The Price of Certainty: Interview with Director Daniele Anastasion
6th July 2019 by Will Stewart
There’s more to what you believe than you think.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Daniele Anastasion to ask her some questions about her film, The Price of Uncertainty. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about yourself as a film maker, and how you got into film making. Is The Price of Certainty a typical example of your work.
Daniele – I got into filmmaking many years ago by making documentaries for National Geographic and non-profits. Those films had more traditional structures, following people with goals that had a dramatic arc.
This project was different because it didn’t offer a clear structure — it was really a conversation with one man, and a journey into his mind and his ideas. It was challenging to figure out how to make that compelling without relying on story principles that I knew, but that was also exciting.
MadeGood – Although this film is of course very timely, the content is quite abstract. What made you want to make a film on this topic? How did you come across Arie Kruglanski and his work?
Daniele – I was researching a film about extremism with the film’s producer, Eric Strauss. At the time, we were researching a possible film about detention camps that try to rehabilitate extremists. In our research, we came across Arie’s work, because he travels the world studying these programs and the psychology of radicalisation.
I reached out to Arie, and Eric and I met with him a few times. That’s when we learned about Arie’s theory of Cognitive Closure. We loved talking to him and got into some very electric conversations about the psychology of extremism and the political polarisation all around us.
We thought it would be cool to make a film that captured the energy of those conversations. So we decided to do a series of interviews with Arie and see if there was something there. We brought in our friend Jeff Hutchens, a brilliant DP who had the idea to shoot it in black and white, which was really perfect for the subject matter.
MadeGood – This was a piece for the New York times, who approached who?
Daniele – After we edited the film, we brought it to the New York Times. We finished editing and launched the film one week before Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
MadeGood – There’s a lot of archive footage in this film. Was it all found by you, and if so how did you go about looking for it.
Daniele – We found most of the footage on YouTube and in footage archives, and we were just looking for moments that illustrated what was being talked about. It was a bit of a wild goose chase.
MadeGood – I take this film partly to be about explaining the currently very polarised political opinions developing around the world, but it’s difficult to know how to take Arie Kruglanski’s message. On the one hand beliefs (or cognitive closure) can be debilitating, and on the other they can be completely necessary. In what practical way do you take his message?
Daniele – You nailed it. Cognitive closure is a tricky theory — you need cognitive closure, but not too much or too little. It was hard to draw a conclusion in the film because of this. We couldn’t figure out how to communicate this very abstract idea that in some ways refuses definition.
We really struggled in early cuts of the film. The rough cut was a mess. It didn’t work at all. One friend gave the best and worst feedback that I’ve ever gotten on a rough cut. She said, “It’s both obvious and vague at the same time.” Ha! That was a little scary because she was right.
Editor Craig Rinkerman and Producer Patrick White were wonderful sounding boards, and ultimately we decided to be true to the lack of resolution. You can’t really boil it down to an easy answer about how to apply the theory. And in a “meta” sort of way, how well you can handle that lack of a resolution might be a good indicator of how high or low your need for closure is.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Daniele – I am writing a fiction film that I’m really excited about!