The Duties of a Filmmaker

picThis morning I was curious about the changes in the film industry based on the generational shift in business. The shift is hard to describe, but instead of handing numerous projects over to millennial filmmakers, Hollywood is still making most of the films with more experienced directors and producers.

I googled to learn what new filmmakers think their duties are and was surprised to read about tasks and software. There were no articles about crafting great stories in regard to a filmmaker’s duties. Nor was there anything I could find about the filmmaker’s core responsibility—entertaining the audience, while exploring the human condition.

Film is an emotional medium, which suggests a plethora of articles about how filmmakers create those proverbial roller coaster rides for the audience, but again there were few articles educating millennial filmmakers on how to build the emotions of the audience.

Story is king in both the emotional arena and in the exploration of the human condition. Story is also pure entertainment that opens the eyes and hearts of the audience to consider the filmmaker’s message. But again, there was little about how a millennial filmmaker could craft a story that changes the lives of its audience.

I think Steven Spielberg summed up the core problem well:

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

I’m not suggesting that filmmakers take classes on film and story theory. But I do advocate that new directors have as many diverse life experiences as possible to create a cinematic “tool belt” from which to fashion dynamic stories. I also recommend directors read a minimum of 10 books a year to capture and understand the observations of writers who explore the human condition.

Unfortunately the typical Millennial only reads an average of five books a year, keeping them far from the ability to contemplate various viewpoints, let alone draw noteworthy conclusions about our culture. A director must have a life perspective that integrates with, not isolates from, the culture at large in order to meet the audience where their hearts live and guide them to a more hope filled life.

Directors must also live inside the culture at large. They don’t have to be of it, but they do have to be in it. I worked on a major animation project years ago with a professor that was my exact opposite. I was conservative and she was liberal. I believed in sustaining life at all costs and she believed in “mercy” killings. The list continued ad nauseam.

The project we worked on helped over one million kids learn the basics of chemistry in 12 weeks. Even I fully comprehended the scientific principles in that short time frame. Why? Because I lived in the professor’s culture and in my own, which allowed me to bring all kinds of innovative ideas and new perspectives to bear on the project.

Once released, the professor admitted that she had worked with several liberal directors that were unable to simplify here complex teachings into simple animations. None of the previous solutions shared truth in a logical manner. She understood that it was my diverse knowledge and experience that made me the right director for the project.

She shared how much she grew as a person from the experience and offered her future services for free. She was willing to do anything for an opportunity to collaborate again. And, she started to rethink her position on a few controversial life issues.

Directors must be able to enter the worlds of other people and capture the essence of the person’s “why.” He must also thoroughly think through how to thread his message in and out of the entertainment elements of a story. These techniques allow the director to come along side of the audience and draw them from their viewpoint to his by the end of the film—fulfilling the duties of the director.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Re-Messaging Counts—Even Fake News

rosieA few months prior to our last presidential election, a group of performers made strong statements that if Trump won they’d leave the United States. Since Trump did win, none of the performers left the country. Instead they found yet another way to get their message out to the people ad nauseam.

Barbara Streisand made sure people knew she had a mental breakdown because of Trump. Miley Cyrus shared her profound need to die. And Rosie O’Donnell spoke of her great fear of seeing America go back to the Stone Age. George Clooney, Amy Schumer, and numerous other Hollywood performers chimed in with their ideas to have the entire motion picture industry go on strike until Trump resigns.

“We’re calling for a general strike that would include every single person involved in making motion pictures in Hollywood, starting with the actors and celebrities themselves and encompassing companies in charge of making props, movie memorabilia and even souvenir shops,” a spokesperson for the group told The New York Times. “It’s about time people understood that we’re the ones with the power and that the president is there to serve us, not the other way around.”

Asked to elaborate on why the group is targeting Hollywood out of all the industries in the country as their bargaining chip, the spokesperson argued that Hollywood “is, simply put, the base of the entire modern American culture.”

The Rightists, who bills itself as a “hybrid” site that publishes articles containing a mixture of fact and fiction, wrote this FAKE NEWS article. The article was then rewritten and republished so many times that the satirical sense of the story was lost. The majority of those re-messaging the fake news story were conservatives.

While I’m not sure if the conservatives were re-messaging to show the foolishness to justify their own votes, or if they were ignorant to the satire because they take life way too seriously, or, well, there are several other possibilities that can be discussed, but I want to focus on a different line of thought.

Re-messaging counts!

Anytime we re-message an article, phrase, snapshot or string of 148 characters, we are attaching our approval to the message. We are saying that we stand by what we are forwarding.

Some hope to disagree, especially if they’re forwarding satire. In other words, their goal was to forward the humor of the satire, not the message, which may or may not be picked up on by the receiver. After all, once the satirical piece left the context of the site known for its satire, many interpreted the article as truth, not humor. This suggests we need to attach a short message in front of the forwarded article that says something like, “Hey, this satire made me laugh.”

I’ve received many forwarded warning messages that were proven wrong by Snopes.com and other fact and truth policing organizations. After reading the facts, I wondered why the person who I respected sent numerous others and me the fake news. Most of the time I reply with the facts so the person doesn’t lose face from subsequent forms of re-messaging, but many times its too late.

The rule of thumb that I use when it comes to re-messaging for myself is to consider if I’d compose the message in the same way. If the answer were yes, then I’d send it as is. But, if the answer was no, then I’d want to rewrite the information before passing it along to my friends and family.

The beauty of rewording the message to meet my true viewpoint, since it will be perceived as my view after re-messaging it, is that I can quickly see if the topic is worth the effort of rewriting it. If its not worth my time and energy, then its not worth filling the Internet with more noise. But, if it is of value, then I need to consider what other important factors may have been left out of the article that I can salt into my version of the message.

While this may or may not keep you safe from falling for fake news, it will at least put your spin on the information. Then when people assume you stand behind what you forward, they will actually know your view.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

Pro-Lifers Gift Abortionists through Bad Communication

scales of justice_gavelThe courts ruling on the Texas case yesterday was a huge win for abortionists. It was such a big win that the news anchor I watched no longer used the words “Pro-Choice”, but “Abortionists.” The goal of the Pro-Lifers was to attach so many medical regulations to abortion clinics that most would be forced to close down for lack of funds. This naturally backfired and made a woman’s access more important than the quality of her surrounding medical standards.

Pro-Lifers were winning the battle in the days when the argument was about killing unborn babies. Once the argument shifted to protecting the mother’s right to determine what surgeries she will or will not have, Pro-Lifers lost the battle. The only way they could win the battle is to shift the focus back to the babies. But instead, their strategy was to limit a woman’s access to abortion clinics, which is now illegal.

In an earlier blog, I suggested that Pro-Lifers should stop their wrong messages and not go back to battle until they know what and how to communicate a winning message. Some people were upset at me for suggesting that the activists should stop and reflect. They didn’t understand that wrong messages or bad communication could bring about a more solidified win for their opponents, which happened yesterday.

Had Pro-Lifers taken time to rethink their position of fighting for women, and instead fight for babies, they would have noticed a growing vegan movement. Social media is slowly increasing the visibility of Vegans fighting on behalf of animals who can’t defend themselves. Their campaign is about protecting anything with a heart.

This growing movement demonstrates the importance of knowing what battle to fight and with what message it should be fought. If you’re trying to protect the heart of the unborn then the battle must be about the heart of the unborn. The message should not be about the woman’s right to give it birth or not.

Pro-Lifers aren’t the only group sending bad communication. Christian films do the very same thing, while Marvel’s Captain America sends a clear, positive message about truth, morals and the conservative way of life.

I’ve never found a Christian producer who will tell me why he proudly sends the wrong message in film after film. Nor can I find a person with funds that is willing to invest in a moral film with the right message, as they are too busy supporting Christian films that use bad communications.

To send the right message, we first must know the argument at hand. If it’s a circular argument, it is not a battle that can be won. But if the logic is sound, just off a bit or twisted, then a properly positioned message can correct its course. It’s not rocket science, yet professional communicators seem to be so set on their vision that they can’t adjust based on market perception.

It’s no wonder there is so much noise in our society today – Too many well-meaning people chasing after political rhetoric. Let’s focus on what is truly important and learn how to communicate it today.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers