Back to IndieWire

“GhettoPhysics” Co-Director: “I Find Human Drama Boring. That’s Why I Make the Films I Make”

"GhettoPhysics" Co-Director: "I Find Human Drama Boring. That's Why I Make the Films I Make"

“GhettoPhysics”‘ co-director William Arntz, the mind behind “What the BLEEP Do We Know?,” answered indieWIRE‘s questions about making his latest documentary in anticipation of the film’s Los Angeles run, which starts today.

“GhettoPhysics” examines the interplay between Pimps and Hos and how that dynamic is the simplest expression of how power is wielded in the world. The film utilizes documentary footage, animation, satire and dramatization to illustrate examples culled from the Hood to Wall Street be the players real-life pimps or corporate executives repeating the same power dynamics. The film includes interviews with notable entertainers and thinkers, such as Dr. Cornel West, Ice-T, KRS-One, Too Short, John Perkins, Cynthia McKinney, William H. Arntz (co-director) and Norman Lear. Of course, it also includes a colorful contingent of street characters, with names such as Filmore Slim, Hook da Crook, Mac Breed and Lo Da Show. [Synopsis courtesy of the film’s website]

From physics to filmmaking…

My background in filmmaking started in high school with dad’s 8mm camera. This continued through college, evolving up to some 16mm films, but alas — no sync sound. But I graduated in physics and engineering and went off and did research physics work. Filmmaking was on my mind, but the prospect of going to LA and climbing the ranks was just too daunting, so I wrote filmmaking off as a dream of youth.

A number of startup software companies and two spiritual teachers later I found myself at the age of 50 thinking about films again. The companies had been successful so I could finance some small documentary films. I wanted to get out to the world the amazing stuff I was learning from the spiritual practices. I even thought people wanted to get it. Turns out they did — that small doc blossomed into “What the BLEEP Do We Know!?”

On the story for “GhettoPhysics” finding him…

“GhettoPhysics” started as a book by my co-director E Raymond Brown titled: “Will the Real Pimps and Ho’s Please Stand Up: Peeping the Multi-leveled Global Game.” E Ray also realized what I said above about the power of film and with no experience or money decided to get a film made. He scrounged up enough to produce a one-hour pilot of the project. In the meantime he saw “What the BLEEP” and thought, “those are the folks I need to work with — they’ll get it!”.

He got me a copy of the film and I immediately saw it was a diamond in the rough. Although I wasn’t looking for a project I just couldn’t say no. I was determined to keep the spirit (and the humor) of what E Ray started and develop the themes into a universal statement about power in the world.

Arntz on process…

Originally I was just going to do a few more interviews, reorganize the flow and get some good music in and call it a day. Six months top. But as the new interviews rolled in we realized we had something really interesting here and decided to take it “to the next level.” That involved rewriting and reshooting all the classroom scenes in HD with a crack film crew. Once that was done I cut it together.

The thing about a hybrid documentary is that there are so many ways it can go. It’s not like a linear story. So now we were in the morass of editing, trying, test screening, changing, and chopping. This continued for eight months whereupon I realized we needed a bit more “story.” So we wrote a subplot for one of the students in the film and shot that. Another eight months of editing, screening, tweaking and agonizing ensued. At one point we were all so close to it we brought in another editor for two months to chop what we couldn’t.

On taking “GhettoPhysics” to audiences…

The biggest response from people coming out of “GhettoPhysics” is: “Wow, that wasn’t at all what I thought it would be.” What usually ensues are animated discussions in the hallway afterwards as people are truly lit up with the ideas and presentation. A noted author of self help books — Joe Vitale — saw the film and wrote that it was responsible for getting him to make a major life change. In the end that’s what this film is about — getting people to see new things and think about their life in new (and hopefully better) ways. And have some good laughs along the way. Current brain research shows that learning goes way up after a good laugh…

Arntz on his unique approach to making films…

I know I’m in the minority, but human drama, which most films are all about, I find boring. It’s endless variations on a simple theme. Which I suppose is why I make the films I do. I like the idea that you need to watch a film a couple of times.

Arntz waits for future projects…

I don’t have any future projects. My new policy is for the Universe to bring them to my door, either literally as in the case of E Ray showing up with his pilot, or with some crazy idea I just can’t get rid of. Besides — my arm hurts from pushing a mouse around for 2 years. And when you edit there’s a lot of that! So I’m thinking my next plan is going to a beach.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox