When two actor friends waded into the Occupy Wall Street protests while pretending to be obnoxious investment bankers, Brendan Gibbons knew he had the foundation for a humorous and morally ambiguous tale about “the defining issue of our time.”
The issue of income inequality came to a head in 2011 when the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted. Through widespread protests, attention was drawn to the yawning gap between the super rich and everyone else, and a new, polarizing vernacular was born to describe it. Suddenly, it was all about the 99% versus the 1%.
During those protests in New York’s Zuccotti Park, comedic actors Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler took it upon themselves to enter the fray, adopting the persona of investment bankers who’d come to protest the protesters. They said some pretty outrageous things, got protesters riled up, and then filmed it. This stunt—which was assumed to be legit and landed the duo on national news—inspired friend and filmmaker Brendan Gibbons to take their footage and parlay it into a satiric feature film about income inequality.
“Preoccupied” which is now showing at the Brooklyn Film Festival, is a film about two young, brash investment bankers who, through a combination of hubris and naïveté, find themselves leading the charge of an anti-Occupy movement. Seamlessly incorporating the real footage of Selvig and Steifler at the protests, Gibbons weaves a fictional tale of two very self-centered, misogynistic, money-hungry dudes just trying to get by in life . . . by making as much money as possible. For the first half of the film John and Robert are two of the most despicable characters you can imagine, particularly the boorish and philandering John. But as Gibbons’ story plays out, the results of their anti-Occupy antics begin to reveal the roots of their motivation.
Gibbons says the intent of the film was to use comedy as a way to explore “one of the defining issues of our times.” The film was produced by Station Film.
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