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netribution > features > interview with rob schmidt > page two

You shoot Vincent’s school to look like a prison. Was that how it felt to you as a teenager?
Yeah, I was really unhappy in High School; much of what went on wasn’t about learning, it was about order. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it now, at 35, but a lot of what went on in my High School I couldn’t relate to or understand. High School was like a prison for me. At the same time I was president of my debate club and I got a scholarship to the art school I went to, so I was quite functional there.

Vincent has an anti-police attitude. Does that come from the fact that you were arrested for allegedly carrying drugs?
In my High School experience I had a really adversarial relationship with the police. I was a white boy in suburbia so they’d put me in police cars and then let me out of them. I got arrested once. Where does Vincent’s hatred of police come from? I think kids that age feel like they don’t fit in. They rebel against society and the police are the clearest symbol of that order and so they are the targets they have the most contempt for. The police, at least in the States, respond immediately. They see kids that are dressed weird and they shake them down so that makes kids respond more.

There aren’t any really positive male role models in Crime and Punishment. Do you think this is true of society generally?
In Crime and Punishment I think the kids have to make a life for themselves. A lot of kids their age feel like they are really left on their own and that there aren’t adults around that protect them or understand their lives. That’s why in our film there isn’t the good cop that tells them what to do. I think it’s important for Crime and Punishment that the kids only have each other.

Which leads us to another of the film’s themes: personal responsibility. Your use of clips from TV chat shows suggests that America is a society of people who no longer want to take responsibility for their lives; they always want to look for someone to blame.
I’m not a Christian. I pray a little bit in the morning. I pray a little bit at night. Michael Ironside told me if you don’t believe in God there’s this little thing you can do when you wake in the morning and last thing at night that will get you though the day. You get up in the morning and you say to yourself, ‘Whatever’. And then when you go to bed at night, you say, ‘Next’. It sounds like that’s nothing, but it’s sort of the seed of having a spiritual life. When you say, ‘Whatever’, what you’re doing is you’re accepting what’s happening now. When you say, ‘Next’, it’s like a begrudging thank you for getting through the day. My spirituality isn’t much more complicated than that, but I try to take responsibility for my actions and be respectful to people around me. I didn’t always do that, and I enjoy my life more now because of it.”

Continuing on this theme, do you consider that some of your peers have shown a lack of responsibility in the way that they have portrayed violence? You certainly appear to be saying this in the film.
I love Reservoir Dogs and I love Takeshi Kitano, although I think he’s in a grey area because he’s a humanist. I love Cannibal Holocaust. So I’m not pointing a finger at other filmmakers. I think individuals need to take personal responsibility for their lives and that doesn’t mean they should not watch a splatter movie. It means that they should be responsible for their actions, and have their own ideas about right and wrong and live by those.

Elsewhere in the film I was a little confused by the way Vincent goes from existentialism to expressing a Christian viewpoint.
That’s because they made me remove references to God in his voice over at the beginning. They made me change it because they wanted to eliminate God from the movie. The writer, Larry Gross, and I went to a meeting having been forewarned that it was about eliminating God from this film. Larry, he’s sort of a manic fellow, said, ‘We gotta stop at one of these T-shirt shops and get a couple of T-shirts printed up that we can wear at the meeting. I’ll get one that says, "IF CHRIST’S A CRUTCH, I’LL TAKE TWO”. And then we’ll get one for you that says, “I JUST SPOKE WITH GOD AND SHE’S MAD AS HELL!”’ My attitude was we should just go into the meeting and not do anything to provoke them. Still, I wish I could have had the original voice over.

It’s ironic because William Peter Blatty has just returned God to The Exorcist with the director’s cut.
It’s something I never completely understood. At one point I think they were hoping this would be a mainstream movie like Varsity Blues or She’s All That. But Christine Vachon was producing it, so how was that going to happen?

How influential was the success of films such as the ones you’ve mentioned in getting this one made?
Larry Gross wrote the screenplay in 1989 and it was not made for 10 years. The only reason it got made was teen movies were popular again. The fact is we wouldn’t have gotten the movie made if things like Varsity Blues and American Pie weren’t successful. We wanted it to be like a Roger Corman movie, but the studio people, I think, had different aspirations for it. This is the first time I interacted with a studio while making something and I learned a lot.

Like what?
At first I thought they were the enemy and I should withhold as much information as possible from them. I figured out after a while that some of the studio people I dealt with were filmmakers that just plain loved film and were proud of the work that they do and have a career with a body of work. That’s like a great thing. Then there were some that were businessmen and had a bottom line. They spent x amount of money and they needed to recoup x amount of money. Neither one of those groups are people that I should treat with disdain or contempt – which at first I did. Next movie I do I’m going to realise that those people are collaborators.

What will that be?
It’s something that is either called American Heroes or For All Mankind. It’s an action-thriller and Milla Jovovich is this hippy radical who gains possession of a reel of film of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon three days before it occurs. The rest of the film is her trying to survive and get the film out to the public.

So you’re questioning another American institution.
I guess it has that provocative edge, but I think it’s preposterous enough to be regarded as fun.

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