Transcript: Ep. 4 - Bruce Beach's plan to save the world | May 19, 2020

A white slate shows the TVO On Docs logo.

A female announcer says YOU'RE LISTENING TO A TVO PODCAST.

(JAZZ BEAT PLAYING)

Colin says I'M COLIN ELLIS, AND YOU'RE LISTENING TO ON DOCS, A PODCAST ABOUT DOCUMENTARIES AND THE STORIES THEY TELL. TODAY I'M SPEAKING WITH THE DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER PAUL MARC KELL ABOUT HIS DOC, THE DAWNSAYER.

In a recorded clip, Bruce Beach says I'D BUILT OVER 20 SHELTERS, MOSTLY FOR OTHER PEOPLE, BEFORE I STARTED TO BUILD THE ARK TWO. AND THIS SHELTER IS DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND A NUCLEAR BLAST, A NUCLEAR WEAPON, A MILE AND A HALF OUTSIDE THE CRATER. I AM, SO FAR AS I KNOW, THE ONLY PLACE YOU CAN COME THAT SOMEBODY ACTUALLY HAS A PLAN TO RECONSTRUCT SOCIETY AFTER A NUCLEAR WAR.

Colin says THE DAWNSAYER IS A PORTRAIT OF BRUCE BEACH, A MAN MOSTLY KNOWN FOR BUILDING THE WORLD'S LARGEST NUCLEAR FALLOUT SHELTER, LOCATED IN HORNING'S MILLS, ONTARIO, JUST TWO HOURS NORTH OF TORONTO. ARK TWO, AS IT'S CALLED, IS A REFUGE, A PLACE WHERE THE SURVIVORS OF A NUCLEAR WAR COULD GO AND REBUILD CIVILIZATION. IT WAS COMPLETED IN 1985 AND WAS STATE OF THE ART AT THE TIME, BUT THESE DAYS IT'S IN DIRE NEED OF REPAIR. SO, WHEN VISITORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WANT A TOUR OF THE ARK, BRUCE ASKS THEM TO PUT IN FOUR HOURS OF WORK.

Bruce says AND NOW, SINCE I SAY TO THEM, "FOUR HOURS' WORK," THAT ELIMINATES, OH, I'D SAY 80 percent OF THE PEOPLE RIGHT THERE. SO, OUT OF THE THOUSANDS... AND THERE HAVE BEEN THOUSANDS THAT HAVE COME HERE TO VISIT AND SEE IT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE ONLY GOTTEN... LIKE, 40 WHO REALLY STILL EVER COME TO HELP.

Colin says WHILE BRUCE IS KNOWN FOR THE ARK, HE'S ALSO BEEN INVOLVED IN A NUMBER OF OTHER PROJECTS, INCLUDING INVENTING A LAPTOP THAT PREDATED THE IBM 5100. WHILE ALL THESE PROJECTS SEEM DOOMED TO FAILURE, BRUCE HAS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON HIS LEGACY.

In a different clip, Paul Marc Kell says YOU KNOW, HE THINKS THAT THINGS WORK OUT THE WAY THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO, AND IF THAT MEANS HE HASN'T BECOME A BILLIONAIRE AS A RESULT, WELL, THAT'S THE PATH THAT WAS MEANT FOR HIM.

Colin says THE DOCUMENTARY IS A MEDITATION ON THE IDEAS OF SUCCESS AND FAILURE, AND BRUCE'S PERSPECTIVE ON THOSE IS WHAT KEPT PAUL COMING BACK OVER THE EIGHT YEARS HE SPENT PRODUCING THE DOCUMENTARY. I SPOKE WITH PAUL ABOUT MEETING BRUCE BEACH, WHY HE BUILT A NUCLEAR BOMB SHELTER, AND WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT OUR CURRENT QUARANTINE SITUATION. STAY WITH US. WELL, UH, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME TODAY, AND CONGRATS ON THE DOC. I REALLY ENJOYED IT.

Paul says OH, THANKS.

Colin says AND I GUESS MY FIRST QUESTION IS KIND OF AN OBVIOUS ONE, BUT HOW DID YOU MEET BRUCE BEACH?

Paul says UH, I ACTUALLY... THERE'S KIND OF A TWO-PART STORY. I INITIALLY HEARD ABOUT HIM. I DID A DOC LAB AT HOT DOCS IN 2008 OR 2009, AND THERE WAS A FINNISH GUY THERE, SEPP, WHO WAS DOING AN EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT. HE WAS ESSENTIALLY TRYING TO DO A SURVIVOR TYPE OF REALITY SHOW WITH, I THINK IT WAS 20 PEOPLE LOCKED INSIDE OF A BOMB SHELTER FOR A MONTH. (CHUCKLING) AND, UH, HE DESCRIBED THE BOMB SHELTER, AND IT WAS, LIKE, 42 SCHOOL BUSES BURIED UNDER 14 FEET OF EARTH AND CONCRETE, AND ALL THIS STUFF. AND IT'S, LIKE, 10,000 SQUARE FEET. LABYRINTHINE LAYOUT. YADA-YADA-YADA. AND I WAS, LIKE, "WOW. THAT SOUNDS AMAZING. WHERE IS THIS?" AND HE SAID, "IT'S ACTUALLY JUST TWO HOURS NORTH OF TORONTO." AND I WAS, LIKE, "THAT'S UNBELIEVABLE. I'VE..." TWO YEARS LATER, I GET HIRED BY THE CBC TO DP AN ILL-FATED PILOT FOR THE DOC CHANNEL ON PREPPERS, AND AS IT TURNS OUT, BRUCE IS ONE OF THE CHARACTERS. AND SO, WE WENT OUT... I WENT OUT THERE WITH THE ENTIRE PRODUCTION TEAM. AND, UH, UNFORTUNATELY FOR THAT PROGRAM, BRUCE AND THE PRODUCER OF THE SHOW DID NOT GET ALONG AT ALL. AND BRUCE, BEING A BIT OF A CONTROL FREAK, PRETTY MUCH WOULDN'T PLAY BALL WITH THE WAY THEY WANTED TO DO THINGS. SO, IT DIDN'T PLAY OUT AS PLANNED. BUT AS AN ASIDE, BRUCE AND I TOTALLY HIT IT OFF LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE AND SPOKE THE SAME LANGUAGE. YOU KNOW, I WAS ALREADY WELL-VERSED IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES, GOING BACK TO, LIKE, THE EARLY '90S. AND SO, IT HAD BEEN, YOU KNOW, FOR ME, A BIT OF A HOBBY. SO, I KNEW BRUCE'S LANGUAGE, AND I SAID TO HIM, "WOULD YOU BE COOL IF I CAME BACK IN A YEAR FROM NOW OR SO AND STARTED FILMING A PROJECT OF MY OWN?" AND BRUCE LOVES... HE LOVES THE ATTENTION FROM THE MEDIA, SO HE NEVER SAYS NO TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO COME VISIT WITH A CAMERA, AND HE SAID, "SURE." (COLIN CHUCKLING) AND THEN A YEAR LATER... IT WAS A YEAR LATER. IT WAS DECEMBER 21, 2012, THE DAY BEFORE THE WORLD... OR THE DAY THE WORLD WAS SUPPOSED TO END, ACCORDING TO THE MAYAN CALENDAR. AND BRUCE WAS NOT A 2012ER, BUT BRUCE, BEING CONSIDERED AN EXPERT ON THE END OF THE WORLD, WAS FIELDING PHONE CALLS FROM REPORTERS ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND I SHOWED UP AND STARTED FILMING. AND THE WAY I DID IT AS I GOT TO KNOW BRUCE... FIRST TIME, I THINK I STAYED AT A NEARBY AIRBNB. THEN AFTER THAT, I JUST STARTED LIVING WITH HIM AND JEAN FOR WEEKS AT A TIME. AND IN EXCHANGE FOR FILMING, I WAS HAPPY TO CLEAN THE HOUSE, DO DISHES, COOK FOR THEM. TAKE JEMMA FOR WALKS, AND SIT AROUND AND TALK WITH BRUCE ABOUT EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING. AND WE WOULD FILM SOME OF IT; SOME OF IT, WE WOULDN'T. SOME OF IT, WE'D JUST DEBATE. OVER SEVEN, EIGHT YEARS OF DOING THAT, YOU KNOW, IT'S HARD TO SAY I BECAME ANYTHING LESS THAN PART OF THE FAMILY, BECAUSE I DO NOW KNOW EVERYONE IN THEIR FAMILY. AND YOU KNOW, IT'S... I'M THE ONE WHO GETS THE PHONE CALL IF, YOU KNOW, THEY CAN'T TAKE BRUCE OR JEAN TO THE HOSPITAL OR TO THE DOCTOR OR FOR THINGS LIKE THAT. SO, IT HAS BECOME LIKE A SECOND FAMILY TO ME.

Colin says YEAH. YOU'RE KIND OF FRIENDS WITH THEM.

Paul says REALLY CLOSE, YEAH. I MEAN, BRUCE AND I JUST HAD A ZOOM THE OTHER DAY, AND WE TALK, EITHER ON THE PHONE OR ON ZOOM, USUALLY ONCE A MONTH NOW THAT I'M OUT WEST. BUT WHEN I WAS IN TORONTO, I WOULD GO UP... SOMETIMES I'D GO UP TO SHOOT SOME PICKUP SHOTS OF STUFF THAT I WOULD NEED. SOMETIMES I'D JUST GO UP TO HANG OUT AND, YOU KNOW, SEE HOW THEY'RE DOING AND JUST CHECK IN.

Colin says WHERE'S HE FROM?

Paul says ORIGINALLY, KANSAS. HE'S AN AMERICAN. HE GREW UP IN KANSAS AND ENDED UP IN THE AIR FORCE BEFORE HE WAS EVEN 18. I THINK HE GOT HIS PARENTS TO LIE SO THAT HE COULD JOIN THE AIR FORCE. AND HE BECAME AN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER. ENDED UP IN THULE, GREENLAND, DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD WAR. AND THEN HE STARTED, A NUMBER OF SMALL BUSINESSES ONE OF WHICH WAS BUILDING PERSONAL BOMB SHELTERS FOR PEOPLE. AND THIS WAS BASED OUT OF UTAH AT THE TIME. IT WAS CALLED THE AMERICAN SHELTER COMPANY, AND ACCORDING TO BRUCE, HE MADE AROUND 20 SHELTERS FOR PEOPLE WHICH, ACCORDING TO HIM, MADE HIM THE MOST PROLIFIC PRIVATE SHELTER BUILDING COMPANY IN THE UNITED STATES. AND THEN, UH...

Colin says IS HE RELIGIOUS?

Paul says HE'S BAHA'I, YEAH. HIM AND HIS WIFE JEAN ARE BAHA'I. IN FACT, THEY MET AT THE STEPS OF THE BAHA'I TEMPLE IN WILMETTE, ILLINOIS. I WOULD SAY JEAN IS MORE OF A TRADITIONAL BAHA'I, WHEREAS BRUCE IS MORE OF A BRUCE BEACH BAHA'I, WHICH, LIKE ALL THINGS BRUCE, HE PUTS HIS OWN SPIN ON THINGS.

Colin says SO, WHAT'S MOTIVATING HIS DESIRE, I GUESS, TO BUILD BOMB SHELTERS?

Paul says WELL, AS A RESULT OF BEING... GROWING UP IN POST-WORLD WAR II, I MEAN, HE REMEMBERS THE BOMB BEING DROPPED ON HIROSHIMA AS A LITTLE BOY, AND HE GREW UP IN THAT COLD WAR CLIMATE WHERE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE LIVED WITH THAT DAILY REALITY OF THE WORLD POSSIBLY ENDING. AND THEN WHEN HE SPENT, YOU KNOW, ALL OF HIS TIME IN THE AIR FORCE, AND SAW FIRST-HAND, YOU KNOW, HOW SERIOUS THINGS WERE, I THINK HE JUST... THAT HARDENED HIS BELIEF THAT MUTUAL AGREED DESTRUCTION WAS INEVITABLE, AND THAT PEOPLE WERE INCAPABLE OF PREVENTING IT FROM HAPPENING NOW THAT THE GENIE HAD BEEN LET OUT OF THE BOTTLE. SO, I THINK FOR HIM, GRAVITATING TOWARDS BUILDING SHELTERS WAS JUST KIND OF THE NATURAL PATH ONE WHO'S OBSESSED WITH THESE THINGS WOULD GO ON. AND YOU KNOW, HE MANAGED, INITIALLY, TO TURN IT INTO, IN MORE OF A CAPITALISTIC VEIN, A WAY TO TURN HIS PASSION INTO A LIVING. AND THEN I THINK IT BECAME MORE OF A SPIRITUAL THING OVER TIME, AND HE KIND OF... IT ENDED UP DOVETAILING INTO HIS LARGER PARADIGM OF RECONSTRUCTING SOCIETY, AND THE BOMB SHELTER ASPECT OF IT JUST BEING ONE PART OF THAT PARADIGM. YOU KNOW, THE NECESSITY OF THERE NEEDING TO BE A SHELTER TO PROTECT PEOPLE FROM, YOU KNOW, FALLOUT AND BOMB BLASTS AND THE NUCLEAR WINTER. BUT ONCE THE WAR IS OVER, FOR THESE SAME PEOPLE TO EMERGE FROM THESE SHELTERS TO RECONSTRUCT SOCIETY FROM THE ASHES OF THE OLD.

Bruce says WELL, MY WORRY IS THE WORLD IS GOING TO HAVE A FIRE CALLED THE NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST. AND THAT DOESN'T WORRY ME; I MEAN, THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN FOR THE WORLD. BUT I'M TRYING TO HELP PEOPLE GET PREPARED TO RECOVER FROM THAT.

Colin says WELL, IF YOU WERE DESCRIBING ARK TWO... AND THAT'S WHAT IT'S CALLED, "ARK TWO," TO SOMEONE, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?

Paul says AT THE TIME IT WAS BUILT, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A MARVEL, YOU KNOW? I MEAN, IT WAS PRIVATELY BUILT. IT WAS THE WORLD'S LARGEST PRIVATELY-BUILT BOMB SHELTER. IT WAS MADE FROM 42 SCHOOL BUSES THAT HAD BEEN GUTTED AND, UM, REFASHIONED TO BE ROOMS. EACH SHELL OF A BUS WAS ONE ROOM. AND THEY PUT THE 42 TOGETHER IN A WAY THAT IT CREATED A 10,000-SQUARE-FOOT SPACE THAT, YOU KNOW, HOUSES REDUNDANT DIESEL GENERATORS, BUNK BEDS TO SLEEP UP TO 350 PEOPLE. YOU KNOW, A LIBRARY, A DAYCARE, A COMMUNICATIONS CENTRE, A DEEP-WELL WATER SUPPLY. AT THE TIME IT WAS BUILT, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNBELIEVABLE. I MEAN, UNBELIEVABLY IMPRESSIVE, AND AT THE TIME, CUTTING-EDGE. UNFORTUNATELY, YOU KNOW... OR FORTUNATELY FOR CIVILIZATION, THE BOMBS NEVER FELL, AND THE SHELTER HAS FALLEN INTO DISREPAIR. IT'S ALSO BUILT NEAR A WATERFALL, ALSO ON BRUCE'S LAND, AND THERE'S A LOT OF GROUNDWATER. SO, AS A RESULT OF THE SEEPAGE, THE FLOORS HAVE ROTTED. THERE'S A LOT OF WORK THAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE. THEY'VE MANAGED TO... BRUCE AND HIS FOLLOWERS HAVE MANAGED TO MAINTAIN IT AS BEST THEY CAN, BUT IT'S A LOSING BATTLE. SO, IF YOU WERE TO GO IN THERE TODAY, YOU'D KIND OF THINK, OH, GOD. THIS WOULD BE A GREAT SETTING FOR A HORROR FILM, YOU KNOW? (BOTH LAUGHING) IT'S KIND OF TERRIFYING IN SOME WAYS. SOME PEOPLE WON'T EVEN GO IN. LIKE, BRUCE'S WIFE JEAN DOESN'T LIKE GOING IN. AND THERE'S A NUMBER OF PEOPLE FROM THE COMMUNITY, TOO, WHO KNOW BRUCE OR ARE FRIENDS WITH BRUCE BUT DON'T WANT TO SET FOOT IN THE SHELTER 'CAUSE THEY'RE AFRAID OF CONFINED SPACES IN THE DARK, ET CETERA. SO, IT CAN BE A BIT TERRIFYING.

Colin says WELL, IF SOMEONE WAS TO VISIT THE ARK... 'CAUSE I'M SURE HE GETS VISITORS FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE... WHAT WOULD THEY HAVE TO DO TO, I GUESS, VISIT THE ARK?

Paul says WELL, THE PREREQUISITE THAT HE GETS PEOPLE TO AGREE TO BEFORE SHOWING UP IS FOUR HOURS OF WHAT HE CALLS SWEAT EQUITY. AND WHAT IT MEANS IS YOU SHOW UP AND YOU PUT IN FOUR HOURS OF VOLUNTEER WORK, WHICH USUALLY IS, LIKE, YOU KNOW, GATHERING FIREWOOD OR DOING REPAIRS OR TENDING TO THE GROUNDS WHERE THE ARK HAS BEEN BUILT. THERE'S NO SHORTAGE OF THINGS TO DO AROUND BRUCE'S PLACE, AND YOU KNOW, I'M LIVING PROOF OF THAT MYSELF. I MEAN, EVERY TIME I GO UP THERE, WHEN I'M NOT FILMING I'M ALWAYS BUSY DOING SOMETHING ELSE. SO, BRUCE ALWAYS HAS CHORES. AND A LOT OF TIMES, IT'S JUST CHANGING LIGHT BULBS OR DOING THINGS LIKE THAT. BUT FIREWOOD IS THE BIG ONE UP AT BRUCE'S, SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY LIVE OFF OF FIREWOOD. THAT'S HOW THEY HEAT THEIR HOME. SO, IN THE WINTERTIME, FIREWOOD IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE OR DEATH.

Colin says WELL, HE'S BEEN INVOLVED IN A FEW OTHER PROJECTS, AND I WANT TO GO THROUGH SOME OF THEM, BECAUSE YOU MENTION THEM... YOU FEATURE THEM IN THE FILM. ONE OF THEM WAS THE LIGHT WRITER. WHAT WAS THAT?

Paul says YEAH. IT WAS THE WORLD'S FIRST LAPTOP COMPUTER. AND BRUCE HAD A WORKING PROTOTYPE READY FOR MARKET, BUILT AND OPERATIONAL, IN AROUND 1974.

Bruce says THE LIGHT WRITER WAS A PORTABLE COMPUTER TERMINAL, AND AT THAT TIME, A PORTABLE COMPUTER WEIGHED 89 POUNDS. AND WHEN WE FINISHED DEVELOPMENT OF OURS, IT WEIGHED 17 and a half.

Paul says IT WAS KIND OF UNBELIEVABLE FOR THE TIME. AND HE'D WORKED WITH XEROX, AND THEY WERE GOING TO PURCHASE IT AND HELP BRING IT TO MARKET. HE WORKED WITH BELL LABS ON THE SCREEN. AND, UH, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE WORLD'S FIRST PORTABLE COMPUTER. AND AT THE TIME, THE NEXT CLOSEST PORTABLE COMPUTER WAS WHAT IBM HAD BEEN WORKING ON. I THINK IT WAS CALLED THE 5100. AND IT WEIGHED 57 and a half POUNDS. BUT, FOR THOSE OF US FAMILIAR WITH THE FINER WORKINGS OF CAPITALISM, THE... IBM BASICALLY PRESSURED XEROX TO BACK OUT. AND BRUCE BEING, YOU KNOW, A SMALL BUSINESS, WAS INCAPABLE OF GOING HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH IBM. AND YOU KNOW, IF YOU WERE TO GO ON WIKIPEDIA, THERE WOULD BE NO MENTION WHATSOEVER OF THE LIGHT WRITER, BUT THE IBM 5100 IS CREDITED AS BEING THE FIRST PORTABLE COMPUTER EVER BUILT.

Colin says HE WAS A LITTLE AHEAD OF HIS TIME, WASN'T HE?

Paul says WAY AHEAD OF HIS TIME. SO MUCH SO THAT PEOPLE THINK HE'S NUTS. YOU KNOW? IT'S ALMOST THAT WHOLE... YOU KIND OF HAVE TO BE OF THE TIME IN TERMS OF YOUR THINKING; OTHERWISE, PEOPLE WILL JUST LOOK AT YOU LIKE YOU'RE NUTS. 'CAUSE HALF THE TIME, PEOPLE LOOK AT BRUCE LIKE HE'S NUTS BECAUSE THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT. BUT WHAT HE'S TYPICALLY TALKING ABOUT IS STUFF THAT NOW, LOOKING BACK, WE CAN SAY, "WOW. HE WAS AHEAD OF HIS TIME." AS OPPOSED TO, "WOW. HE'S A CRAZY. HE'S A NUT." BUT UNFORTUNATELY IN BRUCE'S CASE, PEOPLE STILL LOOK AT HIM AND THINK HE'S CRAZY, HE'S NUTS.

Colin says WELL, ONE OF... I'LL ASK YOU JUST ABOUT THE LAST, I GUESS, PROJECT THAT'S SORT OF FEATURED IN THE DOC: THE UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE.

Paul says YEAH.

Colin says WHAT WAS THAT ONE ABOUT?

Paul says WELL, NOT UNLIKE ESPERANTO, IT'S A UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE WHICH ULTIMATELY IS A LANGUAGE THAT IS, IN PRINCIPLE AND BY DESIGN, A LANGUAGE THAT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD COULD SPEAK SO THAT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD COULD COMMUNICATE. AND THE IDEA BEHIND IT IS THAT IF WE COULD ALL SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE, WE COULD ALL COMMUNICATE. AND IF WE CAN ALL COMMUNICATE AND UNDERSTAND ONE ANOTHER, WE COULD ACTUALLY ATTAIN WORLD PEACE. SO, BRUCE IS ULTIMATELY SOMEONE WHO... (CHUCKLING) TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, BEING AMBITIOUS. HE WANTS WORLD PEACE, AND HE THINKS THAT HE HAS THE PLAN THAT CAN HELP BRING ABOUT WORLD PEACE. AND ANGEL TONGUE, HIS UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE THAT HE HAS A BLUEPRINT FOR, IS THE LANGUAGE THAT HE TRULY BELIEVES IS HIS POINT IN LIFE, WHICH IS WHY HE WAS PUT HERE ON EARTH. THIS IS THE WORK HE WAS PUT HERE TO DO. AND HE HAS SPENT HIS WHOLE LIFE WORKING ON THIS, AND EVERYTHING ELSE HE'S DONE HAS ALWAYS TIED INTO FUNDING THE UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE. THESE WERE ALL BUSINESS SCHEMES THAT HE HAD TO GENERATE MONEY TO HELP PAY FOR THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE INSTITUTE, WHICH HE HAD AN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM IN TORONTO BUILD A MODEL FOR IT. AND YOU KNOW, HE HAS BLUEPRINTS, MOCK-UPS, EVERYTHING TO HAVE THIS PROJECT BUILT. IN THE EARLY '80S, IT WOULD HAVE COST OVER $100 MILLION TO DO, AND IT NEVER HAPPENED. BRUCE HAS AGAIN, LIKE I SAID, BEEN A VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE, AND HE'S NEVER BEEN ABLE TO GENERATE THE KIND OF MONEY FROM HIS PROJECTS. SO, IT'S ANOTHER ONE OF HIS DREAMS THAT HAS FALLEN SHORT. AND I KEEP COMING BACK TO THAT THEME IN THE FILM ABOUT BRUCE, IN THE EYES OF MOST PEOPLE, IS CONSIDERED A FAILURE. BUT WHEN YOUR GOAL IS TO CREATE WORLD PEACE AND YOU HAVEN'T ACHIEVED IT YET, ARE YOU A FAILURE OR SOMEONE WHO'S JUST DREAMING BIG?

Colin says YEAH. I KIND OF WONDERED IF, UH, IF HE HAD ANY REGRETS OR REMORSE ABOUT THESE PROJECTS AND JUST THE FACT THAT THEY WERE NEVER ABLE TO REALLY CATCH ON, I GUESS.

Paul says YOU KNOW, THAT'S THE THING ABOUT BRUCE THAT KEPT ME GOING BACK FOR EIGHT YEARS OF FILMING. IS THAT, YOU KNOW, LIKE MOST OF US, IF WE DON'T ACHIEVE OUR GOALS, WE FEEL WE'VE FAILED, YOU KNOW? WE'VE FALLEN SHORT, OR... WHEREAS THAT DOESN'T... IT'S ALMOST LIKE BRUCE CAN'T EVEN COMPREHEND THAT. YOU KNOW, HE THINKS THAT THINGS WORK OUT THE WAY THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO, AND IF THAT MEANS HE HASN'T BECOME A BILLIONAIRE AS A RESULT, WELL, THAT'S THE PATH THAT WAS MEANT FOR HIM. AND HE'S NOT GOING TO GIVE UP. THAT'S FOR DAMN SURE. I MEAN, HE'S IN HIS LATE 80S NOW, AND HE STILL WORKS 15 HOURS A DAY ON THESE VERY PROJECTS. YOU KNOW? I MEAN, THE UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE IS STILL SOMETHING THAT HE IS WORKING ON EVERY SINGLE DAY. SO, HE'S INSPIRING TO SOMEONE LIKE ME, WHO JUDGES SUCCESS IN THE WAY MOST OF US HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED TO JUDGE SUCCESS, WHICH IS THROUGH, YOU KNOW, HOW MANY PEOPLE SAW YOUR FILM? HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOU MAKE? HOW MANY PEOPLE KNOW WHO YOU ARE? THAT TYPE OF THING. BRUCE DOESN'T CARE. YOU KNOW? SURE, HE WANTS THE WORD TO GET OUT. SURE, HE WOULD LIKE MORE ATTENTION THAN HE'S GETTING AND MORE HELP. BUT HIS MOTIVE FOR THAT IS JUST TO HELP REALIZE HIS DREAM, NOT BASICALLY RATE HIMSELF. I MEAN, FOR HIM, HE'S OBSESSED WITH HIS GOALS, AND HIS GOALS ARE UNLIKELY TO BE REALIZED IN HIS LIFETIME. I GUESS FOR HIM, HE HAS AN INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR WORKING TOWARDS REALIZING THOSE GOALS THAT WILL NEVER BE QUENCHED. AND HE'S A REALLY INSPIRING GUY TO BE AROUND AS A RESULT, BECAUSE IT DOESN'T MATTER. I MEAN, HE'S BEEN SCREWED OVER BY SO MANY PEOPLE SO MANY TIMES, AND HAS HAD FAILURES SO EPIC THAT MOST OF US COULD NEVER IMAGINE WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO, YOU KNOW, LOSE A CHILD, OR LOSE $50 MILLION, OR HAVE EVERYTHING TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU, OR TO HAVE THE GOVERNMENT TRY AND TAKE EVERYTHING AWAY FROM YOU. TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME AND RESOURCES FIGHTING FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN IN THE COURTS. I MEAN, THERE'S SO MANY STORIES THAT I COULDN'T EVEN TELL IN THE FILM BECAUSE THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH TIME, AND THIS IS BRUCE.

Colin says I WASN'T GOING TO MENTION HIS CHILD PASSING AWAY, 'CAUSE I THOUGHT THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT PROBABLY... IT CAME AS A SURPRISE TO ME, AND I THINK IT KIND OF MOTIVATES HIM IN A WAY. MAYBE, SINCE YOU BROUGHT IT UP, DO YOU WANT TO JUST TELL THAT STORY?

Paul says SURE. I MEAN, BRUCE'S YOUNGEST SON BAHJI WAS KILLED IN A TOBOGGANING ACCIDENT IN 1979. AND, UM, YOU KNOW, AT THE TIME IT HAPPENED, IN BRUCE'S OWN WORDS, IT TOOK THE WIND RIGHT OUT OF HIS SAILS AND HE DIDN'T THINK HE'D EVER BE ABLE TO GO ON. AND YOU KNOW, IN MY POP PSYCHOLOGY ANALYSIS OF IT, I THOUGHT, OH, MAYBE THIS WAS THE SEED, YOU KNOW? MAYBE THIS WAS THE MOTIVATION FOR EVERYTHING THAT HE DID AFTER 1979. AND I ASKED HIM THAT, AND IT WAS, LIKE... HE ACTUALLY HAD TO DO THE MATH IN HIS HEAD TO REALIZE THAT "OH, I GUESS IT WAS ABOUT SIX MONTHS AFTER BAHJI HAD PASSED THAT I BROKE GROUND ON BUILDING THE ARK." AND I DON'T THINK IN HIS MIND, HE THINKS THERE'S A CONNECTION. BUT I CERTAINLY DO, YOU KNOW? I MEAN, FOR ME, I THINK BRUCE COPED WITH THE LOSS OF HIS SON THROUGH BURYING HIMSELF IN HIS WORK. AND IN MY OPINION, HE WAS INCAPABLE OF SAVING THE LIFE OF HIS YOUNGEST SON. SO INSTEAD, HE CHOSE TO SAVE THE WORLD. AND YOU KNOW, I MEAN, IT CERTAINLY MOTIVATED HIM, AND A LOT OF GOOD HAS CERTAINLY COME OUT OF IT. AND I THINK THAT IN A WAY, IT IS... I MEAN, FOR ME, IT'S HEARTBREAKING, YOU KNOW? ESPECIALLY NOW, BEING A FATHER. I CAN'T IMAGINE HOW DEVASTATING THE LOSS OF YOUR CHILD WOULD BE. AND IN TRUE BRUCE BEACH FASHION, HE TURNED THAT NEGATIVE INTO A LOT OF GOOD.

Colin says WELL, DO YOU SEE HIS... HE HAS A GRANDSON, AND DO YOU SEE HIM OR ANYONE ELSE PERHAPS TAKING ON THIS LEGACY WHEN HE PASSES?

Paul says I THINK SO, YEAH. I MEAN, EVAN, BRUCE'S GRANDSON, IS... HE'S A GREAT KID. I MEAN, I GUESS HE'S NOT REALLY A KID ANYMORE. HE WAS WHEN I STARTED FILMING, BUT NOW HE'S A YOUNG MAN IN HIS EARLY 20S. AND YOU KNOW, EVAN IS A HARD WORKER, AND HE GREW UP IN THE ARK. HE LOVES THE ARK. HE DOESN'T SHARE THE SAME PARADIGM THAT HIS GRANDFATHER DOES. AND YOU KNOW, BRUCE'S CRITICISM IS THAT EVAN ISN'T SPIRITUAL IN THE SAME WAY THAT BRUCE IS, AND EVAN ISN'T NECESSARILY GOING TO FORWARD THE AGENDA OF THE UNIVERSAL AUXILIARY LANGUAGE. BUT THE FACT IS, EVAN WANTS TO BE THE CUSTODIAN TO THE ARK. AND YOU KNOW, HE DOES HAVE PLANS ON HOW TO FIX IT UP AND MAKE IT OPERATIONAL. EVAN DOESN'T BELIEVE IN HIS LIFETIME, HE'S GOING TO SEE, YOU KNOW, THE COLLAPSE OF SOCIETY. BUT HE DOES AGREE WITH HIS GRANDPA THAT SOMEDAY DOWN THE ROAD THAT IS LIKELY, AND THAT THE BOMB SHELTER COULD BE VERY HELPFUL TO, YOU KNOW, A COUPLE OF HUNDRED PEOPLE WHEN THE TIME DOES COME. SO, YEAH. EVAN IS COMMITTED TO THAT, AND I'M NOT NECESSARILY SURE IF BRUCE IS 100 percent ON BOARD WITH IT, SIMPLY BECAUSE BRUCE WANTS A CLONE OF HIMSELF TO TAKE OVER. (BOTH LAUGHING) AND THAT'S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, SO...

Colin says HE'S KIND OF A ONE OF A KIND.

Paul says THAT'S JUST IT. I MEAN, THERE'S ONLY ONE BRUCE BEACH IN THE WORLD, AND YOU KNOW, THAT'S WHY I MADE THIS FILM, BECAUSE I WANTED TO TELL THE STORY OF WHO THIS MAN REALLY IS. NOT WHO THE GUY IS THAT'S BEEN, YOU KNOW, MALIGNED BY THE PRESS AS BEING THIS CRAZY OLD MAN WITH A BOMB SHELTER. YOU KNOW? I MEAN, HE MAY BE ECCENTRIC, BUT IT'S NOT BECAUSE HE'S CRAZY, YOU KNOW?

Colin says BUT HE'S BRILLIANT.

Paul says HE'S BRILLIANT.

Colin says I MEAN, THAT'S THE THING THAT I CAME AWAY WITH. I MEAN, HE OBVIOUSLY HAS A BRILLIANT MIND, BUT, UM... YOU KNOW, AND HE'S CERTAINLY... I GUESS... YEAH. ONE COULD LOOK AT THESE PROJECTS AS SOMEWHAT ECCENTRIC, BUT I MEAN, THAT'S KIND OF HOW GENIUS WORKS, RIGHT?

Paul says ABSOLUTELY. AND YOU KNOW, JOHN KENNEDY, ONE OF THE, UH... HE WAS A DOCTOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO. HE WAS A PH.D. IN PERCEPTION. AND HE SAID, YOU KNOW... HE'S FROM THE UK, AND HE SAID, "WHERE I COME FROM, "PEOPLE LIKE BRUCE ARE CONSIDERED ECCENTRICS. "WE DON'T DISMISS THEM AS CRAZY. WE CELEBRATE THEM." BECAUSE THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT BRING IDEAS TO THE TABLE THAT NO ONE ELSE THOUGHT ABOUT, AND ULTIMATELY, SOCIETY HAS ADVANCED NOT BECAUSE OF GROUPTHINK OR WHATEVER EVERYONE CAN AGREE ON. IT'S WHEN SOMEONE COMES UP WITH AN IDEA THAT NO ONE'S THOUGHT ABOUT, AND THAT IDEA REVOLUTIONIZES THE WORLD.

Bruce says TODAY, WE MEASURE THINGS. AND ONCE YOU'VE MADE THE FORTUNE OF BILL GATES OR SOMEBODY LIKE THAT, YOU'RE NOT CONSIDERED A SUCCESS. SO MANY THINGS IN MY LIFE THAT I DO ARE JUST COUNTERINTUITIVE, AND SOMETIMES REALLY STUPID. AND THE THING THAT'S PREVENTED THE SUCCESS OF MANY OF MY, UH, GOALS IS THAT THEY ARE AHEAD OF THEIR TIME.

Paul says YOU KNOW, THE DAY MAY COME WHEN SOCIETY REALIZES OR HAS TO EMBRACE SOME OF BRUCE'S IDEAS, SIMPLY BECAUSE OUR BACKS ARE TO THE WALL WHEN IT COMES TO SURVIVAL. AND YOU KNOW, THAT... I MEAN, INTERESTING TIMES THAT WE'RE IN RIGHT NOW. IT'S ALMOST...

Colin says I WAS GOING TO ASK. HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH HIM ABOUT COVID-19?

Paul says MANY. MANY, MANY. YEAH. AND HE... YOU KNOW, ON ONE HAND, I'M, LIKE... MY TIMING IS EITHER EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD OR EXCEPTIONALLY BAD, BECAUSE I RELEASED A FILM AT THE SAME TIME THAT ALL THE MOVIE THEATRES AND ALL THE FILM FESTIVALS THAT WOULD SHOW IT CAN NO LONGER SHOW IT. (COLIN CHUCKLING) AND I DON'T... AND BRUCE IS A FIRM BELIEVER AND ALWAYS AN OPTIMIST, AND HE SAYS, "NO." HE GOES, "YOUR TIMING IS PERFECT." HE GOES, "THIS HAPPENED FOR A REASON. "AND IN THE END, IT'S BECAUSE OF THE ATTENTION "AND THE CHANGE IN THE WORLD THAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW THAT PEOPLE WILL BE READY TO HEAR THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME." AND MAYBE HE'S GOT A POINT, YOU KNOW? I SURE HOPE SO, BECAUSE AGAIN, I'M STILL STUCK IN THE PARADIGM OF COMPARING SUCCESS TO OTHERS, AND COMPARING MYSELF TO OTHERS AND MY FILM. YOU KNOW, I WANT PEOPLE TO SEE THIS FILM. FOR MORE REASONS THAN ONE, BUT ONE OF THE REASONS IS I GOT A MORTGAGE NOW. (CHUCKLING) YOU KNOW? (COLIN CHUCKLING) I GOT A LITTLE GIRL THAT NEEDS TO GO TO UNIVERSITY SOMEDAY. AND YOU KNOW, I HAVE TO BE PRAGMATIC. AT THE SAME TIME, YOU KNOW, I DO WANT THE MESSAGE OUT THAT BRUCE BEACH WAS NOT NUTS; THAT BRUCE BEACH IS NOT JUST SOME GUY WHO BUILT A BOMB SHELTER; THAT THERE'S SO MUCH MORE TO THIS MAN. AND SO MUCH THAT WE COULD LEARN FROM, AS INDIVIDUALS, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF INSPIRATIONAL ASPECTS TO BRUCE'S PERSONALITY, AND I HOPE THOSE COME THROUGH IN THE FILM.

Colin says WELL, I DO HOPE YOU GET A THEATRICAL RELEASE VERY SOON, AND I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH, PAUL, FOR JOINING ME TODAY ON ON DOCS.

Paul says YEAH. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Colin says AND THAT'S THE PODCAST. KEEP YOUR EYES OUT FOR THE DAWNSAYER WHEN IT HITS THE DOCUMENTARY-SCREENING CIRCUIT. IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU HEARD, PLEASE GIVE US FIVE STARS ON APPLE PODCASTS. IT HELPS NEW LISTENERS FIND THE SHOW. YOU CAN WRITE TO US AT ONDOCS@TVO.ORG, AND YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @COLINELLIS81. REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT PAST EPISODES OF ON DOCS ON APPLE PODCASTS, GOOGLE PLAY OR YOUR FAVOURITE PODCAST APP. THIS PODCAST IS PRODUCED BY MATTHEW O'MARA AND ME. OUR PRODUCTION SUPPORT COORDINATORS ARE JONATHAN HALLIWELL AND NIKKI ASHWORTH. OUR SERIES PRODUCER IS KATIE O'CONNOR, AND OUR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR DIGITAL IS KATHY VEY. WE'LL CATCH YOU AT THE NEXT SCREENING.

Watch: Ep. 4 - Bruce Beach's plan to save the world