20 Questions with Ray Griggs

Filmmaker Ray Griggs’s documentary, “I Want Your Money,” opens Friday after having garnered more than 2 million YouTube hits for its trailer. Griggs goes after President Obama’s economic policies to make the point that the government is bloated and Washington is out of touch with America.

What made you decide to make this documentary?

As a sci-fi/fantasy filmmaker, I’m not really a documentary filmmaker. But being in Hollywood, I felt nobody was going down this road. And the problem was, I saw what was happening when Obama passed the $787 billion stimulus bill. And I have great opportunities and freedoms this country gave me. And I love those freedoms. I have three little kids, and I’m worried about their future. Are they going to have the same freedoms and opportunities we have? Or are they just going to be paying this mountain of debt with high interest rates or taxes that makes it hard for them to afford to do what they want to do? So it’s really for the future of my children. 

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Why did you decide to use documentary film as the medium for raising these questions?

I feel every American needs to take part and do something — and use their talents. Some people can financially give. Some people are great about showing up at voting polls and volunteering. My talent is filmmaking. And I said, “OK, the problem with documentaries is, they just aren’t entertaining.” And if I was going to do something with a serious message to make it enlightening yet entertaining, that would be a good way of getting the message out there. So that was the road I went down: If I’m going to do a documentary, I’m going to do it entertaining. So I created over 30 animations for the film. 

Why animations?

One, it reaches the younger audience. Two, probably more and more adults like animation. You can speak a message through animation without hitting them over the head with a frying pan. And it’s more entertaining. Why do we have to label documentaries as they have to be talking heads and stock footage? No, they don’t have to have that. We can make it entertaining and fun and still have a message.

How did you choose whom to interview for the film?

We were really fortunate in who we ended up getting on board. We got Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes.

Which members of Congress do you include?

We only had two people from Congress [Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)], because it was really hard to work with their schedules. We reached out to [House Minority Whip] Eric Cantor [R-Va.] and [Sen.] Jim DeMint [R-S.C.], but they couldn’t.

And we tried to reach out to tons of liberals, like [Rep.] Henry Waxman [D-Calif.]. I just wanted their side in the film … I was just being fair and balanced. The problem was I couldn’t get them to be in the film.

What were some excuses lawmakers gave you for not participating?

I’ll tell you from one well-known Republican — I won’t mention his name … he claims he’s a Republican — he would not come on our film because he felt we had too many Republicans. The irony of it all. 

As far as liberals, they wouldn’t even return my phone calls, or they’d say, “There’s too many Republicans,” “You’re going to have a swayed message,” “We’re not interested.” I just wanted their fair side of the story. I went forward with it without.

Do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party movement? Are you catering to the party with this film?

It’s in the film; it’s not a big part of the film. I use it in the film, for example, of showing that people should get involved. And I have a lot of respect for the people in the Tea Party. I shot one of the largest tea parties in Washington last year. It’s hard to count, but there were almost 100,000 people there. 

My hat goes off to the Tea Party. Personally, because I’m a filmmaker, I didn’t have time to do that. I figured this is where my talents go, in this film, so that’s where I’ve been concentrating my efforts. I probably definitely would’ve participated otherwise.

Do you plan to follow up with another film?

Again, I’m not a documentary filmmaker, but I’ve always said if we don’t take back the House in the fall, I’ll definitely make another documentary.

I know most of my views lean toward being a Republican, and I’ve even openly voted for Republicans, but lately I don’t want to say I’m a Republican because I feel the Republicans are blamed just as much as the Democrats. 

I also think Congress members should have term limits. There’s no reason they should be there for a lifetime … that’s not the way it was set up. Our government was set up for, you had your everyday job in the world, and be in touch with the people, and then spend a little bit of time [in Washington] and speak for the people. But then go back and go do your normal, everyday thing. Not spend your life in politics. How can you really know how this world works? And that’s what happens today, is long-term politicians. They’re not listening to you. They don’t have any clue. They think they know what’s best for you?

How’d you come about your political views?

I guess being a capitalist, having your own business, realizing what the word capitalist means. Capitalist is the butcher down the street who has three employees. The laundry mat or the doughnut shop. These are the true capitalists. … The reality is, being a capitalist and a business owner, I have an appreciation for America and the systems that we have. So I guess that’s why I lean more toward conservatism.

What kind of feedback have you gotten on the film, both in Washington and in Hollywood?

I haven’t heard much out of Hollywood, so I don’t know what they’re thinking. But my phone wasn’t really ringing off the hook from studios anyway. People think, “Oh, you ruined your career, and now Hollywood’s going to shut you out.” I don’t really believe in that. I think at the end of the day, in Hollywood, a film makes money, then they’re going to want to talk to you. It’s a business, like anything else. 

As far as Washington, I’ve just heard great comments, one after the other, and endorsements.

To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Kris Kitto at (202) 628-8539 or e-mail him at kkitto@thehill.com.