audience with humor, intelligence and directness. He addresses their issues in their voice.

    Also how nice that someone says that the Emperor (Republican or Democrat) is stark naked. In a tradition that has a long history (court jesters and Abbie Hoffman come to mind), Moore plays the clown to tell the truth about the King. He is the pin in the Man's balloon.

    In these self important times, the truly serious know that playing the joker is often the way to undermine the miasma of corruption and meaningless jargon (on all sides) that pervades all of public life and discourse. Since the right exploits the working class and the left condescends to them or pities them, the most apt speaker of truth for our times just might be a very shrewd working class joker.

  • blue collar | July 5, 2007 1:05 AMReply

    What a bunch of Johnny come lately biased elitists.
    So you are going to slam the actual documented workers who were doing the activist work back in Flint because you don't agree with their politics?
    It is interesting that what is said here is that Westfall wasn't a consultant yet the producers spent a day at his home interviewing him, went over his archived material and included him in the film along with valuable ongoing clips of his various worker events. Could the real issue be that Westfall wrote an accurate piece condeming the movie Manufacturing Dissent because it didn't give a fig for the truth of the real story or the workers? That is most likely the case.
    Check out.. Roseanne Barr's link
    http://www.roseanneworld.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3537&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15


    http://michaelwestfall.tripod.com/id17.html

    http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2007/05/18/the-american-conservative-worker/

    http://www.newmediajournal.us/guest/m_westfall/04142007.htm

  • dubiousdoubter | July 4, 2007 11:01 AMReply

    Dear Mr. Pierson,

    I am truly sorry for my earlier post. I think I just had too much coffee this morning. I wish you and your family the best. Seriously.

    Peace.

  • fijijohn | July 4, 2007 7:45 AMReply

    Holy cow. And a happy Independence Day to you too. So if I answer, it triggers more of this. And if I don't, there might be like one person in Namibia who takes this bombardment seriously. So what do I do?

    Haven't been a rep in a long time actually, but deeply treasure friendships with filmmakers I backed. So let's do it this way. The book is called Spike (for Spike Lee), Mike (that's obvious), Slackers (Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith) & Dykes, and I've been in close touch with Spike, Kevin & Rick this week. Spike is excited about the Knicks Zach Randolph trade, Kevin got an iPhone, and sadly my Austin neighbor Linklater is not having his annual 4th of July fireworks today. As for the Dykes, Christine Vachon asked me to write the foreword for her recent book, and you just reminded me to drop Rose Troche & Guin Turner a line. Oh and I think we've had them all to Austin at least once, if not twice, in the last year. One title character is noticeably missing. But the invitation is open.

    As for the previous post about inaccuracies in the book, I may hate myself for writing this but please do give me some examples. There have now been three editions, each one corrected to the best of my ability. But one day there may be a fourth - another opportunity to make it even more accurate.

  • dubiousdoubter | July 4, 2007 6:15 AMReply

    Laudable Laughfest

    Dear People,

    Oh, the irony of it all. It's really quite amusing to read a letter which questions the integrity of a filmmaker of Michael Moore's caliber, written by a man, John Pierson, who's own integrity is highly suspect...in the least!

    It may be true that Mr. Moore uses questionable techniques in order to get his point across, but is this immoral or unethical? Perhaps. Does he use these techniques to include and exclude information for the purpose of manipulation? Perhaps. Is he a narcissistic, egomaniacal windbag guilty of shameless self promotion? Perhaps. But what of Mr. Pierson?

    A cursory glance at his resume will show you that Mr. Pierson is most often credited as a �Producer�s Rep�. Well, what is a Producer�s Rep, exactly? Well, they are a lot of things and they wear many hats, but essentially, they are middlemen who stand at the crux between art (the filmmaker) and commerce (the studio, distributor etc�). It is a position that holds a certain amount of weight and requires a certain amount of gravitas, a position that frequently often requires that its holder, lie, cheat, beg, borrow, and steal. It is a position that demands duplicity, as that is par for the course in this business of show.

    The Independent film business has always been a hotbed of the shallow and the craven and Mr. Pierson has often been at the center of this circus of grotesquerie. His reputation as a vein and venal opportunist precedes him, wherever and whenever he enters a festival room.

    If you do a little research, look at his history, question those whom he has represented, you will quickly see a pattern start to emerge.
    The landscape of Mr. Pierson's history is littered with the bodies of those whose films he has badmouthed, including some they he later came to represent.He has always been known as the guy to walk away from if you see him coming your way, "Oh no, it's Pierson. We're fucked", as one successful filmmaker recently said to me.

    If you take a look at his filmography, you will see that he once repped such indie classics, as "Crumb" and "Go Fish", but that was long time ago. [A PORTION OF THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED BY indieWIRE, WHICH HAS CONTACTED THE REGISTERED USER WHO POSTED IT.] Why don't we ask John about his relationships with all the filmmakers he's worked with in the past? Is he in still in touch with, friendly with, on speaking terms with any of them? I would gladly supply you with their personal email addresses so that you can ask them yourself, but that would be an invasion of their privacy. However, you should consider this question, why doesn't anyone want to work with John Pierson?

    Pierson implores Moore to let "the movie do the talking" and accuses of him of letting his ego get the "better of him". Well, that's fucking hysterical. A filmmaker with a big ego? There's a big shocker! Speaking of ego's�

    I always find it ironic when documentarians go to some third world country with their first world equipment to document the atrocities of their existence under the guise of shining a light on or bringing attention to their plight. It's laughable. If they really gave even one shit about the people they have chosen to document, they would put down their camera's and microphones, pawn that equipment, and use that money along with the rest of their budget to truly help these individuals. But they think it�s more important to make their movie than to actually do anything about it. This is not true of all documentarians (Mr. Moore's personal contributions to his causes are well documented), mind you, but it is certainly true of Mr. Pierson. His idea of "help" is to bring "happiness" to the indigent (no pun intended) by showing them B Movies in a rundown theater? That's fucking priceless.

    Perhaps you should think twice about moralizing when your own behavior has been, shall I say, less than perfect. Hmm...less than perfect? Nah, too easy. How about reprehensible?

    Signed,

    Hollywood Agent

  • quill33 | July 4, 2007 4:13 AMReply

    Dear Mr. Pierson,

    You were confronted on your book tour promoting Spike/Mike on more than one occasion. The most common complaint made by those who dared to question your "authority" amongst the sycophants was about the widely-known inaccuracies in your book. You were not merely nor exclusively accused of simply "exaggerating" events, but you were called a "liar" by more than one reader and at more than one signing. Your reaction to their comments was ALWAYS the same as far as the three readings I attended. Your response, the "Write your own books if you don't like mine." line was repeated at all three events. So, what's my point?

    My point is this. Your own response to the criticisms about the inaccuracies in Spike/Mike is a perfect example of how to skirt an issue. If you were truly concerned about the truth, why not start at home? You have never (as far as I am aware) addressed any of the questions regarding the accuracy of your own work. In fact, you admit to it in your last post, your response, "write a book of you own", is not an answer, it is a polite way of saying, "I don't care what you think". Well, why not? How come you have yet to answer the questions about those inaccuracies (questions that I will not repeat here due to time and space constraints) of which you are quite aware?

    It appears that you have taken our own advice or you have at least done so by proxy as someone promoting a film questioning the motives and tactics of Mr. Moore. The only difference is that a film was made in lieu of a book.

    What if you approached Mr. Moore at a reading of one of his bestsellers and said, "Michael, there appear to be some inaccuracies in Roger & Me" and he responded, "Well, if you don't like my movie, maybe you should make a movie of your own" Would that answer suffice? I don't think so.

  • fijijohn | July 3, 2007 9:01 AMReply

    With SiCKO, it is because it's not just on the left; it's on the side of the angels - and also highly entertaining. Let's fan whatever box office flames are there since every American should see this film.

    Here at the end of the TrackBack trail, it seems like multi-posters psmith, bruhrabbit and bugmenot were a bit like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego repeatedly going into the fiery furnace for their beliefs and coming out unsinged.

    Here's the thing about raking me over the hot ad hominem coals. I can't find any "specious personal attacks" in my letter. Not one. And truly, if you can find one student who feels that I've "foisted upon" them, I will resign my teaching post instantly.

    A little bit of factual clean-up before we all move on with our lives:

    1. Mike Westfall was absolutely NOT a consultant on Manufacturing Dissent. He was an invaluable source of footage showing Mike & Roger in dialogue.

    2. I did not make Manufacturing Dissent, I am not a filmmaker, nor have I ever had black tape over my mouth.

    3. The second Mike/Roger encounter was at GM's January 1988 gala at the Waldorf-Astoria. Since Roger & Me was already underway by February 1987, we can certainly agree that it was still underway a year later.

    4. The cost of a good education at UT for a Texas resident is extremely modest - one reason it's a pleasure to teach here.

    5. I do not have, nor did I write anywhere above, a single "allegation" about how Mike has treated me. Fair and square. Same for me, I hope. But all these riding his coattails contentions aside, I honestly do believe that, at least in some small way, I helped him earn his initial national fame...and fortune.

    6. I have never claimed that I'm either cool or important. The filmmakers ALWAYS come first. But it's true that years ago on book tour, I did encourage people to write their own books if they didn't like mine.

    In closing, one final thought about Mike always being on the right side. If Al Gore was in the White House, we would not be in Iraq, the Supreme Court would not have shifted to the right indefinitely, and An Inconvenient Truth would not have won an Oscar. One of these two people supported Gore in 2000: a) Moore b) Pierson. Who was it?

  • rick caine | July 3, 2007 3:51 AMReply

    What if the guy who is the most widely viewed and most popular documentary filmmaker in history also turns out to be one of the biggest bullshitters? Does that undermine his credibility and therefore thwart the impact of his arguments? Do we care, or is it just about selling movie tickets? What to do with someone who has wrapped himself in the cause so thoroughly that it is impossible to seperate his film marketing from the cause? Is it acceptable to engage in some of the deceptions Moore has used to spread his message? I'm still wondering myself maybe that's why Manufacturing Dissent strikes such a nerve and sells out whenever it screens. Betsy A. McLane is right, doc history is littered with fakers and flim-flam artists, but this is not what we should be celebrating and emulating. Can you imagine if the journalism community decided to put Jason Blair and Stephen Glass on pedestals instead of drumming them out of the business? How about if booksellers decided to rally around James Frey? I have no problem with Michael Moore's causes (of course the US as one of the most affluent countries on earth should have universal health care to provide essential medical care for the least amongt us, of course something should be done about US gun crazy culture that sacrifices over 30,000 American citizens a year to firearms deaths, and of course a company posting record profits has an obligation to the community which allows it to prosper) it's how he gets there, his technique, his method, is what is examined in our film. I hope you get a chance to see it and you can decide for yourself how you feel about it. Allow me to quote Michael Moore from Manufacturing Dissent wherein at a press conference at the 1989 Toronto International Film Festival he was asked what kind of techniques are acceptable for a documentary filmmaker to use when making a doc. His answer: "I think you can do anything you want, use any technique you want, as long as you tell the truth." Does the truth matter, shoud it? Or is falling on the right side of an issue good enough? Please discuss.

  • alpha zebra | July 2, 2007 10:19 AMReply

    What bothers me about the attention Pierson's getting is that he's trying to tie himself to Michael Moore's coattails, rather than going out himself and doing a piece (documentary, hit piece, comedy, whatever) on a major issue. Posing with black tape over your mouth, as if somehow Michael Moore had the power to silence you in any way, shape, or form, is just ludricrous.

    Say what you will about Moore, at least he focuses on issues of substance - the devastation experienced by an entire region of this nation by plant closings and outsourcing, the impact of America's firearms laws and culture, the lengths to which politicians will manufacture a story to rally America to a war, and now the adverse impact for-profit insurance companies have had on America's health care system.

    Moore is still a little guy (a man with a net wealth of a few million is still a little guy compared to the health care and pharmaceutical behemoths, or even the personal wealth of a Dick Cheney or a Condoleeza Rice) going after giants. Pierson is an opportunist going after a little guy who's garnered himself notoriety for going after the big guys.

    Put another way, if you don't like what Moore's saying or how he's saying it, you can simply not pay to see the movie or buy the DVD, or you can change the channel. The powerful people and corporations Moore has gone after don't give their victims that choice. As for whatever allegations you have about how Moore has treated you, you should be well aware that as a celebrity he has people coming at him all the time - some with honorable intentions, some to con or fleece or exploit him, and some, unfortunately, who are mentally unbalanced and may do harm. In the circles of celebrity, nobody has forgotten about Rebecca Shaeffer, or the con man who bilked quite a few famous Hollywood types out of millions and millions. Frankly, if I were Michael Moore, I'd blow you off directly, as someone who was looking to sponge fame off someone famous rather than earn it himself.

    John, if you really are a filmmaker and you think Moore is wrong, pick an issue he's gone after and take the opposite view. Do a comedy in defense of the NRA, or the health care industry, or Bush, or corporate downsizing. Come to the defense of these poor, put-upon mega-corporations, or these politicians who hold the strings of power in their hands. If you have a problem with the message, find the testicular fortitude to take a real stand and back it up. Put your pro-Bush doc up againt Fahrenheit 9/11 and accept the results of the court of public opinion (and box office). As it is, you're going after the messenger, and not to put to too fine a point on it, but whether or not this is your intent, it smells like petty jealousy.

  • documentarydiva | July 2, 2007 8:19 AMReply

    This lively, though terribly insular debate is most heartening. It proves that arguments about documentary form & content are as vital & viscous as they have always been. Poking behind the screen to discover facts & "truths" is the best way for audiences to become informed about any filmed subject. We can all acknowledge the marketing magic of "Mike" as extraordinary in the modern documentary world. (Although Ken Burns deserves props here too.) And I must confess that some of the easiest money I ever made was working for WB on the Oscar campaign of ROGER & ME. The fact that Mr. Moore raises public discourse about important subjects & about documentary itself good for all of us. The fact that others challenge his work is even better.

    Jonathan, ever quietly erudite, Miller's above post puts it best, and I would leave it at that, but for one thing. The fact that Mr. Peirson is moved to this investigation by his teaching experience is also heartening. (What forces of ego are involved I can only speculate.) To say, as some do in their comments, that to make a film is much more important than to teach about film is ridiculous. True, I have often been a teacher, only seldom a filmmaker, but a teacher reaches people directly and often very forcefully. If the criterion of effectiveness is to create change then our teachers, who do that every day in millions upon millions of ways, rate far more attention than documentary filmmakers. I hope Mr. Moore makes a film about the scandalous ways the US treats its teachers--from kindergarten through graduate school.

    And remember guys--you are only following in the greatest of documentary ego traditions. Flaherty & Grierson started this debate among fact, art, ethics and the purpose of the documentary over 70 years ago. Read the history and figure out where, if, you fit in.
    Betsy A. McLane

  • girlsrockmovie | July 2, 2007 7:16 AMReply

    This is all pretty funny...especially since Pierson asks what motives Michael Moore has, and what he expects to happen as a result of his films. I would ask the same thing of Pierson--what did you expect this open letter to accomplish? Honestly, it's somewhat incomprehensible. You say in your comment that you want people to discuss Moore's politics, and yet you give a good part of your letter over to implying Moore is a liar. It's hard to imagine an "open" letter as passive aggressive, but I think you've managed to achieve the feat.

    Also somewhat comical to criticize a guy for having a big ego and letting his stories be about himself, considering the last film you produced was a documentary about yourself. Covering the all important issue of trying to set up a movie theater on an island. Powerful stuff.

    I also think its funny that your students were so mortified about Moore's manipulations. Anyone who really thinks Moore makes honest-to-god documentaries--I've got a bridge named Borat to sell you. It's best to think of his films as exactly what they are, political agitprop satire. The fact that he crosses ethical lines is distressing, but those ethical lines are all in the films themselves. No need to dig up conservative wingnuts to imply the Moore conspiracy. The moment Moore beat up on a barely cognizant Charlton Heston in "Bowling for Columbine", any barely cognizant filmgoer should have some idea of what he's up to. It reminds me of the big expose book Albert Goldman wrote about John Lennon where he reveals that Lennon was...a drug addict! Really?! Maybe that's why he wrote the song "Cold Turkey"?

    I agree with Pierson that there's much to argue about with Moore, and much that he does that works against his own politics. But to start the conversation with specious personal attacks which he foists upon his poor students rather than taking full responsibility seems somewhat counterproductive. Just what are you trying to say, Mr. Pierson?

    Finally, for a guy who's been in the biz as long as Pierson has, I'm blown away that he would say Sicko didn't catch fire on its opening. It averaged more than $10,000 per screen on 440 screens! Second only to Ratatouille! More than Die Hard! Sure, that's no Farenheit 911, but nothing else ever will be. At no point was Bowling for Columbine at that many theaters and making $10,000 per screen, as a point of reference.

    Ultimately, Moore cuts a wide swath across our cinematic and political landscape, and whatever policy changes he effects or doesn't, he's an undeniable force. I don't think Bob Dylan (did you know that Bob Dylan isn't his actual name?!!?!?) actually changed the world when he sang "Masters of War", but does that mean he should've closed down shop?

  • psmith | July 2, 2007 6:35 AMReply

    "Does anyone out there care to post something on the more expansive issue of what Mike thinks his films are saying, what he hopes to achieve with them, and whether they accomplish anything on a practical policy level?"

    Why not just read one of the dozens of interviews he's given? Isn't it obvious that he wants change and that he thinks his films might be catalysts for that? It seems clear that Pierson has an issue with quantifiable results with the "accomplish anything on a practical policy level" comment. Does that mean that Pierson would suggest Moore simply disappear from the discussion altogether? What would this "accomplishment" look like? As for "catching fire," I'm a little surprised by the bandwagon-jumping by Pierson to dismiss the financial success of the film based on what is essentially three days of viewings in less than 900 theaters. "Bowling for Columbine" didn't hit its highest weekend gross until its fifth week. Does that mean it didn't "catch fire" either?

  • psmith | July 2, 2007 6:17 AMReply

    Two things:

    1) "John Pierson, who is arguably the coolest guy in American Indie filmmaking..."

    Huh? How's that? Based on what criteria? And what exactly does being "cool" have to do with a damn thing? If you really want to have a "real debate," maybe the place to start is by avoiding high school fawning over who's the "coolest" person in the room, as if that lends any credibility whatsoever to the discussion.

    2) "this ignorant, drive by internet character assissination you are currently engaging in." Wow, now that's funny, given the tone of the piece that we're all commenting on. I suppose Pierson's own intentions and motives shouldn't be critiqued even though that's what he's doing to Moore?

  • indie-guy | July 2, 2007 6:01 AMReply

    Pierson's attitude is ironic given that his book is similarly riddled with omissions and exaggerations, solely to make the case that he is somehow the most important person in indie film history. And when anyone would complain, his stock response was to say that anyone who objected should write their own book.

  • rick caine | July 2, 2007 4:50 AMReply

    Just for the record, John Pierson, who is arguably the coolest guy in American Indie filmmaking, has no financial interest in Manufacturing Dissent. He stated his motive and interest in our film which is linked to his student's interest. Don't we all wish we had a prof like this when we were in school? And although you haven't seen our film it hasn't stopped you from commenting on it. It would be helpful if you just slightly better informed then we could have a real debate as opposed this ignorant, drive by internet character assissination you are currently engaging in.

  • bruhrabbit | July 2, 2007 3:26 AMReply

    no because none of us have that kind of hubris

  • marcycordero49 | July 2, 2007 3:26 AMReply

    I would like to know John Pierson's financial stake in the success of Manufacturing Dissent, and whether this open letter--and other extensive PR efforts he's conducting on its behalf--are an effort to create buzz with a bottom line for himself. The mediocre documentary has poor word of mouth, and bleak distribution opportunities. Its rather sad that Pierson has sunk to this.

  • fijijohn | July 2, 2007 3:09 AMReply

    It's been an interesting weekend where I'm sad to report, self-promotion ansd spinning aside, SiCKO did not really catch fire.

    Many of the comments above have been rather insular. Does anyone out there care to post something on the more expansive issue of what Mike thinks his films are saying, what he hopes to achieve with them, and whether they accomplish anything on a practical policy level?

  • bruhrabbit | July 2, 2007 2:07 AMReply

    if self promotion is a sin then I guess every film maker is going to hell

  • mr.frisbie | July 1, 2007 2:43 AMReply

    What a shame. One shameless self-promoter wrapping himself in the flag hounding another.

  • jonathan miller | July 1, 2007 1:10 AMReply

    I think the two sides of this debate (if one can call it a debate), are about -

    what is the relationship the filmmaker wants to have [or should have?] with his or her audience

    To be respected for the persuasive demonstration of his/her intelligence and perceptiveness?

    (and cleverness)

    Or to be respected for showing faith in the intelligence and perceptiveness of the audience?

  • galeninjapan | June 30, 2007 8:16 AMReply

    Bush's reputation has been going down the toilet for the past few years and yet he hasn't commented about Moore...

  • acephotony | June 30, 2007 7:34 AMReply

    Why is it important? Are you kidding? It's crucial for documentary filmmakers (and everyone, frankly) to care about, debate and regularly reassess what the line is to draw when fabricating or staging things in a non-fiction film. It's actually a really interesting and relevant discussion. Lost interviews that may or may not exist aside, cutting a scene to make it look like the mic was purposely turned off when it wasn't, crosses that line, in my opinion.

  • bruhrabbit | June 30, 2007 7:05 AMReply

    Again- why is this important other than as a way to avoid the subject matter of what Moore is talking? Seriously- it's only important for the purposes of the cult of personality that exists in this country. Let's deconstruct moore because it's easier than dealing with healthcare.

  • marshwiggle | June 30, 2007 7:02 AMReply

    It's seems you're all neglecting to address what, to me, was the most shocking thing in Manufacturing Dissent - not just that Moore left an interview on the cutting room floor, but that he faked the famous climactic moment where he finally gets to speak to Roger Smith at a shareholder's meeting and his mic is cut off. According to Jim Musselman, Moore actually did speak to Smith at that meeting (the transcripts were printed in Premiere Magazine), but he shot that footage of him getting cut off separately, then spliced it in to Roger & Me, to make it look like he had been cut off. This is what Smith responds to in MD, saying "We never cut him off; that's not our style". Smith says he never responded to Roger & Me because the press was so bad that his advisers told him it was better to simply not respond. That isn't stupidity, it's the same strategy practiced by Bush and Moore, as well. Bush has never personally responded to Fahrenheit 9/11 because it looks better if he simply ignores it like it's not worthy of comment. And, in the same way, Moore declines comment on Manufacturing Dissent by saying he hasn't seen it. Yeah, right - I find it hard to believe that someone with an ego as supersized as Moore's would not watch a movie that's all about him - he just figures, like Smith did before him, that it's better to simply not respond.

  • bugmenot | June 30, 2007 5:36 AMReply

    [Bush's reputation has been going down the toilet for the past few years and yet he hasn't commented about Moore...]

    No, but plenty of Republican outlets have moved to comment (including the president's father). Apples and oranges.

    It is a huge sticking point for me. Moore allegedly secures a lengthy sit-down interview with Roger Smith during production; he dares to magic the interview into thin air; and General Motors miss a grand opportunity to smash his reputation to bits.

    In Manufacturing Dissent, Melnyk and Caine also charge Moore with twisting remarks made by President Bush during the annual Alfred Smith memorial dinner out of context. In Fahrenheit 9/11, Bush quips:

    "This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite - I call you my base."

    Bush was only joking, it is pointed out, yet Moore would have his viewers believe Bush was appealing to a wealthy elite.

    But if Moore was attempting to play the scene straight, why did he not mute or remove the laughter that followed Bush's remarks? One can clearly observe people laughing in the clip he used. Moore's actual point, simply made, is that many a true word is spoken in jest.

    Hope you don't mind having your own opinions and theories tested. I have found several good arguments elsewhere, and I'm regurgitating them.

  • bugmenot | June 30, 2007 5:32 AMReply

    [I can answer that. In the film Manufacturing Dissent, Rick and Debbie called Roger Smith and asked him this very question. His answer was that he didn't feel a threat from Moore.]

    Not even when GM's reputation was going down the toilet, and fast?

    Roger & Me made an impact. No denying it.

  • bugmenot | June 30, 2007 5:24 AMReply

    I'm taking these arguments as I find them. Let's test them further. Can you kindly provide verifiable evidence as per Roger & Me production date/second interview? I find it most difficult to accept your explanation that "gigantic corporations" were, well, just plain dumb in 1989. Corporations have been under attack for decades.[1] There are literally hundreds of books on many different topics. If this interview occurred, I'm inclined to believe General Motors would have had something to say about it (and 'bamboozled' Roger Smith, a lot sooner). That's not unreasonable, is it?

    Mike Westfall says he worked with Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine for the best part of a year. They visited his home and the University of Michigan to examine his archived material. Much of the worker stock footage in the film belongs to Westfall.[2] The relevance is made clear in this sentence:

    "Michael Moore was my guest at GM stockholders' meetings before his "Roger and Me" movie. At these stockholders meetings our blue-collar activists would confront Roger Smith on the issues that Moore would come to declare as his solo issues."[3]

    I'm not smearing this person (or anyone else). I find him genuinely repulsive. Examine his work and see if you don't come to a different conclusion.

    [1] http://tinyurl.com/j6hcy
    [2] http://tinyurl.com/2n9hvo
    [3] http://tinyurl.com/34dfv8

  • galeninjapan | June 30, 2007 5:04 AMReply

    "Moore also dismisses rumours of a mysterious second interview, positing that if he truly had secured an interview with Roger Smith during production, then attempted to keep the footage a secret, General Motors would have publicized news of the interview throughout the media to discredit him. But they did not. (Perhaps they were in on the conspiracy.)"

    I can answer that. In the film Manufacturing Dissent, Rick and Debbie called Roger Smith and asked him this very question. His answer was that he didn't feel a threat from Moore. If I was a multi billion dollar company I wouldn't care about some lowly filmmaker either.

  • psmith | June 30, 2007 4:46 AMReply

    Why don't YOU get out of the damn way, Pierson, and quit reminding everyone about your past ties to people who still matter. Go tell your "angry" undergrads some more war stories that will pump your ego back up.

  • bruhrabbit | June 30, 2007 4:29 AMReply

    If your students are getting angry at Moore about a documentary done back in the day, then no offense, but you should have questioned your student's priorities. With outsourcing, the Iraqi War, global warming, the healthcare crisis, indeed the cost of their education, the squeezing of the middle class and multiple other issues- this is what they choose to get angry at? Again, to me sounds like wrong priorities. At the end of the day- who cares. Was the documentary on the whole right as to its concerns over the effects of globalization? If your answer is "yes" then this is a little like arguing over the music Nero played as Rome burned. Or to put another way- this is like how the press in 2004 would equate a minor mistake by Kerry with a big one by Bush. It's been called the false equivalency approach. Let's conceed he may have made errors. I don't see how that changes the main point of the stories he's telling. I say this as someone who understand Moore himself is probably not a nice guy or someone I would want to know personally, but then I don't need to know him to like his work for what it is- entertainment with a social bent meant to start a dialogue.

  • fijijohn | June 30, 2007 2:47 AMReply

    I made a vow to let the film community debate what I've written without interceding. But every rule has an exception, and "bugmenot" has made it a practice to post similar items elsewhere.

    So here we go, for the last time I hope. When did the shooting of Roger & Me begin? Well experienced documentarians Kevin Rafferty and Anne Bohlen went to Flint to help Mike get started in February, 1987. You could look it up. Nothing mysterious about the second Smith interview. It happened in 1988 as per Jim Musselman. I myself had always made the argument that GM surely would not have failed to publicize these encounters, but Roger Smith actually speaks to that point in Manufacturing Dissent. In a nutshell, gigantic corporations were a lot dumber in disregarding their critics in 1989 than they are now. Strategic stupidity, not conspiracy.

    In many ways, Mike Westfall does seem to be a loose cannon - no disrespect Mr. Westfall - was not a consultant, and is not even interviewed in the movie. And for that reason, I did not mention his name. But even if he is a gay basher, he did eyewitness Mike talking to Roger and I'm not really sure what one has to do with the other - assuming we're not on Fox News. But you'll notice in my letter, I do invoke the name of the exemplary Jim Musselman, a true mensch with nothing to gain who now runs a socially progressive small record label. He's gonna be a lot harder for you to smear. Oh and I also cite the aforementioned co-star of the movie, the guy who's "missing" from the empty chair on the poster, Roger Smith. He's long retired and still doesn't quite seem to know what hit him.

    Gotta go. Almost time for Mike on Larry King.

  • bugmenot | June 30, 2007 1:29 AMReply

    [When the students learned that you had in fact talked to Roger Smith more than once, it mattered deeply to them because they thought it undercut the entire premise of the film...]

    Michael Moore says this early confrontation occurred in 1987, several months before he committed himself to making Roger & Me. Other sources corroborate this, noting that during production, Roger Smith was unreceptive and declined repeated requests to be interviewed. So Moore obtained the original footage of his earlier encounter and for a time considered including it in his movie, before eventually rejecting the idea. (To this extent the footage ended up on the cutting room floor.)

    Moore also dismisses rumours of a mysterious second interview, positing that if he truly had secured an interview with Roger Smith during production, then attempted to keep the footage a secret, General Motors would have publicized news of the interview throughout the media to discredit him. But they did not. (Perhaps they were in on the conspiracy.)

    [And mysteriously an attack flyer showed up on campus about me.]

    Michael Moore's secret agents - they're everywhere!

    [I fully and completely believe the testimony of people who were there with you in Flint and have absolutely nothing to gain by lying...]

    Michael Westfall helped Moore get into the GM conference hall to confront Smith before his Roger movie. Westfall also served as a consultant for Manufacturing Dissent (along with truth teller Jim Kenefick). Alas, Westfall spends a considerable amount of time on FreeRepublic.com bashing homosexuals and .... people who promote the "homosexual agenda" like Michael Moore. According to Westfall, it is going to take Jesus Christ to stop liberals like Moore! Check out his website if you do not believe me.

    Shame on you for believing people like Michael Westfall over Michael Moore.

    [1] http://tinyurl.com/2ef335
    [2] http://tinyurl.com/2etmhm

  • dbblock | June 29, 2007 9:56 AMReply

    Interesting read, John, as always. No, films don't change policy but they do change hearts and minds (remember that one? - certainly turned my head around about war). My daughter was 15 when she saw The Corporation and came out of it determined never to work for one. She was 16 when she saw An Inconvenient Truth and shortly after decided to major in Environmental Studies, with an eye for doing policy work down the road.

    Not sure what MM's agenda really is, I imagine it's a mix. Generally speaking, if you make docs purely with the goal of changing the world, you'll come away frustrated (and likely debt-ridden). But that doesn't mean you're not making a huge impact.