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Creep Show

Producer Tyler Davidson discusses the genesis of the controversial Compliance

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When producer Tyler Davidson introduces Compliance when it screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and at 7:15 p.m. on Friday at the Cleveland Cinematheque, he'll be plenty ready for the types of difficult questions the film often provokes.

Based on an incident that occurred at a Kentucky McDonald's in 2004, the film centers on a man who pretends to be a police officer and calls a restaurant manager (Ann Dowd), ordering her to detain an employee (Dreama Walker) whom the "officer" has accused of stealing money from a cutsomer. The manager and other employees never question the guy on the phone, even as events escalate and the victim is strip-searched and sexually assaulted.

"It's always a really lively question-and-answer session," says Davidson. "This particular movie, more than any other that I can think of, benefits from having that post-screening discussion and having that pre-screening introduction. This movie works better when people have a bit of context going into it. That's why I'm excited to be at the Cinematheque to discuss it."

An independent film producer for 14 years, Davidson, an Ohio native who currently lives in South Russell, was attracted to the project because he knew of its writer-director, Craig Zobel.

"I was a fan of his first film, Great World of Sound," says Davidson. "It was just a matter of time before we met in person and he shared the script with me, and I thought it was incredible right off the bat and jumped at the chance to work with him."

Davidson says that as producer, he took a hands-on role in the casting and the shooting of the movie; he thinks it offers a unique perspective on why people submit to authority.

"It's a controversial film; it's an upsetting film," he says. "It's based on a real event, and that event is an upsetting event. People who have a strong negative reaction do so because they think it couldn't have possibly happened like it does. Or they think the people [in the film] are all just idiots, and they take a position of moral superiority and feel like they wouldn't react in the same way. What I find so compelling [about Compliance] is the psychological phenomena playing out underneath. It's relatively small story with very big ideas behind it, and something that hasn't been explored in this way before."

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