He took on the controversies in the gaming world with his documentary King of Kong, and now Seth Gordon is taking on real world problems in Freakonomics. The documentary is based off the best selling book which takes everyday situations and uses economics to explain them, including cheating in sumo wrestling and how it compares to data about cheating teachers and how legalized abortion might have actually decreased crime. It’s much more thrilling than any college textbook, and the documentary is taking the same message and bringing it to the filmgoing audience.
Seth Gordon, who is one of the directors and one of the executive producers on the film, talks about how the Freakonomics movie works and makes the “boring” economics subject something people are buzzing about.
Michelle Castillo: How is it returning to documentaries?
Seth Gordon: It’s what I love. Docs are better. They just don’t pay the bills. They are way cooler. It’s what I like watching when I have time. The best movies are rooted in reality.
MC: Did you have any economics knowledge going into the movie?
SG: My folks teach economics among other things. So, the concepts have been around the dinner table since I grew up. When the lead producer got in touch with me, I liked it. He told about the approach where they would use these different directors to do an omnibus directing of the book. I thought it was a phenomenal idea. I got a chance to assemble the team and deciding how I would fit in the team since I was also wearing a producer hat on the team.
MC: One of the beauties of Freakonomics is that you don’t have to understand everything about economics to enjoy the book. How did you translate that to the movie?
SG: I put a focus on anecdotes, because I thought that that’s more relatable than research. It showed that those issues – that are not thought of as economic problems – are nevertheless that are best analyzed with those principles in mind. (The authors) did a really good job of making those issues intelligible, relatable, and understandable through issues of economics. When we approached it, we thought about how they approached the book. That’s why we chose an animation style for most of the sections. Not only does it take the edge off, it makes it easier to understand. It all makes sense once you see it.
MC: What was your favorite chapter in the Freakonomics book?
SG: That Roe versus Wade chapter. I think that’s part of what the book got recognized so far and wide. That is such an intense thing they’re saying. That proposal for what really led to the drop in crime is profound. It’s pretty hard to dispute their findings because they’re so well researched. That was why it is my favorite. I like a lot of the shorter anecdotes…. Reading an economics book is not off putting. Freakonomics is pretty readable and intelligible, which is why the book has done really well.