An Generational Experience: A Interview with the filmmakers of “Requiem for the American Dream”


By:  Vernon Nickerson

Edited By : Colleen Page

During the Tribeca Film Festival The Art Of Monteque got to sit down with the wonderfully talented  filmmakers Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott who are behind the extraordinary film “Requiem For An American Dream” , the Dr. Norm Chomsky documentary.  Which had its debut premiere Friday April 17th to wide acclaim.

When were each of you first exposed to the work of Norm Chomsky?

Peter D. Hutchison:  I first encountered Noam Chomsky’s work by watching “Manufacturing Consent” in college.  It made a huge impact on me at the time.

Kelly Nyks:  Watching the film “Manufacturing Consent” defined how I understood documentary filmmaking and the unique way documentaries can make complex concepts accessible to the general public

Jared P. Scott: I encountered the Chomsky’s work somewhere after “Lord of the Rings”; late high school or early college. His writing was very dense. I never actually finished one of his books.

 Were there any challenges in taking Professor Chomsky’s work from narrative to film?

PH:  I think Jared hit upon the main challenge in his response to your last question. Dr. Chomsky’s writing is very dense; he does not have simple answers for anything. Our main challenges was to present a more assessable version of his work.

KN:  Another challenge was condensing hours of interviews into one ninety minute film. Consequently, it was great having 3 heads working together.  Dr. Chomsky’s work chronicles 40 years of public policy shifting to favor the interests of the privileged few.  We had a responsibility not to “get in the way” of his words.

JS:  It was an incredible challenge to take three years of work and rearrange the material into an assessable, digestible, presentable format.

Most spiritual traditions recognize the concept of “calling” or “sending” whereby persons are lead to complete a task or render a service by a series of situations and/or people.  How were each of you called or sent to create this documentary?

PH:  I remember being really disappointed by some of the earlier documentary attempts to present Chomsky’s work. It was just a series of his speeches cut together. I really wanted to improve upon those attempts with this film.  We believe Dr. Chomsky’s work can really (positively) affect people.

JS: Dr. Chomsky asks the question – what does a just and an unjust society look like?  As filmmakers (who are also) members of civil society, we have to ask ourselves that question, and I couldn’t think of anything more important than endeavoring to do films that have the power to inform, inspire and  entertain and to hopefully change minds.

KN:  To follow up on that, I think that if we look into the different ways that information about issues that concern us all in society, both domestically and across the international borders you can look at globally, we are now in an unprecedented time in our history for disseminating information as calls to action – catalysts for people to get involved.  We’ve had the great fortune with films that we’ve made together; films that have sparked nationwide conversations about the partisanship that is polarizing and paralyzing our politics. And, we’ve had success around mobilizing for specific events, like “The People’s Climate March”, so we had all these distribution pools at our disposal to get Dr. Chomsky’s message out.

Can you give our readers some insight into what drove the creation of “Requiem for the American Dream”?

KN: It really is an unparalleled time to be able to have conversations about issues that are of prime concern to the majority of the population – namely a living wage and/or having a robust safety net.  As Jared said, we think that these are important conversations to have because we need to have those dialogues right now about what type of society we want to live in.  If we don’t have those dialogues and if we don’t weigh in with our opinions and out voices and our votes then we are not going to be part of the conversation and those decisions will be made for us.

What is the age of the the youngest person who would benefit from watching this film?

KN:  To get to the answer to that question, I would first like to state what this film unpacks is not just the responsibility that we have to society today, but the fact that in the “American Democratic Experiment” we have a responsibility to bequeath our democracy in a form more robust (than today) to the next generation.

We would like to inspire kids that are in middle school; who are in junior high to see civic and political participation in robust dialogues within civic society as something that is an extension of being a responsible citizen.

We’ve made all of the documentaries that we’ve made in the past with robust educational campaigns associated with them– Requiem will not be an exception to that standard.  This is one of the reasons we constructed this film to have 10 Principles, or 10 chapters so that the content would be easily digestible and so that it would also be something that people could take in, consider, and then discuss.

We very much see this as an assessable film – so, if you’ve never heard of (Noam) Chomsky before, this film explores  the issues that are going to affect you today and issues that are going to affect you for the rest of your life; issues that are going to affect you and your childrens’ children.  If you are a fan of Chomsky’s work, this is essentially a distillation of all of the social commentary that encompasses his career.

From my perspective, if you are reading about (President) Madison in junior high school and/or reading about Aristotle in college or studying different ways of structuring society then this film is absolutely one that you are ready to watch.

JS: Our hope is that viewing this film should be a civic duty in a society where our civic understanding of how the word works starts in our younger years, 17-18.  Really viewing this film around that time would be fine when students would hopefully be more eager and receptive to this kind of distilled life lesson.

PH: We did specifically make this film so it could be assessable by high school kids. There are plenty of middle school kids who could wrap their heads around this and get a lot out of this as well.  At the same time, we wanted to make it sophisticated enough so that people who’ve read Chomsky, and for whom it made a big impact on their lives, could also reengage with him within a context that is relevant, contemporary and really speaks to where we are now as a nation.

I think I really like the idea of parents seeing “Requiem for An American Dream” with their children.  That is the whole point why we will end up putting a lot of energy into and educational outreach program as well.  Requiem is the kind of film that if you grew up reading Chomsky in college and have got your own kids now, you can bring the kids to see the film and get inspired about these ideas. We worked very hard to make this assessable in a way that a teenager could watch and really wrap their head around it and understand what’s going on before reading a 600 page Chomsky book.  That’s a very exciting idea to all of us.

.What is one piece of advice you would share with people in their teens and older who are wanting to make films or just starting out as filmmakers?

JS: My piece of advice would be to find a topic that you are passionate about.  At the end of the day, everyone talks about making movies and now with the “democratization” of media, its a lot easier now than it was 10 or 15 years ago to get your hands on some pretty good equipment and go out and make something – whether or not you release it at a film festival like Tribeca – or you release it online.  I see a lot of great stuff on Vimeo every day.  There’s a a lot of great stuff coming out.