" ... I think with lottery winners, they think they're getting one story of their futures, of their lives when they win, and very quickly they learn that actually someone's written a completely different story for them."
The five took five years to complete. How did it evolve?
Like any movie project, you're constantly writing and editing and adjusting. I think filmmaking is figuring out how much of your original conception you want to insist on hanging onto and how much you want to let go of, and see where the world takes you. Because if you hang onto the initial concept too much and the world is presenting you all sorts of other stuff, then you're an idiot for not having followed the better stuff. But the flip can also be true. If you just let go and give in to whatever's presented to you, you can end up with a giant mess. Which is a long way of saying, it's hard to remember exactly what my initial conception is because it just changed so much. But I do remember that I thought somehow it would be a movie about God. The people who won the lottery would have to immediately confront these bigger metaphysical questions about their role in the universe and whether they could accept that this completely random thing
had so utterly changed who they are.
The film suggests that the lottery can tell us a lot about America. Can you expand on that?
I think most people think the American dream is the dream where there's a level playing field and if you work hard you can achieve anything. And that it's all predicated on your own hard work and that what happens to you is completely your own responsibility, ultimately. That's one myth of America. The other myth that I think has just as much currency to it, but people don't like to cop to, is this idea that it's the land of the lucky. And that you can strike it rich without having to work hard for it. And I think that's something that we actually take pride in, even if we don't like to talk about it. And these things seem like they're in conflict. You know, you feel like it can't be both a place where it's all about the luck of the draw, but at the same time it's all about hard work. And I feel like these two myths in our culture jockey for what's in control.
We live in a culture where we keep hearing that it's all about picking yourself up by your bootstraps, which to me feels like a pretty naïve way to think about the world. I just think that there's good luck and bad luck, and people with resources have the ability to grapple with that better than people without resources. But it seems like there's a healthy way to acknowledge both the role of work and luck in America.
And I think with lottery winners, they think they're getting one story of their futures, of their lives when they win, and very quickly they learn that actually someone's written a completely different story for them and they have to try to fight to figure out what parts of the fantasy story they can bring over into the actual story as it's playing out.