As Occupy Wall Street and the rest of the Occupy movements continue to thrive across the country (and in some cases around the world), there couldn’t be a better time for “Margin Call” to be released. The film hit theaters Thursday, while also appearing through video-on-demand. “Margin Call” takes us inside an un-named Wall Street investment bank, where some of the company’s key players set into motion the financial crisis that has devastated our country’s economy. The film brings into focus the issues that those occupying the streets of New York City have come together to protest.
This past Tuesday, “Margin Call” director J.C. Chandor and the film’s producer/star Zachary Quinto held a short Q&A about the film. When asked about the movie `being released during the Occupy Wall Street protests, Chandor was hesitant to predict a bigger box office turnout, saying, “To be able to introduce a film into that environment is very rewarding. Whether it will help from a box office standpoint, we will have to wait and see. We wanted to give the viewer an entertaining look into this field. Hopefully it will give the viewer a greater understanding of who we’re protesting against.” Still, there’s no doubt that distributor Roadside Attractions picked the perfect time to get this film out to an American public fed-up with corporate greed.
Whether or not Occupy Wall Street helps “Margin Call” at the box office, what’s interesting is that the film could actually act as a catalyst that gets more people fired up and out onto the street to join their local protests. There’s something to be said about a film that not only entertains but also inspires and evokes intense feelings of anger and resentment, to the point that it could influence a person to take action. Audiences curious about what the Occupy movements are all about may have a better understanding of the demonstrations after experiencing this behind-closed-doors look into the world of Wall Street and America’s “1 percent.”
Though “Margin Call” is clearly based on the true story of the country’s financial crisis, the specific company we see in the film and the characters within it are not based on a specific firm or off of specific people. “We were trying to make a somewhat universal bank in the film – so it was representative of many banks,” Chandor clarifies, “That also goes for many of the characters. None of them were based on one particular person.” Though audiences may wish the characters represented actual people, therefore making it easier to pin the blame on a specific person, the film doesn’t lose it’s effect by featuring a fictitious banking company. What transpires in the film really did happen on Wall Street, and knowing that is enough to get anyone’s blood boiling.
Still, what may be the most surprising part of “Margin Call” is the skill and perseverance of first-time director J.C. Chandor. After mulling over ideas in his head and conducting research for some time, he sat down and wrote an 81-page script in record-breaking time. Says Chandor, ” I had been working on the story off and on in my mind for over a year and finally sat down and wrote the line by line script in just 4 days.”
Then, exhibiting the skills of a seasoned producer and director, Chandor managed to confine the shoot to just 17 days – something almost unheard of in the film industry. That time crunch, explains Chandor, “allowed us to not have to require the actors to be with us for an extended period of time. It also helped us in landing actors with very busy schedules. These actors really believed in the project. It made it that much more rewarding.” After working his magic during production, Chandor then had to spend two years fighting to get distribution, finally getting “Margin Call” into theaters this weekend. It was worth the battle, because this contemporary tale of corporate greed, selfishness and recklessness couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
It’s unclear whether “Margin Call” would have the same effect if it were released a few months earlier, before the protests began. There’s no doubt that the film is salt in the wounds of the ongoing financial meltdown, and that the story would have had an impact at any point during the recession. But the recent fervor stirred up by the Occupy Wall Street movements certainly gives the movie additional urgency and potency. Regardless, “Margin Call” is an effective film that reminds us why there is a need for protest, a need for those responsible to be held accountable for their transgressions, and above all a serious need for change.
The complete transcript of the Q&A with J.C. Chandor and Zachary Quinto, can be found here.