Once a week, I’m going to pick out one of Fancast’s many full-length free feature films to spotlight. Sure, you’ll check out the big stuff like Dead Again, The Hard Way and Goin’ South, but the smaller movies need shout-outs, too.
The Movie of the Week this week is The Entrepreneur, in conjunction with SnagFilms’ SummerFest. Best known for bringing Subaru and Yugo to North America, and for producing the first sports car with gull-wing doors, Malcolm Bricklin has lost and regained millions, failing as often as thriving. But Malcolm is a man who gauges success by the experience itself, not just by the dollars and cents it generates. Filmmaker Jonathan Bricklin follows his father’s last grasp at power before his last gasp, as dad dreams of being the first to distribute Chinese cars in North America. All he needs is a near-bankrupt factory and some investors. You wouldn’t actually think Malcolm could do it, given his insistence that everyone conform to his ideas and his blustery, ostentatious, and unprofessional conduct. Can this showman transform his talk into reality?
Q&A with Director Jonathan Bricklin, star Malcolm Bricklin and Executive Producer Morgan Spurlock
Q: “The Entrepreneur” is a very timely story about the difficulties of creating a new American car company amidst the decline of its once-proud auto industry. What possessed Malcolm Bricklin to try to tackle this idea at this stage in the game? No desire to retire?
Morgan Spurlock: Malcolm is one of those guys you can’t tie down. He’s a hurricane in a human’s body. He’s one of those rare people who gets an idea and goes after it immediately with all the fury of a prize fighter.
Q: How did you personally get involved with this film project? What inspired Jonathan to film his father’s efforts?
Spurlock: I met Jonathan about a year and a half ago and he told me about the film he was finishing. From the minute he told me about it, I was fascinated and then when I saw Malcolm in the movie in all his glory I said, “I’ll do anything to help you get this story out there.”
Q: Do you know how Malcolm feels about the current state of the auto industry and the bailouts? How do you feel about the way things are going in the car industry today, as well as the constant panic about socialism?
Spurlock: I am sure Malcolm believes he could’ve done it better. I think it’s depressing to see this backbone of the American economy struggling so much. I know so many people whose family works in the auto industry and who’ve been affected by this seismic economic shift. The one thing I can say for sure is that it’s an industry worth fighting for.
Q. The film is also an important look into the relationship between the United States and China. What were the challenges of filming the negotiations with Chery, or were there any diplomatic issues with China in general that presented problems?
Jonathan Bricklin: Interestingly, the Chinese were less concerned with being filmed than Americans, probably because of their lack of exposure to bad reality television. However, there were many awkward moments while filming heated negotiations, but invariably, those were the more cinematic moments in the film. I love awkward situations, and there were no shortage of them throughout filming.
Q: Does the rise and fall of the Chery deal speak at all to the greater relationship between America and the holders of our biggest debts, or is it just the risk of business as usual?
Malcolm Bricklin: I’m optimistic about the future, and I would never characterize a nation of a billion and a half people off of one company, but it does partially represent the morality of a country – these are nice people who are hard working, but they live in a situation where they feel they can do whatever they want to people from outside of China. The lessons they are about to learn involve cheating and stealing – when you are doing business with the rest of the world you are forced to adopt the morality and laws of the rest of the world. They can’t hide behind the Chinese government. It’s a lesson they need to learn, they thought they could take without any laws or contracts, which makes doing business tough to conduct. It’s hard to be mad at them personally, it’s easier to be mad at the system.
Q. Malcolm, you seem big on plug-in hybrid vehicles, and I just read that you’re now pursuing the hydrogen hybrid idea and plans to buy a bunch of American cars and rework the interiors for luxury and greener engine technology. Is this true? What turned you on to alternative cars? Is the hydrogen-hybrid a truly feasible option, despite the skeptics?
Malcolm Bricklin: It is partly true, I am going down that road, but that road is leading me to much more advanced technologies using hydrogen, which will make even bigger improvements to all the things we need energy for, which in turn will be cleaner and more economical. Now, for the first time the auto industry is going to be open to new solutions because there is no other choice. They’ve run out of options, they are inside the box and they can’t look out, but we are outside the box looking in, which is a much better place to be. If the goal is to clean a million cars, why not involve more people in order to get the job done. The industry is in chaos, from chaos comes new birth. I am going to a new place we haven’t been talking about before, which is far better than all the possibilities up until now.
Q: What would you say to someone sitting down to watch “The Entrepreneur” for the first time to prepare them for what they’re about to see?
Spurlock: If you’ve ever seen a car, you’re gonna love this movie.
Q: What would you say is the overall message to take away from “The Entrepreneur?”
Jonathan Bricklin: That life is endlessly absurd and hilarious and unpredictable even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes, and that passion and incredibly focused determination can literally create something out of nothing, and finally, that- cliché as the saying goes, the journey is the point, not the destination.