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"Independent Lens" Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: Season 8: Episode 22 -- Corporate audio and videotapes tell the inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and its, and how its executives wrung a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis.

Overview

User Rating:
7.9/10   4,495 votes »
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Director:
Writers (WGA):
Bethany McLean (book) and
Peter Elkind (book) ...
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Contact:
View company contact information for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room on IMDbPro.
Original Air Date:
January 2005 (Season 8, Episode 22)
Genre:
Tagline:
It's Just Business
Plot:
Corporate audio and videotapes tell the inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and its, and how its executives wrung a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
1 win See more »
User Reviews:
An Entertaining Introduction to A Business Scandal that Affects Everyone See more (74 total) »

Cast

 (Episode Cast) (in credits order)

Peter Coyote ... Narrator
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Beard ... Himself

Barbara Boxer ... Herself (archive footage)

George W. Bush ... Himself
Jim Chanos ... Himself
Dick Cheney ... Himself

Bill Clinton ... Himself (archive footage)
Carol Coale ... Herself

Gray Davis ... Himself
Reggie Dees II ... Young man the stripper dances in front of (as Reggie Deets II)
Joseph Dunn ... Himself
Max Eberts ... Himself
Peter Elkind ... Himself
Andrew Fastow ... Himself
David Freeman ... Himself
Philip Hilder ... Himself
Al Kaseweter ... Himself
Kenneth Lay ... Himself

Jay Leno ... Himself (archive footage)
Bill Lerach ... Himself
Loretta Lynch ... Herself
Amanda Martin-Brock ... Herself
Bethany McLean ... Herself
Mike Muckleroy ... Himself
James Nutter ... Himself (as Reverend James Nutter)
John Olson ... Himself
Lou L. Pai ... Himself
Kevin Phillips ... Himself

David V. Porter ... "David" a Quoted Enron Trader
Nancy Rapoport ... Herself
Harvey Rosenfield ... Himself
Marla Ruzicka ... Herself (archive footage)

Arnold Schwarzenegger ... Himself (archive footage)

Maria Shriver ... Herself (archive footage)
Jeff Skilling ... Himself
Mimi Swartz ... Herself
Robert Traband ... Himself
Sherron Watkins ... Herself
Henry Waxman ... Himself
Andrew Weissman ... Himself
Colin Whitehead ... Himself
Charles Wickman ... Himself
Michael Lugenbuehl ... J. Clifford Baxter (uncredited)

Episode Crew
Directed by
Alex Gibney 
 
Writing credits
(WGA)
Bethany McLean (book "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron") and
Peter Elkind (book "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron")

Alex Gibney (written by)

Produced by
Mark Cuban .... executive producer
Alex Gibney .... producer
Craig Harris .... supervising producer
Jason Kliot .... producer
Kate McMahon .... associate producer
Susan Motamed .... producer
Joana Vicente .... executive producer
Todd Wagner .... executive producer
 
Original Music by
Matthew Hauser  (as Matt Hauser)
 
Cinematography by
Maryse Alberti 
 
Film Editing by
Alison Ellwood 
 
Casting by
Carol Grant 
 
Production Management
Kendall McCarthy .... post-production supervisor
Gretchen McGowan .... executive in charge of production
 
Art Department
Sanford Kinney .... additional graphic artist
 
Sound Department
Lee Adkison .... location sound mixer
Felix Andrew .... location sound mixer
Martin Czembor .... sound re-recording mixer
Marlena Grzaslewicz .... dialogue editor
Marlena Grzaslewicz .... supervising sound editor
Steve Osmon .... sound mixer
Mark Roy .... location sound mixer
Steve F.B. Smith .... stereo sound consultant: Dolby
Ira Spiegel .... sound effects editor
Shane Stoneback .... sound recordist
Bill Ward .... location sound mixer
Morgan Worth .... location sound mixer
 
Visual Effects by
Ben Fine .... animation
Ben Fine .... digital artist
Christian Zak .... film recording producer
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Greg Andracke .... additional cinematographer
Jennifer Blinder .... still photographer
Ben Bloodwell .... assistant camera
Don Blust .... additional cinematographer
John Casabom .... assistant camera
Mark Clark .... gaffer
Jon Else .... additional cinematographer
Anton Floquet .... additional cinematographer
Paul Goldhammer .... second electric
Mark Goodwin .... gaffer
Andrew Korner .... second electric
Dain Martin .... still photographer
George Mays .... gaffer
Alan McIntyre Smith .... gaffer (as Alan Smith)
Wyatt McSpadden .... still photographer
Lyle Morgan .... additional cinematographer
Kyle Rooney .... assistant camera
Justin Seyb .... best boy grip
Dan Strauss .... assistant camera (as Dan Strauss)
Sherron Watkins .... still photographer
 
Casting Department
Carol Grant .... extras casting
 
Editorial Department
Aljernon Tunsil .... assistant editor
Don Wyllie .... editor: HDTV
David Kuther .... additional editor: HDTV (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Steven DePalo .... composer: additional music
Mariusz Glabinski .... music editor
Chris Jordao .... composer: additional music
John McCullough .... music supervisor
Tracy McKnight .... executive soundtrack producer
Ahrin Mishan .... composer: theme music
Danny Willensky .... musician: saxophone
 
Other crew
Courtney Andrialis .... assistant: Mr. Kilot and Ms. Vicente
Claudio Barrientos .... assistant: Ms. McGowan
Will Battersby .... head of development
Andrew Beard .... production assistant
Elissa Birke .... research coordinator
Julie Burstein .... production intern
Vivian Chan .... production intern
Kristen Daly .... production assistant
Shankar Desai .... production assistant
Richard Dworkin .... transcriptor
Jacqueline Eckhouse .... production counsel (as Jackie Eckhouse)
Susan Elkins .... location
Leigh Evans .... production assistant
John B. Finn .... consultant (as John Finn)
Morgan Gibney .... production intern
Nick Gibney .... production intern
Michael Hastings-Black .... production assistant
Peter Kallish .... titles: HDTV
Michael Margent .... production intern
Robbie Meckna .... production assistant
Noah Myerson .... production intern
Daniella Nied .... production intern
Eric Pilarcik .... location manager: Los Angeles
Emma Pildes .... production intern
Kristina Redick .... office manager
Errol Reichow .... location
Christopher Richardson .... production assistant
Robin Simpson .... pilot: aerial unit
Robert Stein .... counsel: E&O
Shirley Thompson .... on-air promotions
Mike Tristano .... armorer
Fernando Vallejo .... production intern
Ali Wasserstein .... production coordinator
Crystal Whelan .... researcher
 
Thanks
Gboyega Akinola .... acknowledgment: archive footage provided by
Bankole Bello .... acknowledgment: archive footage provided by
Doug Biro .... special thanks
Kathleen Brennan .... special thanks
Jim Jarmusch .... special thanks
Alexandra Milgram .... acknowledgment: archive footage provided by
Victor Orlov .... special thanks
Tom Waits .... special thanks
 

Series Crew
These people are regular crew members. Were they in this episode?
Film Editing by
Brent E. Huffman 
 
Production Design by
Desma Murphy 
 
Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
MPAA:
Rated R for language and some nudity
Runtime:
109 min
Country:
Language:
Color:
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Among the protesters who disrupt the meeting with Jeff Skilling at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club is Marla Ruzicka, who was killed on 16 April 2005 in Iraq by a suicide bomber. She founded CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict) which worked to help the victims of the war in Iraq and she was a former Global Exchange activist.See more »
Quotes:
Gray Davis:[upon being asked whether the rumors that he was responsible for the black outs in California are just a plot by the Republican party to get him recalled]
[shouts]
Gray Davis:Hello!
See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in 2006 Independent Spirit Awards (2006) (TV)See more »
Soundtrack:
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)See more »

FAQ

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
23 out of 25 people found the following review useful.
An Entertaining Introduction to A Business Scandal that Affects Everyone, 2 June 2005
Author: noralee from Queens, NY

"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is an excellent introduction for the general public to the scandal for someone who didn't hear first-hand the warnings about the New Economy that sneered at the responsibilities of a public company or read the articles in Fortune, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, or Business Week while it was all building up, then come tumbling down.

While the film leaves out some of the technicalities, it does an entertaining job of combining talking heads, lively graphics, news clips, incendiary dramatizations (such as of busy, noisy shredders), company documents and whistleblower-obtained stunningly damning audiotapes, web broadcasts and video tapes to document how a major company could grow out of smoke and mirrors to become the largest bankruptcy of its time, bringing down countless victims with it.

Establishing an arresting time line that serves like a ticking clock, the film is excellent at visually demonstrating how other corporations, particularly lenders and brokerages, profited from not revealing the truth.

The filmmakers particularly gleefully accent the company's political connections, going beyond the popular "Kenny Boy" friendship of CEO Ken Lay with George W. to extend to the Bush clan and inner circle, including the Federal Reserve's Greenspan, to hone in on how it fomented self-serving deregulatory policies, with a special emphasis on California and its frighteningly manipulated energy, and resulting political, crisis.

The filmmakers do make some of the talking heads seem objective when they actually have their own profitable axes to grind, such as shareholder attorney William Lerarch, and let the Johnny-come-lately legislators look a little too good as they puff up at the Congressional hearings.

A bit too much is made of the executives as former nerds, as these guys weren't computer geeks; rather there were class issues at work that are hinted at in the brief biographies in the culture of traders who were entrepreneurally lifting their incomes by gambling. At the same time, whistleblower Sherron Watkins's actions and motivations are not emphasized as particularly heroic in going against the company's macho culture (the many Deep Throats cited in the credits as anonymous sources are amusing).

A delightful range of popular music is also used to emphasize points, from Tom Waits to "God Bless the Child," as well as popular culture references from "The Simpsons" to "Gordon Gekko"'s defining quote also keep the film from just being like a dry episode of PBS's "Frontline". I presume the title itself is meant to recall the classic laying bare of the men who got the U.S. mired in the Viet Nam War, Halberstam's "The Best and The Brightest." The film does slight the clear-eyed folks who were warning about the declining ethics in the accounting profession and the lack of fundamentals in the bubble investments as Enron and its ilk were on the way up -- and who were vilified in the business community for their Cassandra pronouncements.

The film does make the Enron situation seem too unique. While personalizing the stories around the head people at the company --especially as they transformed from geeks to power brokers --makes the story easier to follow in a movie, it makes this corporate culture unusual. It also lets off the management consultants, let alone the business schools' emphasis on stock price analysis, who were cheerleaders for these techniques; McKinsey and Harvard spawned at least one of the colorful figures profiled here.

This kind of egotistical "I'm top of the world, Ma" attitude in business was also typical of the Rigas at Adelphia in Pennsylvania, Ebbers at WorldCom in Mississippi, and Scrushy at HealthSouth in Birmingham, Alabama, and the just dethroned Greenberg at AIG scandal in the heart of Wall Street, shows that enough chutzpah and money can deflect anyone, anywhere, using the same techniques -- a ruthless, macho corporate culture that forces out anyone who disagrees, browbeating regulators, hiding secret accounts and spreading around manipulative corporate philanthropy.

At a NY Financial Writers' Association panel as the Enron story was breaking, they did an introspection that unfortunately is not provided by the film, on why they didn't report earlier that the emperor had no clothes (as one of the sub-chapters in the film puts it). The consensus was that the journalists realized they mistrusted the motives of the warners more than they doubted the motives of the corporate executives who were issuing the bravado reports and deflecting timid questions, even though the journalists too late realized that the executives had way more to gain than the Chicken Littles and they were intimidated by their own lack of accounting expertise to recognize the sliding slope of accounting ethics (though the film does very briefly touch on how the CPAs early on accommodated the bubble by too easily officially approving the now notorious "mark to marketing" accounting procedure that permitted the booking of goods not yet obtained, though there's no mention of casually lax acceptance of external auditing firms to simultaneously do internal auditing and profitable consulting).

McLean, a co-writer of the film whose book is the premise for most of the film, did supplement the film in an interview on Charlie Rose that should be included on the DVD by naming the "shorter" (an investor who gains if prices go down) who first had tipped her off, though she didn't there mention the local Houston business reporter she cited at the panel who was the very first one to report suspicion of Enron's numbers. She also clarified on the show that while her article in Business Week is now seen as the beginning of Enron's end, her actual findings were very mildly stated, particularly compared to the full truth as it came out, and only aroused suspicions by the ferocity of the company's denials.

Even as the film concludes with an it could happen again warning, with no analysis if Sarbanes-Oxley will help, it places too much emphasis on the uniqueness of Enron.

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