Listen: Scott Sikma chats to Laura Bennett
All of us have moments in life where we think, “If only I had a bit more money”. But, as rapper The Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Mo Money Mo Problems”.
In Root of the Problem, debut feature film director Scott Sikma explores what would happen if the fantasy of all financial dreamers came true: money grew on trees.
Paul (Sergio De Zio) is a money-hungry real estate agent who knows all the tricks in the book to sell a house: plug the holes in the sink with gum, and bake fresh cookies for the open house. He’s not afraid of cutting corners to make a sale – so long as his name stays on the company leader board and he can flaunt his victories to his coworkers.
His wife Grace (Claire Rankin) is much more philanthropic, and constantly trying to encourage Paul to be more generous and less stingy with his kids. Paul’s goal though is to protect his own, and part with his money on his own terms.
“It’s the Small Things That Count”
Speaking to Hope 103.2, director Scott Sikma (pictured) said, “[Paul] doesn’t realise in his life, that it’s the small things that count. He’s always looking to be the first ahead – the first one to sell a house, the first one to take the easy path… it’s ‘him first’. Even with his family it’s always him first.”
When his wife’s wealthy relative dies, Paul thinks they’re about inherit the big bucks – but instead they get a potted tree. At first Paul’s angry, besmirching his in-law for the “thoughtless” gift… until he discovers $100 bills between its leaves.
Hiding it in his shed and telling no-one, Paul starts to use the tree’s ‘powers’ to indulge in expensive suits, cars and appliances – playing the part of the ‘successful professional’ and trying to cover up the areas in life where he feels he’s failing.
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“When [Paul] does get the money tree, it’s all about ‘Look what I got’ – ‘Something more to myself, something more to show everyone how good I am’, and that’s where he starts to lose himself,” said Scott.
The Consequences of Greed
The tree and the money it provides begin to cause tension between Paul and Grace, and Paul’s forced to face his own attitudes toward generosity, and why he hasn’t been truthful about his sudden wealth. His spending comes to a halt, and Paul begins to see the consequences of his choices on his relationships.
Root of the Problem takes a family-friendly approach to exploring how destructive the love of money can be, and is a case study in how our attitudes about money can affect the whole of our lives.
In trying to get ahead, Paul’s blind to the value of what’s already in his life, and how much richer he’d be if he wasn’t so self-focused.
Scott said he had his own realisation of how timely the message was as he was making the movie.
“It’s really helped me discover… that it’s the little things that are important,” he said. “Especially now during COVID and being stuck at home, it’s the little things that you’re cherishing and realising – ‘these are important, and should be important’.
“Everyone wants more money – everyone dreams of winging the lottery… but it won’t help you in the long run; you’re going to forget about all the small important things in your life if you have that money.”
Root of the Problem is out now on DVD and on demand via iTunes and Amazon.
Listen to Laura Bennett’s full chat with Scott above to hear what it was like working with Christopher Nolan on Interstellar.