Alex Gibney, the director of The Inventor in HBO, tells that Elizabeth Holmes was deceived by her own lies • Good Non profit


In his new documentary on the fall of Theranos and his CEO, media-savvy Elizabeth Holmes, director Alex Gibney had to face a motivational question: why did Holmes pursue the charade so long?

"I do not think it was pure greed," Gibney said in the latest episode of Recode the support. "I do not think it's Bernie Madoff, I think she believed in the mission, and I think she believed in who she was, no? is not the good news, it's actually the bad news, because it's a variation of the end that justifies the means, right?

He told Recode Peter Kafka explains how Holmes and his deputies deliberately shaped Theranos' public image as Apple-esque, even bringing famous documentary filmmaker Errol Morris to shoot Holmes – as he did with his idol, Apple's CEO , Steve Jobs. But Gibney thinks that altruistic vision of the company's infamous blood test technology is the real thing that helped Holmes "lie more effectively."

He cited an experiment conducted by As expected irrational author Dan Ariely, in which participants roll a dice to determine the amount of their winnings – a result of 6 means $ 6, for example. And the study asked these participants to self-declare which figures had been reported.

"It turns out that people looking for their own profit are incredibly lucky, which means they're cheating," Gibney said. "And then they put them on the lie detector to say," Well, did you cheat? "And they said no, and of course, the lie detector detects the lie immediately."

"Then they have a second experience," he added. "They say that all the money will go to a charity for the benefit of orphans. And you would expect them to cheat less, but in fact they cheat more. And when they put them on the lie detector, the lie detector can not detect the lie. Why? Because there is no tension between this idea of, on the one hand, I want more money, but I think it's wrong. "

Gibney's documentary, The inventor: looking for blood in Silicon Valley, aired March 18 on HBO.

You can listen Recode the support wherever you get your podcasts – including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket games, and Covered.

Below, we shared a slightly modified transcript of Peter's conversation with Alex.

Peter Kafka: This is Peter Kafka, I'm here with Alex Gibney, one of my favorite documentary filmmakers, one of my favorite characters to interview. This is the second time that I speak to you at South By, second podcast with you.

We are here today because you have a new documentary on HBO. The inventor: looking for blood in Silicon Valley. This is the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, you should go see her or just watch her streaming or watch her on TV at home. Welcome Alex.

Alex Gibney: Thanks Peter

We were talking before starting the recording, and you said you had to do several projects at once, because sometimes a project is stopped because something breaks, and that is what it is. went here with this documentary. What was the problem for you, by doing this documentary, it almost looks like a lay-up. I know you're working very hard, but it seems like it's something in which you could just bite right now, it's a fraud, it's the Wall Street Journal, John Carreyrou made some Extraordinary reports, somehow all explained seems to be red meat for you.

Yes, but before the publication of the book, it was not really like that, he had written a few articles in the Journal, and then for the movie, no one wanted to talk, and they did not want to talk because They were all afraid of being sued by David Boies, the famous Boies Schiller attorney, who notably represented Harvey Weinstein, as well as Hank Greenberg at AIG and others, as well as Al Gore.

Yes, at one point, David Boies was considered a white knight among people like you and me. He represented Al Gore, he helped dismantle Microsoft – he did not dismantle Microsoft, but he represented the DOJ against Microsoft.

Bill Gates in his famous deposition, without mercy.

And in this case, he represented Theranos, he was also an investor and received a payment in Theranos shares, which gave the fear of God to the people you wanted to talk to.

That's right, because he had threatened people and cost people like Tyler Schultz, the grandson of George Schultz, who sits on Theranos' board of directors, cost Tyler's family $ 500,000 in tuition fees. justice. were afraid that David Boies would come looking for them. It was very difficult to convince people to express themselves.

So, let's go back. I do not think anyone who listens to this podcast does not like Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes in the broadest sense of the word and the fraud they have suffered. But just to put things in context, she said, "I can do this amazing thing with a few drops of blood, I can do all these really amazing things" – they call them blood panels, right? – "I can diagnose 200 different things, surprisingly, that it normally takes a lot of work, time and money, I can do it quickly. I can, for whatever reason, place one in each home. It covers every magazine cover, the company's $ 9 billion, and then everything disappears. When do you see that and say, "This is a story I'm going to write"?

Well, you know, two people who had cheated on me about it: Graydon Carter, former editor of Vanity Fair Magazine, and Richard Plepler, who ran until recently at HBO . And they had become so convinced that her story was a beautiful new chapter in Silicon Valley, the young woman entrepreneur who gives up and does extraordinary things for the world …

They introduced you?

Well, they told me about it once, they had it so much in love that they had thought of doing some kind of promotional story, and then they saw it go to South with John Carreyrou, so they thought, "Hmm, maybe Alex would be interested in this story. "And indeed I was.

This is a very good context, because you spend a lot of time with John Carreyrou on the documentary, it is filmed, as it should be. But you also spend a lot of time with two other journalists who have deceived: Ken Auletta, famous New York writer, and Roger Parloff Fortune magazine, which I do not want to spoil it, but it is as direct as possible. through the documentary.

That's true.

And he is, to this day, incredibly angry with her, and it seems that it was himself who deceived him.

Indeed, haunted by her own role and her inability to see through it.

And to be clear, Auletta and Parloff explained, "We tried to evaluate some of these claims, we are not scientists, and then everything was wrapped literally in a box, you could not see it. But we did not just believe blindly, we talked to him. Auletta often reads videos of him talking to him, trying to gather more information.

In which she literally lies to him on tape.

Yeah. Do you think that the role that the press and other facilitators play in achieving an idiot like this?

Yes, I think it's too easy to say it's the fault of the press, but you can see in the story the kind of poignant and important story of the vital importance for journalists to do things right . And how we all left for a story we want to hear, and the story told by Elizabeth was a story we all wanted to hear: we can improve health care, we can make it more transparent, we can do less dear, we can make it less invasive. And by the way, this is a business run by a young, predominantly male Silicon Valley woman who is not only a CEO but also an entrepreneur and an inventor.

You want this story to be true, and I think about it a lot, both as a content creator, organizing conferences and podcasts, I always try to overcorrect the fact that I speak almost exclusively to Whites. We always try to make people who are not white in front of a camera, on a podcast, on all magazine covers, on a role that it occupies. Do you think she knew how she occupied this niche?

Absolutely, and even in case of defeat, she was very conscious of playing this role, because when my producer, Jessie Deeter unofficially interviewed her at the beginning of the record – you know, we were trying to convince her to associate with her – she said. that she was the victim and that the only reason she had fallen was because she was a woman and people were following her and that many Silicon Valley men could make mistakes and that they would be forgiven and they would come back but if you are a woman, you have only one chance.

How much do you think this argument is true?

I do not buy it in this case. Again, it's very … I think the idea the argument is right, and that's an argument I want to believe, in that I think we're tougher on women, and we often give men a hobby that we should not, as the idea of ​​being "difficult", and for a woman as a cadre who could be "acute", no?

But in that case, Elizabeth really took an ethical line that should not have been crossed, that is, she had a blood test technology that was not working very well, but she She needed money, she had to go ahead, she needed the support of Walgreens. She went to live and began to allow the use of Theranos devices on real patients. Now, you talk about life and death because they were doing tests for problems like hepatitis C and syphilis, as well as for various blood values ​​that cause some people to go to the emergency room because they were convinced that they were in trouble.

So in this case, if Elizabeth was in R & D mode, agree, I accept this argument. But I do not accept the argument in this case because it endangered real lives.

When the stories of Carreyrou appeared in the Journal, I remember that many people in Silicon Valley immediately responded: "It's the press trying to demolish an inventor and an entrepreneur, and you, you love negative stories. ". was a reflexive reaction from them, and then they stopped because it was a simple fraud.

That's true.

But there has been this permanent tension between wanting to build a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, any entrepreneur in reality, but more specifically technicians, and finally, they stumble and there is this story that pleases the press. Do you want to tell stories about people who are hugely successful, or is this kind of twisted tale like this just more interesting?

Well, I am drawn to stories of abuse of power and deception. But over time, you're doing enough and you really want to tell stories about people who do good and who really do it.

In fact, I'm looking for these stories now because I think it's important. We are trying to save the planet, would not it be great to tell stories about people who really do good? But I think we live in a time when societies have become so powerful in relation to the state – and compared to the fourth state, which is really under attack – that they are able to promote dramas so really dangerous, and I think right now, it's important to govern against these fictions.

There is at least … we see it now with Elizabeth Warren and other people, we have gone in one way or another to worship Silicon Valley to say, "All of these guys are allies against us. " class of people who make this argument. Do you think she would have had the same success in fraud in 2019 as it did five years ago?

No, I think it's a vague, I think your argument is well understood. Listen, now we have a chief fraudster as president of the United States. So I think we're all a little more sensitive to the idea that people who are lying violently.

Or numb at that.

Or numb, maybe. But I think we do not accept it with the conviction that when a company tells you that it is good, we do not necessarily believe it.

One of the other distinctions that Silicon Valley people made during the first year or so after she was discredited was: "She was not really Silicon Valley". She dressed like Steve Jobs, she was photographed and myself. I'm going to ask you about it in a moment, but if you look at who invested in it, it's not Silicon Valley, there was not any kind of VC brand, it had no VC at standard biotechnology. They were rich people like Rupert Murdoch, and she then had a board of directors consisting of generals and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. "She is not of us, do not blame us."

Yes, I accept it to a certain extent. It is true that a number of technology savvy investors have not invested in Elizabeth Holmes, but she has been helped by big names such as Larry Ellison to give her confidence.

And the argument is that someone like Larry Ellison would make an early bet on someone who looks …

Of course, making an early bet, and it does not matter, is like going to the track and betting on an odd 50-1 shot.

And sometimes you bet on your friend, sometimes on your child's friends.

Yes, and then, what is the million here or a million there?


But she was adept at using this idea over time to persuade other people to join her, but I would say that Elizabeth Holmes' story fits perfectly into the context of American capitalism, and is one of the reasons I chose to tell the same story. The story of Thomas Edison being part of the story of Elizabeth Holmes, it was the original guy who was pretending.

Yeah, you point out that he did a lot of amazing things, and then he also invented a lot of things.

Well, and fortunately for him, or luckily for us, when he said that he had invented the incandescent light bulb, it was really not ready for prime time, that 's it. was really bullshit, but he was simulating tests to convince people that he was ready, he appealed to reporters in his company so that they continue to write good stories.

In the Elizabeth Holmes case, it was so important that journalists write good stories, is not it? So he did all those things, but at the end of the day he made to make it work and that made it very different from Elizabeth Holmes.

And there is this beautiful symmetry, correct? Because she calls her machine Edison?

Yeah. Well, that's what pushed us down that path. That's why we started to take this path. Edison. Why did she call her Edison? So we started to investigate and learn more about Edison. But curiously, with respect to all the parallels with technology … His ethics, "False until you do it," is rooted in Silicon Valley. There is an aspect of Elizabeth Holmes that is very common. Move fast, break things. The disrupter. All that. And she is impregnated with this ethic. Many veteran venture capital firms in Silicon Valley have not invested in it. And all this is true.

Rupert Murdoch has invested $ 125 million in it without ever consulting audited financial statements, which I find breathtaking. But it also tells you something about investing in capitalism and whether these things are really rational or emotionally based.

She is allied with Edison and the myth of Edison, and more precisely with Steve Jobs.

Oh yes. So, there are many …

Again and again, "I want it to be like the i …". I do not understand why you would want a blood test machine at home, but other than that, she is wearing a black turtleneck that I have not seen. Realize that until you report it halfway through, you have this incredible footage of her making these Apple style documentaries created by Errol Morris.


Who has done a lot of this work for Apple and it's literally no accident. They wanted to imitate that.

She had hired a guy named Patrick O Neil who had been at Chiat / Day and had benefited a lot from the Apple account. Patrick somehow designed the Theranos look, both in terms of exterior consumerism but also in terms of how they would design their building, how they were going to design the look, how they were going to design the way they were talking about it. The company, to invent the form and the sensation from the bottom up. And it was very jobs-ian in his way. Steve Jobs was very rigorous about Apple's presentation, design, and so on. He was a great storyteller and salesman.

It's worth noting, however, that the only lesson she's ever learned from Steve Jobs is what Steve Jobs ultimately – especially Steve Jobs 2.0, the Steve Jobs who invented the iPod – learned of his failures. The failure of NeXT is the success of Apple 2.0. And at that time, he surrounded people like John Rubinstein and Avie Tevanian, one of the first investors in Theranos, before turning against him. And Jony Ive. People who wanted to say no to him. And she surrounded only yes men. And when people started to say no, she marginalized or turned them.

The last time I spoke in this building, you had a documentary Steve Jobs. It's a rather critical look at him and there are so many parallels between this film, this story and this one. These are very different stories, but it's still a very critical look at someone.

In this case, that's all for the fraudster. In the movie Steve Jobs, you say, "This is a man who has done incredible things and is deeply flawed.I want to focus on these flaws." The Steve Jobs movie is filled with images of Steve Jobs on his life. You forget how much it was filmed, how much it was documented. Why do you think it's been documented so copiously? It's almost as if she made the documentary for you. I know she did not do it.

She made the documentary in which she wanted me to invest and I used it for different purposes. But I think for her, it was as if she imagined there was a camera in the garage with Woz and Steve Jobs. So now it's my garage and we're going to film it from start to finish. So, she hires Patrick and she hires Martin Scholer, this great photographer, to photograph her, and she hires Errol Morris to do the documentary. And until the end, I think that there was a period when, if I understood correctly, Errol would continue to do so and to make a little idea of ​​it to Elizabeth until Elizabeth noticed that she was not going well eventually.

But yes, she wanted … She was the writer, director and producer of her own story. And it was really a story created, a neat story, up to the makeup and the wardrobe. His black turtlenecks, dark red lipstick and thick mascara around his eyes never blinked. It was a costume for a drama she played in real time to be able to give that emotional valence to the story that is so important to get people to sign up.

And one of the other parallels with the movie Jobs and this one is in the movie Jobs, I think the most telling is this testimony.


Where he has problems to backdate stock options.

That's true.

And he is extremely disdainful of the lawyers who lay him down, he is incredibly angry at being forced to sit in this room to answer questions and he feels sorry for himself. And in this film, you also have this incredible sequence of testimony. How do you think of putting together such things when there are so many sequences?

Well, there's one interesting thing I want to say about this, is that HBO – we, then HBO, supported us – did everything to get a lot of the video deposition and we managed to 'get. And we used a little bit in the film, a testimony with George Schulz in particular, but also a bit of Elizabeth and Sunny Balwani.

A kind of flicker.

Taking the fifth. Or be sworn. But ultimately, we decided in the Jobs movie, the pictures of the statement are incredibly revealing of Jobs as I think it's often been. It was the mask revealed in a moment. In this case, we finally decided not to include most of the footage from the testimony because we thought it was more revealing to show how Elizabeth wanted to be presented, to show her film so that you could see how she wanted to sell her own story.

Right. Again and again, you see her as she wanted to introduce herself, then you meet someone like a Tyler Schulz who says, "That's what was really happening."

Yeah. The difference between what Tyler … Tyler had a great distinction. He called it the difference between the world of carpet and the mosaic world. The mosaic world was the laboratory world where nothing worked. Everything was broken. And the world of carpet was the executive suite where Elizabeth would hold and convince even Tyler – who knew how things worked badly in the tile world – but it would come back to the carpet world and after a 10-minute conversation with Elizabeth, it would be full of dreams and visions of how it would change the world. He would then come back to the tile where he said to himself, "Oh my God, that could not be further from the truth."

And his grandfather, George Schulz, I mean … One of the most poignant stories in this film is that George Schulz would not really believe his grandson about the nature of the inside fraud. By then, Elizabeth had become so insane. In some ways, I think this story is about a problem I was talking about in the film about Scientology, the prison of conviction.

Once you have committed …

Once you are engaged, it is very difficult to get out of this cell even if the door is open.

Yeah. So you have this footage that she provided to you, not intentionally. The pictures you made of interviews with people directly involved. And then you mix it with recreations here and there, right?


Here is a vial that falls to the ground. This is what it was like when the woman comes out of the office and is given deposition papers with her temporary address, so she is really scary. When you are … I imagine you do it in a lot of your movies, but with this particular movie since it's about fraud, recreation, are you nervous about it? 39; idea of ​​inserting sequences that are a recreation or dramatization?

Not really. I think in a way you play with layers of deceit, and you create what I think are stylized moments that actually serve as memories. Or, in some cases, these are stylized moments that serve to show in a fun way what can happen inside the machine and that you can not really see. And I think there's enough distance, so it's not like we're trying to fool people. We try to put them in the psychological or mental mind of what could be this moment.

You mentioned HBO a few times, we mentioned Richard Plepler. You made the premiere of this film or there was a big screening and a party for that movie, literally the night Richard Plepler said, "I'm leaving HBO." What does it mean for you to work with HBO or not to work with HBO? He was a champion of your work.

Hard to say. I mean, I've talked to Casey Blois and all the other regular HBO people and they all say, "We're optimistic about telling these stories in the future, so let's keep going." That's great. I mourn the death of Richard. I think that he was a unique individual with respect to his ability to actually invest in understanding the territory in which a particular documentarian was throwing himself and to actually struggle with the content, as well as to support and promote the creators of the chain, as well as being a kind of skilled impresario, which is important. As much as we talk about fraud with Elizabeth Holmes and how promotion or over-promotion can lead you to an area of ​​deception and lies …

You can do a show.

You can do a show and the show is good. You have to get people to pay attention. We are all in an ADD world where we are bombarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as evening news and New York Times updates every 10 minutes. So you have to find a way to call people and tell them it's important to pay attention now.

And he was very good at working with people like me and the press in general, right?


He was kind and knew how to give us things that we needed and were useful. There are plenty of people who know how to do that. I'm just … and that's maybe why, but all the stories that came out right after he left said that he was special and different and that it was the special juice that made so that HBO goes out and the guys at AT & T, the telco guys who bought this, do not get it. If you talk to them, the AT & T guys say, "He's really good at doing what he did, but …"

"We are doing something different now."

Moreover, he is not the only one who can talk to talent.


It's technically possible, right?

Yes of course.

You have worked with many other people.

Sure. And there were other talented executives. I'm just … Richard was particularly talented. And you know, at a certain point, as I run a small business, we do a series of projects, which I participate in and others I do not, but one of the things that we try to promote in our society is that we do not do something for society. The company is there to celebrate the talents of a group of people. So we invest in people. We are not trying to engage people in some kind of rigid business philosophy.

So I suppose you will certainly continue to work with HBO if they offer you a deal?

Sure. Absolutely. As I said, I know that Casey is a very creative and intelligent guy who has done a remarkable job, and the two women, I also mourn the passing of Sheila Nevins. She decided, she retired a few years ago, a few years ago, I guess. But I know Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller at HBO, it's great. Very knowledgeable executives who really know what they are doing. And honestly, there is also a kind of back office, including the HBO back-legal office, which has provided considerable support.

You did a Scientology doc, as you mentioned.

They really supported us in a very powerful way. Et même sur celui-ci, je pense, nous nous sommes assurés que nous avions fait de bonnes lois lorsque nous sommes allés après les dépositions, les dépositions vidéo dans cette affaire, afin de pouvoir les rendre disponibles. Nous n’avons pas fini par les utiliser dans le film pour des raisons esthétiques et créatives, mais c’était un excellent service, je pense.

Yeah. Et elle professait toujours son innocence pendant que vous réalisiez ce film, n'est-ce pas?

Tout au long de. Profitant non seulement de son innocence mais du fait qu’elle a été victime.

Yeah. Avant de commencer, nous parlions du documentaire du Festival Fyre et j'aimerais que vous en voyiez au moins un pour pouvoir vous en parler.

Je dois les vérifier.

Mais l’un des aspects les plus frappants de cette affaire, c’est qu’ils ne sont pas parallèles… c’est à certains égards parallèles. Mais dans les deux cas, quand vous pensez à un fraudeur, vous pensez à quelqu'un qui prend l'argent et court. Dans son cas, elle est restée coincée.

Elle l'a fait.

Elle était là quand il y avait des milliards, elle était là quand ça vaut zéro, elle a maintenu son innocence. Le gars de Fyre Festival est littéralement sur l’île alors que tout est en train de disparaître, insistant pour que tout se passe bien. Et voici ce que je voulais vous demander: vous passez du temps – vous expliquez évidemment comment la fraude s’est produite – mais vous essayez d’expliquer pourquoi la fraude s’est produite, pourquoi elle a fait cela, et débattre de cela est-il juste de la cupidité ou il y a autre chose?

Yeah. Je ne pense pas que c’était de la cupidité. Je ne pense pas que ce soit Bernie Madoff. Je pense qu'elle croyait en la mission. Je pense aussi qu'elle croyait en l'idée de qui elle était, non? Mais parfois, ce n’est pas la bonne nouvelle, c’est en fait la mauvaise, car c’est une variation de la fin qui justifie les moyens, non? Et je pense qu'elle a pu …

"Je vais aider les gens, donc si je dois faire quelque chose ici, faire une solution de contournement ici, ça va."

C'est vrai. Et je pense que cela a également pu … cela lui a permis de mentir plus efficacement, car elle croyait le faire pour une bonne cause. Ou elle s'est convaincue de ne pas mentir du tout. Et j'ai eu de l'aide sur ce front. Une des choses qui m'a intéressé lorsque j'ai commencé à faire ce film était toute la psychologie du mensonge. Et non seulement mentir aux autres, mais mentir à soi-même afin de pouvoir mentir plus efficacement aux autres. Dans le film, la voix d’un homme du nom de Dan Ariely, économiste du comportement très fidèle à la tradition de ces hommes, Danny Kahneman et Amos Tversky, a été célébrée par Michael Lewis dans son dernier livre.

Et il est tout au sujet de l'irrationnel. Il a écrit un livre intitulé Comme prévu irrationnel, comment nous réagissons de manière très irrationnelle au marché et aux problèmes de l’offre et de la demande, et ainsi de suite. Mais il approfondit aussi profondément l’idée de tromperie et d’auto-illusion. Et l'une de ses expériences les plus merveilleuses est quelque chose qu'il fait avec des dés. Et l’expérience va un peu comme ceci: vous donnez un dé à quelqu'un et vous dites: «Écoutez, nous allons vous payer en fonction de la façon dont le dé est produit. Si cela arrive six, vous obtenez 6 $. Quatre, 4 $. Peu importe. »Mais il saute un peu dans la balle et dit:« Avant de lancer, pensez à votre esprit, mais ne me dites pas: pariez-vous sur le haut ou le bas? Les six ou l'un? Et roule. Alors, ils roulent et les gens écrivent leurs partitions et ainsi de suite.

C'est auto-rapport.

C'est l'autodéclaration. Et il s'avère que les personnes à la recherche de leur propre profit sont incroyablement chanceuses, ce qui signifie qu'elles trichent. Et puis ils les ont mis sur le détecteur de mensonges pour dire: «Eh bien, as-tu triché?» Et ils ont dit non. Et bien sûr, le détecteur de mensonges détecte immédiatement le mensonge.

Ensuite, ils font une deuxième expérience, et c’est la partie la plus intéressante. Dans la deuxième expérience, ils disent que tout l'argent ira à une organisation caritative au profit des orphelins. Et vous vous attendriez à ce qu’ils trichent moins, mais en fait ils trichent plus. Et quand ils les mettent sur le détecteur de mensonge, le détecteur de mensonge ne peut pas détecter le mensonge. Why? Parce qu’il n’ya pas de tension entre cette idée de, d’une part, je veux plus d’argent, mais je pense que c’est faux.

Je ne fais de mal à personne.

«Je ne fais de mal à personne. Encore plus, je vais bien. So, what’s the problem?”

I ask people, I have asked people for a while in Silicon Valley, particularly investors, so much money is sloshing around. Even well-intentioned people you think would be screwing up left and right and burning holes. Not to mention, just the cross-section of any population, you’re gonna have fraudsters there. There have not been that many stories about outright fraud and deception, right? There’s this one, the Fyre Festival doesn’t really count, although it sort of does. I know some VCs who met those guys and said, “I don’t know how you were deceived, you could figure this out in a second.” As an aside, there was a …

There’s not that many stories …

There was a VC who it turned out was absconding with everyone’s money. But there are not that many stories coming out of the Valley given all the billions of dollars that have gone to big companies and small guys with an idea on a napkin. Why do you think we haven’t heard those stories?

Well, some of those companies fail early, probably. But I think the other thing I would say is we make hear these stories about lies in Silicon Valley, and that’s another interesting point that Dan Ariely comes up with. He consulted with Elizabeth Holmes. He’s actually in the story. But he also does a lot of consulting.

She brings him in to sort of boost everyone’s … “The morale is not good here, can you help us?”

It’s funny that why she brings him in. She brings him in because in the wake of Carreyrou’s articles, yeah, motivation is in the pits. And she thinks, “How can I motivate?” The problem is not that there’s a bad technology, the problem is …

“Can we message our way out of this?”

These people are insufficiently motivated. They’re not trying hard enough. So, she brings them in to motivate the employees. Nothing to do with her problems. But I think he gives talks to Silicon Valley and does a lot of talking to corporate groups, and a lot of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs would always tell them, “Look, Silicon Valley is all about technology and technology doesn’t lie.”

Well, let’s think about some of the lying that’s going on in Silicon Valley. What about that whole story with Apple and the battery in the phone? Were they being honest with us upfront? No, not really. That was something we just discovered. Now we’re learning about all the stuff that Facebook and Google were doing with our data, so it’s not fraud. But it’s a kind of lying that I think tech companies feel they’re entitled to do because they’re doing good.

It seems like you could do nothing but Silicon Valley docs now for a while. What are you working on next?

I think Silicon Valley is where a lot of the power is. I’m exploring some other stuff. There’s a film I’ve just done on a completely different topic about a conflict between Russia’s richest man and Vladimir Putin as a way of looking at how Russia works.

That seems like an easy, low-stakes thing for you to do.


I can’t wait to see that. At one point, you said you were gonna do an actual feature film?


For Amazon. Is that still going?

There’s a couple of things. I mean, of course, I’ve done some dramas. I did this series called The Looming Tower with Larry Wright and I directed …

That was on Hulu, right?

That was on Hulu. And I did an episode of Billions, which was kind of fun.

Really? Which one was that?

It was season two, I believe. And it was the one about the high-stakes poker game.

That was great! That was great. Gotta go back and rewatch it.

Yeah. There are a couple of features that I’m interested in doing and also some other dramatic series that we’re developing that I think would be good. It’s fun to inhabit that world. I’m not one who’s like, “Oh, now I can jump to drama and I won’t have to do documentaries anymore.” I love doing documentaries. But there are things sometimes you can do in drama that you can’t do in docs and vice versa.

I will watch anything you make and especially I love Billions. I’m gonna go back and rewatch that episode. Alex, thanks for your time.

Thanks so much.