Nothing So Strange
|Nothing So Strange|
|Directed by||Brian Flemming|
|Produced by||Brian Flemming|
|Written by||Brian Flemming (uncredited)|
Mark Daniel Cade
|Music by||No War But The Class War|
|Running time||82 minutes|
Nothing So Strange is a 2002 American mockumentary film written, produced and directed by Brian Flemming in the style of an "independent documentary", centering on the fictional assassination of former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates on December 2, 1999. The film won the New York Times Claiborne Pell Award for Original Vision at the Newport Film Festival and was called "the ideal prototype film for the digital age" by Variety.
At the very beginning of the film, Bill Gates (played by experienced Gates-double Steve Sires) walks onto the stage of the pavilion in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles, California on Thursday, December 2, 1999 to give a check for one million dollars to "Literacy For Life" as part of the "Bill Gates Foundation." (The filmmakers intentionally avoided mentioning Gates' family members in the film; thus, they refrain from naming the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.) Upon reaching the stage, Gates is shot dead by a sniper - first in the right shoulder, then the head.
While chasing after the unknown sniper through an abandoned building, a rookie police officer fatally shoots Alek J. Hidell (a known alias of JFK killer Lee Harvey Oswald), a minor anti-establishment figure and minority, in the head. Hiddell is named as the assassin of Gates, a report to this effect is filed by district attorney Gil Garcetti, and the case is closed.
Beyond this point, which occurs before the opening credits are finished, Gates doesn't reappear and is mentioned only as a wealthy successful man and the subject of the assassination being investigated. The word "Microsoft" barely makes an appearance in the film, and Gates is portrayed as a well-liked and missed public figure, with a very passing mention of the existence of anti-Gates sentiment.
However, a group of people dissatisfied with the official version of events organizes into the activist group Citizens for Truth, and sets out to examine the available evidence of the assassination. The organization uncovers numerous details that create reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Hiddell in the assassination, and the possibility that the real assassin is still at large.
The mockumentary follows the organization as they grow in numbers, political prominence, and progress in their investigative efforts. The organization's success reaches a climax at their first annual convention, which is followed by their rapid drop in credibility and visibility to become effectively irrelevant.
About the film
As part of his research for the movie, Flemming spent time in the flagging conspiracy theory circles still surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A number of elements in the movie mirror those in that real-life incident as well as those real-life groups. The name of the organization's leader is a combination of names from leaders of Kennedy assassination groups, and Hiddell's name is an alias once used by Lee Harvey Oswald. Likewise, the name of the organization is similar to a Kennedy assassination conspiracy group, "Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination" (CTKA). The alternate theories and tales generated by Citizens for Truth also mimic theories from Kennedy assassination circles, including a "running man" theory, and a forced witness' reversal by police.
The film gains most of its realism from a number of unorthodox film-making techniques that are not obvious from watching the movie.
Very little of the film was scripted. Flemming has said that he wrote no script, providing perhaps a few important lines, and instead putting the creative effort into the details of the props and artifacts of the story. The "Garcetti Report" on the assassination, for example, is a complete document written by Flemming. The actors improvised most of their own dialogue, interactions, and reflections, and to some extent aiming the direction of the story along with their organization, with minor daily cues from Flemming. Most of the actors had no prior professional acting experience.
Another technique is what Flemming has termed "reality-hacking"; the interaction of the actors in character with the real world. A scene taking place on the protest stage of the 2000 Democratic National Convention was filmed at the real convention, the day after main protests but still while the convention was in progress. The cast obtained a permit to protest on the stage under the Citizens for Truth name, and managed to attract a minor crowd and the attention of one New York Times reporter.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
Prior to release of the film, Flemming registered and developed realistic web pages for a number of the subjects in the film, including http://www.citizensfortruth.org, lamenting the assassination of Bill Gates and criticizing the LAPD for their poor investigation of the incident. In addition http://www.billgatesisdead.com, where a fictitious character, Jack Perdue, played by one of the film's investors, documents the tragedy and aftermath. Each of these sites, including the main website for the movie, are completely in character and betray nothing about their purely fictitious nature.
The DVD for the movie is likewise largely in character, including pseudo-behind-the-scenes footage of the CfT group, and prop documents from the movie.
The film project was initially known as MacArthur Park. However another film of the same name was taken to the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, causing a renaming of the Gates project before its 2003 release.
Two members of the cast, Steve Sires and David James, have starred in promotional-related work for Microsoft.
Primary cast members:
- Debra Meagher - Laurie Pike
- David James - David James
- Mark Anderson - Mark Daniel Cade
- Keith Charles - Keythe Farley
- Dan Rivera - Douglas Glazer
- Valerie - Valerie Gordon
- Etana - Etana Jacobson
- Jennifer Smith - Jennifer Lauren
- Bill Gates - Steve Sires
- Julia Serrano - Sarah Stanley
- Alek Hidell - Philip Anthony Traylor
- Steve Martinez - Steve Wilcox
- Didi Williams - Himself
- Brian Clark - executive producer
- Brian Flemming - producer
- David James - co-producer (as Garland Slack)
- Tammy J. Kearns - executive producer
- Garland Slack - co-producer
- Wayne Porter - creative consultant, supporter
- Scott McNulty - supporter