Chris MacBride’s The Conspiracy (review) is a phenomenal film and one of my personal favorites of this year. The faux doc-cum-found footage thriller sees Aaron Poole and James Gilbert as fictionalized versions of themselves crafting a documentary on conspiracy theories.
When their subject goes missing, Aaron begins to become obsessed, delving deeper into a mystery that ultimately finds them infiltrating a top secret meeting of a seemingly sinister organization.
I had a chance to shoot MacBride a few questions, wherein we discuss his inspirations, influences, and thoughts on how found footage can still tell a good story.
Dread Central: Can you speak briefly on how the concept for the film was developed?
Chris MacBride: I have a friend who is, I guess you’d say, a “hard core conspiracy theorist”. He was always trying to get me to watch conspiracy theory films on the internet or read certain books or visit certain conspiracy websites. Out of nothing more than curiosity I did and found myself pretty quickly sucked down into the rabbit hole of that world. Somewhere along the way it just occurred to me what a great story I could tell if I set it in the modern world of conspiracy culture.
DC: What was your opinion on conspiracy theories as a whole before you began developing the film?
CM: Honestly, I was never really a “conspiracy theory guy” so to speak. When I started exploring this world, I was surprised how quickly it grabbed hold of me. After I watched the first couple of, I guess you’d call them “landmark” conspiracy theory films on the internet (“Loose Change”, “Zeitgeist”, etc.), I was totally hooked. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. I basically went from having next to zero knowledge or interest in this world to spending every single night devouring two or three conspiracy theory films off the web. It starts to feel like you’re being let in on all these dark secrets no one else knows, and that becomes very addictive. And that’s the exact feeling I wanted people to have watching my film as well.
DC: Did you find your views changing on the nature of conspiracy theories as you conducted research for the film?
CM: Yes, absolutely. I knew going in that a portion of this world would be uneducated or unbalanced people with paper thin logic, and some of that definitely exists, but I was very surprised by how many smart, thoughtful people there actually are in the conspiracy culture. There’s a lot of frightening things going on in the world that’s hidden from the public eye, and sometimes the only place you can find people asking important questions is in the world of so-called “conspiracy theory”. When you look at things like the B.S. leading up to the Iraq war or the recent Snowden NSA revelations, you realize that today’s conspiracy theory can sometimes be tomorrow’s accepted truth.
DC: Beyond real-life inspirations such as the Bilderberg Group and Bohemian Club, can you speak to any cinematic influences you may have had?
CM: I was most influenced by the great conspiracy films of the 70s. Films like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. They don’t really make movies like that anymore. I loved the way even though those movies were fictional, they felt like they had the ring of truth to them. You felt like even though you know it was a movie, it was hitting on something dangerous. Something not talked about. Something that could be very real. That’s exactly what I tried to do with The Conspiracy. It’s a fictional story, but it’s dealing with elements that may not be as fictional as people think.
DC: I read that you received some interesting responses as you were shopping around the script. Did you struggle with where you should draw the line between fact and fiction?
CM: Yes, when I was shopping the script around, I received some slightly ominous “warnings” that maybe I shouldn’t be making a film like this. But that just excited me and motivated me to do it more. I think that’s part of the purpose of art, to push boundaries and expose people to new ideas. As conspiracy theorists say… If you’re asking questions that make people uncomfortable, you’re probably asking the right questions.
DC: The film features a pretty seamless transition from mock-doc to what can arguably be considered found footage. Did you always intend to combine the two, or did it develop as such as you researched?
CM: My intention was always that the film would feel like a “finished documentary”. Like someone had cut the film together properly and infused it with a sense of style so that it could be more cinematic and polished, as opposed to constant “shaky cam” stuff. In the third act the main characters put on these hidden cameras and infiltrate a secret society meeting, and that definitely feels more like “found footage,” but I wanted even that stuff to seem as if it was still all part of the documentary. The question at the end of the film becomes, WHO was it that cut together the footage you’re watching? Who put this documentary together? And can you trust them? Can you trust what you’re watching?
DC: It certainly succeeds in setting itself apart from other films within the same sub-genre. Do you feel as if there’s room for the genre to expand in terms of style and approach?
CM: Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the “found footage” or “fake doc” sub-genre. But for this film, it just had to be that way. A truism in writing is “form follows function”. Meaning the WAY you tell a story should be intrinsically tied to WHAT the story is about. I think a lot of found footage films use that device as a gimmick, because it’s the rage right now, or to save money. But with our film the “fake doc” aesthetic is tied to the central message of the film, which is, “Who is telling us the story?” Can we trust the story being told to us by the mainstream media? By conspiracy theorists? And in the end, can we even trust the story being told to us by this film? I think as long as these types of films find a way to make the found footage aesthetic a central and necessary part of the story (and not just “Oh, everyone films everything now”), then there’s still good stories to be told in this sub-genre.
DC: What can we expect from you in the future?
CM: I’m currently working on a movie at 20th Century Fox called “ECHO”. It’s sort of a Phillip K. Dick style thriller I wrote that has to do with the CIA and some of the “interesting” things going on there. I’d say more, but I don’t want a black SUV to start showing up outside of my house.
XLrator Media is distributing political thriller The Conspiracy, written and directed by Christopher MacBride and produced by Lee Kim, in the US.
When two young filmmakers (played by Aaron Poole and Jim Gilbert) select a crazed conspiracy theorist as the subject of their new movie, they have no idea the terrifying peril they will put themselves in. When the man disappears without a trace, the filmmakers begin an obsessive quest to uncover the truth that will lead them to an ancient and dangerous secret society. A meticulously researched thriller based on real conspiracy theories, The Conspiracy blurs the line between fact and fiction, news and propaganda.
The film was inspired by actual conspiracy theories, notably those surrounding the Bohemian Club and the Bilderberg Group, both secretive organizations closed to the public and made up of a who’s who of power players in international politics and business.
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