Unlike your previous films, for Urbanized you spoke to a lot of players outside the design world, including politicians. Was it more challenging to connect with these people?
One challenge was that many of them have no idea who I am. None of them have seen Helvetica or Objectified. At least someone like Rem Koolhaas [one of the film’s talking heads] may have heard of the films, but the mayor of Rio De Janeiro hasn’t. So it was a little more challenging in some cases. And some people would not talk to us, like Dave Bing, the mayor of Detroit. His handlers wouldn’t let him talk. I think he probably feels he’s under assault, and he doesn’t want me coming in and trying to have a conversation with him versus him giving me the soundbite. But I tried to approach all the subjects in the same way. Politicians and people in power will generally revert to their bullet points no matter how you approach it. But if people are talking about something that they love, they automatically show that passion, and start to get more excited about it. That’s what I like to capture on camera.
We hear some striking stats, for example, that 75 percent of the world will be living in cities by the year 2050. Do you hope to convey a sense of urgency?
Those are just the facts. My sense of urgency is really to get people to think about these things, be aware of them, and take the discussion of the issues outside of the profession. Hopefully there are some new things people discover when they watch the film, even if they do this for a living. But I think it’s really important that these issues be more a part of public discourse and that, for me, is what a film can do—it can crystallize a lot of the thinking and the players, and hopefully create a window where people who are not in that profession can get the information and see how it applies to their lives. Choose to get involved or not get involved, but at least be aware.