Magazine article Filmmaker

Legacy

Magazine article Filmmaker

Legacy

Article excerpt

storyteller

stórě tela

noun

1. a person who tells stories

2. a liar

I thought we'd take a quick detour into something that came up during Bradford Young's interview last issue. I feel like so many of the ideas he talked about warranted their own dedicated roundtable conversations, but one thing that really struck me was the notion of legacy: the idea that what we do, here and now, has a far greater shelf life than any of us may want to accept. And this doesn't just apply to people with kids. We all are constantly weaving the very social fabric that connects and defines us, and that goes the same whether you are a politician in Washington or a wood carver in Bemidji.

For filmmakers, especially those of us doing this to actually make a living, this idea of discussing legacy is a slippery slope, so I thought it would be perfect for the column. I accept that I'm putting myself in the line of fire, and I'm by no means proselytizing or passing judgment. I simply want to call attention to how powerful a touch we all have as content creators and that maybe, just maybe, there's a responsibility there. That script may be your personal story, but your film is an IV injection straight into the bloodstream of all humanity - or, at least, those with access to Netflix. I'm calling out producers and directors to stop for a second and look at what we're all contributing to the collective consciousness. With every new TV show, documentary or movie, we're adding another stroke to a canvas: a picture of who we are as an industry, as a community, as a people. And we influence, by and large, how honest that painting is. Not only are we social commentators, but the rest of the world is consuming what we put out there. And we're either serving McDonald's or Gracias Madre. Or something in between.

If you looked through my IMDb, there would be more than a few titles I'd strug- gle to justify as heirs to my legacy. Glorifying - and capitalizing on the portrayal of - violence, hatred, racism, drug use, perfidy and infidelity is pretty common practice in our industry. Our heroes on the screen regularly overcome the challenges they face with these "tools." And audience members soak up our images like sponges, using entertainment to, for a few minutes anyway, distract themselves from real life and project themselves onto such behavior. Eventually they desensitize, and subsequent doses need to be stronger to maintain the high. Not that long ago, early audiences allegedly were shocked and upset watching a film of a train arriving at a station. Now the sky, and often the universe, is the limit to how far we'll push sensationalism to get someone to click the buy" button. Our heroes" have to become more sensational, too. Look at Frank Underwood.

I'm not just criticizing the entertainment sector. Art-house films can be just as bad. When you make a film disturbing in its portrayals of violence or hate you are still contributing to our collective painting of humanity. You are putting that hate or that violence on a pedestal to be acknowledged, witnessed or beheld - above other attributes and other stories we may have. And you stand to gain from that transaction, for your wallet, your career or your ego. When that film reaches such darkness, as true as it may be, often you are pushing away the very people who need to see it. 12 Years a Slave is a hauntingly beautiful, upsetting and important film, but I doubt many KKK supporters have heard of it, let alone watched it. …

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