Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Mathis Gets Some Airtime

On Legal Matters, Naming the Film, and the Nazi Issue

April 15, 2008
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GW: In a similar vein, one of the biggest controversies out there right now from those who are rather vigorously criticizing Expelled has to do with the origin of the title of the film—and the date on which the website domain was registered.

MM: Right. This is— It’s so funny; it’s kind of sad and pathetic, actually. But let me say something, and then I will directly address that with very specific information.

GW: Sure.

MM: Throughout the last weeks, maybe even months, what we have seen are allegations, charges that are made, that are not substantive, that don’t cut to the heart of the film’s arguments, that are really nothing more than insignificant distractions. And this is one of those. So when it comes to the title of the film, we argued about that very deep into the production of the film. And we did not settle on that title until very late in the process, many months, I believe, after the registration of the URL. Now, the reason that it was registered back then is that, all along the way, we were trying to come up with the best title; and we were somewhat frustrated that we had not nailed down what we thought was the best title. So along the way, we would come up with different ideas—and in this case, it was one of our Executive Producers who had thought of this title and then went and registered it, as he did others, so that when it came down to actually picking the title he would already have those URLs registered and there wouldn’t be some chance that it would not be there, not be available.

GW: Sure.

MM: So this was just advance preparation for what was coming. Some of the cases that we shot came very late—like Robert Marks. Have you seen the film?

GW: Yes, I have.

MM: The Robert Marks [interview] at Waco was very late in the production. And I was talking to one of our Executive Producers, and he says he remembers us having a telephone conversation when they were actually in assembling the film. We weren’t yet finished shooting the film, but we were piecing it together, sifting out the stuff we weren’t going to use, pulling together the rough cut—which is a very large project. And at that point, we still hadn’t actually chosen the title. So this is just a side distraction. We had to have a working title. “Crossroads” is the title we used. And this leads into the other accusation, that we somehow duped people into doing these interviews. I’m the guy who set up these interviews; I actually did many of the interviews—in the case of P.Z. Myers, Eugenie Scott, the first Richard Dawkins interview. I set them up, and I did them. I approached them and said, “We’re doing this film about this flashpoint in the culture that exists; any time that you combine evolution, Intelligent Design, religion—this creates a cultural flashpoint, and it’s happening all over the country. And we’re doing a film on this. Would you like to participate? You’re an expert.” So in some cases—not in every case—I actually gave them the questions in advance. And in every case, we reviewed the questions in advance. And they all signed release forms; but there was one guy, Will Provine at Cornell, who has no objection to the film, and said he didn’t want the fee. So he didn’t take it; but the rest of them did. Now, I was a news reporter for almost ten years; I never gave people questions in advance. I never discussed the full context of the story that I was doing with the people before I interviewed them. And the reason—and you know this, doing the work you do—is that I want straightforward, honest answers to my questions.

GW: Right. And when you feed people the questions in advance, they’re going to feed you the pre-packaged answers.

MM: Right! And so we knew we were going to get some pre-packaged answers; but you also know the free flow of an interview. They expand, and then you follow up. But you don’t lay out everything for them because they’re going to adjust their answers; and that’s not what you want. What you want are straightforward, honest answers. So here’s what’s really interesting about this. You’re not hearing any complaints about “I was taken out of context”—about “I didn’t mean to say that.” You saw the film: we have very long sections of these guys fully explaining their positions. There’s no clipping, no creative editing to twist and turn what they’re saying. There’s no “out of context.” So the concern that anyone should have when they feel they are being duped into an interview is that the interview is going to be used in a way that is inconsistent with what they believe. That’s the concern. But that’s not the charge being made. None of them are making that charge.

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credit: TheMovieDB.org

Greg is Managing Editor of the movie review site Past the Popcorn, and has written and contributed to a number of books. He is also a curator for Official Best of Fest.

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