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.

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