Q&A BILL BERNETT
The Australian film director on taking a leap of faith for his new documentary on intuition
IN 1999, BILL Bennett had his life saved under strange, profound circumstances: while driving early one morning, a voice from out of nowhere advised him to “slow down”. He heeded the advice, seconds later narrowly avoiding a truck that ran a red light that would have caused a fatal collision.
The experience led the Kiss or Kill and The Nugget director / former journalist to throw caution to the wind and embark on a quest to discover what the voice was, where it came from and why it warned him of impending danger.
Seventy-eight interviewees, 120 hours of footage and several years later, Bennett has unveiled PGS — Intuition Is Your Personal Guidance System, a theatrical feature documentary focussed on the subject of intuition (something Bennett defines as “a sudden unexplained insight that comes unaided by logic, intellect, or expertise”).
The journey resulted in the one-time sceptic — who says he was never an “angel, woo woo type of bloke” — becoming a believer in the unseen ways our lives are guided, with PGS covering the topic from scientific, religious and spiritual perspectives.
With the film now available via the cinema-ondemand distribution model (Fanforce in
Australia), Bennett sits down with Empire to discuss his long, life-changing journey… So prior to hearing the voice, you were a sceptic… I’m a trained journalist, and the natural position of a journalist is to question and approach things with a level of scepticism. I wanted to do that for this subject in a healthy way and to keep an open mind. The journey I went on converted me into a believer, but I’m not proselytising in the film — I’m just saying “this is what happened to me.”
Was PGS a difficult film to make?
Without a doubt this is the hardest film I’ve ever made, for two reasons. One, because intuition is an incredibly complex subject — how do you tackle that? It took a long time to decide if I should approach it from a personal or objective perspective. The second thing is that it required me to change, and I was very resistant to that — I was quite happy with my life! I didn’t want to stick my neck out and adopt a so-called “spiritual life.” My wife used to play these spiritual podcasts, and I’d say “turn that rubbish off!” Now it’s me who’s always playing them!
You interviewed 78 people for the film. Were there commonalities across what everyone was saying? What I found was the religious people were essentially saying the same thing as the spiritual people who were saying the same thing as the scientists, but just using different language.
Did you consider taking the documentary to TV? I didn’t want to because I thought TV would dumb it down. I did make it hard for myself!
Do you find some people are resistant or aggressive when it comes to intuition and what it may be? Absolutely. The more aggressive someone is to intuition though, the more fearful they are. Most people live in ‘survival mode’, which is paying bills, working hard at your job, all those sorts of things. It’s what we have to do. A lot of people don’t realise that you can still do all of those things and function at a very high level, but still use your intuition. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Paul Mccartney — you’ve got all of these people who’ve achieved extraordinary things through intuition. When people kick back against it, it normally means they’re scared of change. On one level they want change, but really when they’re faced with the prospect of change, they will revert to their default position, which is a survival position. And they won’t put themselves into a position where they can change because changing via intuition means stepping into the unknown and taking on an element of risk.
Has tapping into and using intuition had a big impact on your life?
Intuition has totally impacted every area of my life. I’m now far more spontaneous, I’m less driven by force of will — I realised that crashing through obstacles isn’t a very efficient way of doing things. I can look back on my body of work now, and the films that didn’t work are the ones where I didn’t follow my intuitive guidance and just used pure force of will. The ones that worked are the ones where I went “right, I’m gonna run with this and have some fun”.
Do you think you discovered why that intuitive voice spoke to you and saved your life?
I realise now the voice came to give me a really big shake up for the purpose of making this film. I really believe that. I can tell you though, I never thought my career would go this way!
You interview a wide range of respected scholars, scientists, clergy and spiritualists in the film. Do you think you came closer to understanding the big one: the meaning of life?
The film finishes with a grab from Caroline Myss, PHD who says “the purpose of life is dealing with everything life presents to you.” That’s why I finished the film on that note — It’s all about how we deal with things on a day to day basis. Intuition just serves as an inner guidance system to help you do exactly that.