NOT La La Land

PODCAST – NOT La La Land

PODCAST - NOT La La Land

NOT La La Land

By Jacob Krueger

NOT La La Land

I had planned this week to talk about La La Land. But with the new executive order barring refugees, immigrants and green card holders from our country, I want to use this podcast for something much more important.

As filmmakers, writers, actors, directors, producers, executives, we have a sacred responsibility to our audience. Our films and TV shows shape the narrative of this country, and the belief systems of the hundreds of millions of people who see them.

Our movies and TV Shows can shape the world for the better.

Shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, for example, completely changed the landscape for gay rights in America. By breaking the taboos of putting openly gay characters into leading roles, these shows introduced a mainstream audience to a kind of person they might otherwise have judged or feared, and allowing them to get to know them as human beings. They brought gay characters into mainstream living rooms, and allowed people to get to know them and love them.

And by doing so, they changed the world.

And what’s interesting is that these characters that changed the world were far from perfectly depicted. Far from the complex portraits that we’d see in later in the shows that followed like Transparent.

In fact, these shows were rife with cliches and stereotypes, presenting the kinds of gay characters that mainstream audiences expected, embracing and normalizing and humanizing the cliches, rather than fighting them.

In many ways, the flaws of these shows were part of their power. They allowed the shows to meet their audiences where they were, rather than where their writers wished their audiences would be.

Although at that time, putting a gay character in the lead was obviously a political act, these were not written as political shows. They didn’t get up on a soap box and tell people what to think, or demonize their audiences for their view of the world. They simply invited their audiences into the lives of their characters, and by doing so, they allowed millions of people to actually change their views, without even realizing they were changing.

In many ways, the most powerful political movies and TV shows are often the ones that are not overtly political. Because it’s these shows that shape our worldview from the inside, sneaking past our defenses of what we think we believe, and slowly changing the way we view the world.

Which is why I want to implore you, as writers, as directors, as producers, as actors, as artists, as filmmakers, to recognize the power of mainstream Hollywood movies and TV shows.

These movies are not just popcorn movies. These TV shows are not just mind numbing entertainment. These movies and shows are the mythologies that shape our world. Working on us, through subtle repetition, to shape our view of the world. Powerful because they don’t appear political, because they don’t trigger our intellectual defenses.

For years, we’ve dismissed crappy reality programming like The Apprentice as mindless entertainment, not as the storytelling that shapes the worldview of America.

But in the wake of this election, we can now see the political power of even the silliest reality show, to shape the worldview of millions of people. To take an erratic businessman, and shape him into such a powerful symbol of success, that even in the face of countless contradictory facts, for many people that belief cannot be shaken.

People don’t attach to facts. People attach to characters. They learn from characters how to understand their world, how to make sense of their own questions and emotions, what it is to be a woman or be a man, how to make sense of the confusions and challenges of life. They trust characters, or distrust characters, because they connect to them as people, not because of the sum of the facts about them.

People’s political views are not about information. That’s why political campaigns are not about information. All of the information about Donald Trump did not make one bit of difference, and all of the information about Hillary Clinton did not make one bit of difference. It’s the emotional response that creates action.

There is actually neurological research on this. If you tell people that there are thousands of children starving in Africa — which there are — and have been since our parents were children, nobody takes action. But you show people one picture of a boy in Aleppo, and suddenly people want to do something. If you want to move people you must have characters. Without characters, your information means nothing. And without characters that we care about, your information means nothing.

Just like Will and Grace, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, The Apprentice was powerful precisely because it was not overtly political. Because its message was hidden under the colorful candy shell of mindless entertainment. But really what this show was doing was educating a vast number of Americans, who had very little experience with business, that this was what success looked like: power games and “you’re fired!”

Nevermind that, at least in my experience, anyone who has actually started a company could easily tell you that if you tried to run a it like this, you’d be out of business in a month. Nevermind the overwhelming evidence proving the detrimental effects of these kinds of demoralizing behaviours. Nevermind the paradigm shift we’ve seen as the most successful companies in America, (Google, for example), have realized that real innovation and success stems from communication with and empowerment of employees, and not from intimidation and punishment.

Nevermind the multiple bankruptcies, and the many allegations of fraud and lawsuits against Trump’s companies. Nevermind the Yahoo! Finance article showing that Donald Trump would have been 10 billion dollars richer if he ceased trying to run his business 30 years ago and instead simply invested his father’s money in an unmanaged index fund.

Nevermind the fact that even the most ardent Trump supporter would most likely hate being treated this way by their own boss.

The Apprentice offered its own, admittedly far more entertaining, version of reality. And inadvertently taught a vast segment of the population that this was how it worked.

No wonder, then, that even as experts from all parties have looked on in horror at the carnage of firings, resignations, and slash and burn executive orders of Trump’s first weeks in office, so many of his supporters are feeling jubilation rather than terror. They’ve been taught that this is how you “drain the swamp” and “get things done.” And they believe what they’ve been taught, because The Apprentice didn’t come at them with an overt political agenda. Rather, it showed them a version of reality, and allowed them to come to their conclusions on their own.

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my own experience building a company, and the research of countless experts, and the business model of many of the most successful companies in America is built on a flawed premise. Maybe bankruptcies are (as Trump claimed) “smart” for business, and power games and the fear of “you’re fired” will someday be proven to be the best form of inspiration for employees. Maybe you believe that everything I believe is wrong.

I welcome your disagreement with me on the issues. Because I believe that the purpose of art is to create a dialogue. Not to preach to the choir, or to moralize, but to reach out to those who believe differently. To stop trying to win the argument, or villainize the opposing side, and instead try to hear where they are coming from. I believe the job of the artist is to attack your own beliefs, and see if the truth you believe in can withstand the strongest argument of the other side.

That said, I believe that the “you’re fired” philosophy is inherently destructive for companies and inherently destructive for America.

I believe that it’s a positive vision of building something beautiful, rather than the guarded fear of those who might destroy it, that leads to success, whether you’re a businessman, a politician, or a filmmaker.

I believe that’s what our founding fathers had in mind when they build our democracy, and I believe that’s what the best leaders have in mind as they lead. I believe that in order to build something great, you must trust and empower others (even those who think differently from you), and open yourself to the potential of being terribly hurt.

I’ve built my own company, Jacob Krueger Studio around that vision. And at times I’ve suffered those hurts.

But if I was going to build a screenplay about that experience, or around that belief, I wouldn’t just look for the strengths in my argument. I’d also look for the weaknesses, the flaws in my belief. I’d look for the greatest fears of a person who disagreed with me, or my own greatest fears of what might happen if I was wrong, and allow them to come true. I’d put my character in a situation where he empowered the wrong person, and lost control of his own company. I’d explore a time when his or her refusal to fire someone destructive caused him to suffer the worst possible consequences. I’d bombard him with the challenge of competing with other companies that didn’t share his moral beliefs. I’d let everything that could go wrong, go wrong. I’d let him do the wrong thing and be rewarded, and do the right thing and be punished. And I’d see if that truth could withstand that onslaught, or if my belief or the character’s belief changed.

And hopefully, by testing my own ideas in that way, rather than ending up in the same place I’d started, I’d end up in a different place, a little bit closer to the truth.

If you think of a movie like Paddy Chaefsky’s Academy Award Winning Network, you’ll see it does the same thing.

At the beginning of the film, Howard Beale, a famous news anchor, has a nervous breakdown on the air, screaming “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

But rather than leading to his demise, it catapults him to a whole new level of stardom, as all of America literally goes to their windows and starts shouting with him “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

And as you watch Howard Beale’s story and listen to his lefty rants, you pretty soon realize you’re right there with him. You’re mad as hell, and you don’t want to take it anymore either.

Howard Beale’s rants are Paddy Chaefsky’s rants, the true expression of the writer’s progressive political beliefs.

But rather than weighting the argument on his own behalf, Chaefsky weights it toward the other side.

Rather than giving his words to a convincing voice of sanity, he gives them to a total lunatic. And once he’s completely convinced his main character and his audience that those words are right, he marches his main character into the Network CEO’s, Arthur Jenson’s, office, where Jenson delivers one of the greatest monologues in movie history, telling Howard Beale “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature!” and decimating every point that Howard Beale, and you, the audience, have come to believe in, with the most convincing explanation of the conservative point of view you’ve ever heard.

At the end of that monologue, Howard Beale proclaims “I have seen the face of God,” does a total about face, and becomes a disciple of Arthur Jenson’s point of view for the rest of the film.

Chaefsky doesn’t make this structural choice because he believes Arthur Jenson’s argument. He makes it because he believes the truth of his own. He believes that truth can withstand even this, the greatest onslaught of the other point of view. And he’s not afraid to test it.

And because he’s so bold, his argument becomes convincing, not just for those who believe in him, but also for those who believe the opposite way. It allows both sides to shift, just a little, toward something closer to the truth. Not by dismissing the other’s argument, or defriending the other on Facebook, but by hearing their argument, looking for the truth or the fear underneath it, and testing his own beliefs against it.

Along the way, he not only wins multiple Academy Awards, but also presents what sadly turns out to be a prophetic warning about what happens when the press becomes compromised in the way ours has.

You can see the same concept at play in a contrasting way in two of Michael Moore’s films, Bowling For Columbine, the documentary about violence in America that put Michael Moore on the map, and Sicko, his documentary about the US health care system pre-Obamacare.

Even though these are documentaries, they are built like narrative films, with a main character (Michael Moore) who goes on a journey in relation to his strong belief about the world.

Bowling For Columbine begins with the premise that guns cause violence, a premise held by a vast number of progressives like Michael Moore. But along the way, rather than preaching his belief as gospel, Michael Moore attacks it. Just when it seems like he’s proved his point, Michael Moore confronts himself with the greatest possible obstacle: Canada.

It turns out Canada has far more guns than America, but they don’t have our problem with violence. Which forces Michael Moore to look for another explanation, closer to the truth: What if it’s actually fear, driven by the American approach to media, that causes violence?

This realization, arrived at in this shocking way, makes Bowling For Columbine extraordinarily compelling, and hard to disagree with, no matter what you believed when you started watching.

Sicko, on the other hand, takes exactly the opposite approach. While making an extraordinarily compelling case for the need for national health insurance in pre-Obama America, it fails to engage in any meaningful way with the voices of those opposed. As he makes his argument, Moore fails to interview a single American doctor, or find a single person in all of Europe and Canada who is willing to complain about their health care system. As a result, while the argument is totally compelling for those who already believe as Michael Moore does, it’s easily dismissed by anyone who feels otherwise. It’s just too easy to say “yeah, but…”

And this weakness doesn’t come because the merits of Michael Moore’s argument aren’t convincing. It comes because he fails to trust his beliefs enough to truly test them against the beliefs of the other side.

You can see in this a metaphor for what is happening in America right now. The demonization and defriending of anyone who disagrees with us. The refusal to listen, to engage, to test our own beliefs against the facts, to hear the fears and hopes of those who disagree with us. To see them as the enemy.

I keep seeing on Facebook rhetoric about the war for the values of America. And as artists, I think we need to reject that rhetoric. The problem with wars is they have good guys and bad guys. Those on our side get labeled the good guys, and we start to see everything they do as good, whether they are actually good or not. And those on the other side get labeled the bad guys and we start to see everything they do as bad, whether they are actually bad or not. We stop looking at others as human beings. We lose our ability to see nuance. And we lose our ability to question ourselves.

In both politics and writing, the truth isn’t something you ever arrive it. It’s something you search for– getting closer and closer to as you look honestly at all the facts, even the ones that seem to weaken your argument.

The desire to already be in possession of the truth makes the search for that truth impossible. It  makes us blind to what is obvious to those who disagree, and makes them blind to what is obvious to us. It stops us from debating over our analysis of the facts– the foundation of democracy– and instead sets us debating the existence of the facts themselves.

We are all guilty of this, regardless of our political beliefs.

We’ve seen devout Christians support Trump, dismissing his obviously un-Christian actions out of a desperate need for him to be the hero, the Christ figure that could restore their version of America– to see him as entirely good.

And we saw this in Hillary supporters as well, dismissing her manipulations during the primaries and underestimating the obvious dislike that so many Americans felt for her (warranted or not) because they needed her to be the hero that defeated Donald Trump.

When we come at the world from the perspective of war, we can’t see each other clearly. We can’t see our heroes clearly. We can’t see ourselves clearly. And we can’t see the truth clearly. We find ourselves ignoring facts that don’t fit, rather than wrestling with the facts that challenge our beliefs. We find ourselves grasping onto simple answers that make us feel better rather than wrestling with complex ones that force us to reexamine ourselves.

By imagining ourselves to be already in possession of the truth, we lose our ability to actually search for it. Like a certain President refusing to be briefed by his advisors, believing that being a “smart person” means already knowing, rather than trying to find out.

I believe we have been primed for this sad state we find ourselves in by the very failures of the press predicted by films like Network and Nightcrawler. Substituting rehashed press releases for investigative reporting, repeating lies from both sides as if it were balanced, rather than reporting only what can be substantiated with facts.

I believe we’ve been primed for this sad state we find ourselves in by our “if it bleeds it leads” attitude, that makes us feel constantly threatened and afraid.

I believe we’ve been primed for this sad state we find ourselves in by an education system that focuses on standardized tests and regurgitation of the “right” answers, rather than teaching the deductive reasoning that people need to distinguish fact from opinion and draw their own conclusions based on research rather than beliefs.

I believe we’ve been primed for this sad state we find ourselves in by algorithms that filter our news and our friends by our preferences, allowing us to ignore the facts that don’t fit our belief systems, and only hear the ones that do.

But we also have to recognize that we, as filmmakers, have inadvertently helped to lay the groundwork for this sad state of affairs, by creating a mythology in which the good guys are totally good, and the bad guys are totally bad. Where earth-shattering crises can be solved in the last few minutes by simple solutions. Where violence comes without pain, and soldiers fight without psychological wounds.

And I share in this responsibility. Like so many “serious” writers, I’ve turned up my nose at the goofy Hollywood movies and TV shows that everyone was watching, in order to focus on the “movies that mattered.”

And in doing so, I turned over the writing of those movies that shape our American mythology, the movies that hundreds of millions of people go to see, to writers and producers who didn’t even think about the political implications of their storytelling.

And what did we end up with? We created up with a mythology in which black actors are cast mostly as gang-bangers, and Muslim characters mostly as terrorists. And then we wonder why we live in society of fear.

We created a mythology in which every government official is corrupt, and where beefcake values triumph over reason and science. And then we wonder why a vast percentage of our population wants to undo the government regulations we depend upon to protect our health, our land, our food, our water.

We created a mythology where superheroes are totally good, and bad guys are totally bad. A mythology without nuance, without empathy, without humanity. And then we wonder why our electorate can’t seem to talk to one another.

We created a mythology that tells us we’re going to succeed because “we’re the best” without ever showing us what makes us worthy. A mythology that builds xenophobic terror of the other, and promises that a superhero is going to show up to save us, without forcing us to look at ourselves, to question what sacrifices we’ll need to make and what risks we’ll need to take in order to preserve the values that make us who we are.

And then we wonder why so many Americans are delighted with “getting tough” with our enemies, even if it means undermining the very values that make us Americans.

It’s not all Hollywood movies and TV shows that do this. Movies like The Dark Knight have wrestled with the moral implications of The Patriot Act. Movies like Deadpool have presented us with complex heroes whose flaws, rather than their perfection, make them heroic. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy have used their platform to explore how the emotional experience of loss changes us, and what it takes to reconnect with others in the face of the losses we’ve suffered.

And all of these movies have done so without sacrificing one bit of their commercial appeal. And this is precisely what makes them so powerful.

Unfortunately, for every movie that wrestles with that mythology, there are dozens that support it. Not by being overtly political, but by being blind to the way their attempts at “raising the stakes” affect the way we view the world.

A great example is the hugely successful Taken series. In the first installment, a CIA agent, played by Liam Neeson, informed that his daughter wants to go to that incredibly dangerous foreign country… France by his “foolish” ex-wife, instantly flies into a rage, insisting that she doesn’t know what happens in these countries. And of course, no sooner has his daughter landed in Paris than she’s abducted by Muslim slave traders (who nevertheless preserve her virginity), and whose asses he then needs to kick with good old American beefcake values.

What??

Think about the millions of people who saw this film. Who were taught that France, of all places, is a terrorist hotbed, where Muslim men preyed on American girls. In better hands, at least this movie, however xenophobic its premise, could have used its broad appeal to explore the real problem of the sex trade and human trafficking. Maybe if it had, at least one person who saw it might think twice before sleeping with a prostitute, might wonder if the person selling her body was actually a slave, might appreciate the psychological effects of this modern day slave trade on so many women. But no, we’re spared any psychological exploration, just as the main character’s daughter is spared her virginity. We’re promised that some special training and some well placed punches can solve the problem, without ever having to explore how we ourselves have made the problem possible.

I don’t think Taken intended to be xenophobic. I don’t think Taken intended to be political at all. I think Taken, and movies like it, are just looking for good old fashioned high-stakes conflict. To make bank at the box office (the Taken franchise has grossed nearly a billion dollars). The writers aren’t even thinking about the theme. Or what the movie is saying. Which is exactly why the movie is so dangerous.

So this is why I’m begging you– writers, directors, actors, agents, managers, producers, executives, who actually care about the state of the world, to recognize the political power of the stories you’re telling.

It’s not enough to write “Important” movies that preach to the choir. We need to start writing the commercial ones that everyone goes to see. We need to wrap the way we see the world in that colorful candy shell that everyone wants to eat. We need to meet our audiences where they are, rather than where we want them to be.

But we need to push them beyond where they started. To acknowledge what is true for them about the way they see the world, and also to show them the parts they are not seeing. To allow their values to challenge ours, and ours to challenge theirs.

We need to engage with those who see the world differently from us. Stop defriending people on Facebook, and stop trolling those with whom we disagree. We need to stop writing good guys and bad guys, and start writing people. Stop thinking of heroes as good guys and antagonists as bad guys, and start recognizing that everyone sees themselves as the good guys, the hero of their own journey. We need to stop offering easy solutions to complex problems, and start showing the complexity that makes those solutions so difficult.

If we do this, we will not only change the world. We will also tell better stories as we do so.

The following is an (abbreviated) version of a facebook post that was recently posted on my friend’s wall. He’s a celebrated comic book writer who has written many Superman comics. And it was actually this post that made me feel like I had to create this podcast.

Saw you complaining that you didn’t understand how Christians could support Trump, I’ll try to make it simple. Find out which side doesn’t support killing babies, and that’s probably the side that Christians will go with. That’s one reason they support Trump.… also find the side that doesn’t want to bring Orthodox Islam here since those guys kill Christians (and Jews, and anything that mocks Islam)…America already has a political system, and is not looking to be replaced by Sharia Law. So if part of practicing your religion is overthrowing the country you’re in, you can’t do that here. Right now, Islam fits the bill…And while it’s true that not all Muslims are ISIS, most Muslims support ISIS because they follow orthodox Islam. Look it up, I urge you…

I suggest you take a good, long look at this picture before you call anyone a racist bigot for not wanting these murderers here. Orthodox Islam is the exact type of thing Siegel & Shuster’s Superman would have fought against. Superman always fought for “Truth, Justice, and The American Way”…whether spelled out in writing or implicitly.”

What made me most upset about this post were not it’s factually incorrect elements, all of which are easily Googleable. What made me most upset was the failure of people who shared my political beliefs to engage with this mistaken analysis on a respectful, factual level.  

Here are some responses, from friends of my friend, who was brave enough to leave this post up on his wall.

“Wow! You are a such a pathetic moron. Do you have nothing better to do with your sad life than abuse comic creators on Facebook because they don’t agree with your racist and xenophobic beliefs?”

“You are a very sad and awful person. Pardon my english but I’m in angers. Especially when I see your picture.

Fucking Moron.”

“Get your facts straight, you uneducated and small-minded imbecile. Don’t punish others because you couldn’t understand basic biology classes at high-school.”

Now I don’t know. It’s possible that this poster was just an internet troll. But wouldn’t it at least be worth sending him an article or two to get the facts straight first, rather than assuming he was coming from a place of evil?

Because if it were true that most Muslim refugees were coming to America to impose Sharia law and overthrow the country, rather than to escape the very horrors that this person is so appalled by, his analysis wouldn’t be so crazy.

If it were true that “most Muslims support ISIS because they support Orthodox Islam” as this person believes, if it weren’t the case, as any of these sources show, that most of ISIS terror is targeted at Muslims, that in fact the refugees from Syria are fleeing an ISIS led genocide in their own country, it might be sad, but it wouldn’t be crazy to close the borders.
If it were true that we were the good guys, who never used terrorism, and they were the bad guys who always did, it’s true that we might long for a Superman to come to our rescue, and defend “truth, justice and the American way.

But of course that’s not true either.

The truth is more Americans were killed by toddlers in 2015 than by terrorists. But we’re not shutting down the obstetrics wards in hospitals, or even discussing reasonable limits on access to guns.

The truth is, this Princeton University chart based on FBI records of terrorism on US soil shows that more than 90% of US Terrorism is committed by non-Muslims.

The truth is that 16 years ago a bunch of terrorists from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Egypt (all countries excluded from Trump’s Muslim ban, potentially  because of his business ties there) attacked one building in America.

We responded by blowing up an entire city full of buildings in an entirely different country, which even Dick Cheney admitted had nothing to do with 9/11.

If “shock and awe” isn’t a euphemism for terror, I don’t know what is.

The truth is, there’s a long history of Christian violence against non-believers, going all the way back to the Inquisition and the Crusades. The British Security Service recently released their files about Jewish terrorism from the 1940’s during the fight to create Israel. And Christian vs Christian acts of terrorism against abortion doctors, school shootings, mosque shootings, and even a false news generated pizza place shooting could just as easily be used to label Christians terrorists.

But most Christians are no more responsible for these terrorist acts than most Muslims are for the terrorist acts against Americans. Most people, on both sides, are reasonable people.

It’s their leaders who aren’t reasonable. Who manipulate the facts to make them sacrifice their values.

So why am I, as a screenwriting teacher, talking about this right now.

Because I believe that we, Americans, on both sides, are sacrificing our values right now in a way that could destroy our country.

To further quote this Facebook poster.

“Is Trump “Hitler” to you? In keeping with that comparison, are the Muslims Jews then? Because I don’t remember Jews going in and shooting up night clubs, Christmas celebrations, strapping bombs to kids, driving trucks through parades, bombing airports, bombing marathons, and killing people for mocking the Talmud. I don’t remember Jews throwing acid on women for not wearing a hijab, or throwing gays off of buildings…I don’t remember Jews flying a plane into the World Trade Center. I also don’t remember Trump saying he wants to exterminate all Muslims. So Trump ≠ Hitler, Jews ≠ Muslims. Not one bit….”

But of course, Hitler didn’t start by killing 6 million Jews. If he had, it’s likely that no one would have followed him.

He started with boycotting of Jewish shops and registries, barring jews from civil service, barring Jews from practicing law, restricting Jewish enrollment in German schools, putting stars on their arms, restricting them to ghettos. He started with blaming them for Germany’s economic problems (many of which were actually the results of World War 1 sanctions). Even when “The Final Solution” began, the Nazis tried to hide it. They publicly claimed Jews were being “resettled” rather than murdered.

The horror happened in small, “palatable” steps, small “necessary” compromises in morals, not all at once.

America’s reaction, on the other hand, was very similar. We closed our doors to countless Jewish refugees, and sent them back to their deaths, just as we are now doing with Syrian victims of ISIS.

But though the facts may be wrong, and the good guy vs bad guy, Superman vs Supervillian mythology may be dangerous, We also have to acknowledge that the fear is real.

If you are a Christian who believes that abortion is killing babies, it must be as hard to stand by and watch it happen.

But if you believe that women should sacrifice their right to choose whether or not to give birth to children they don’t want or can’t support– if you believe that they should have to sacrifice the security of their lives and of their unborn children’s lives based on your religious belief that even fertilized cells are babies that should be protected– surely we as Americans should be prepared to sacrifice some of our security to protect the lives of fully born children who are fleeing genocide in Syria.

80% of Syrian refugees in the US are children.

Supporting Trump on abortion should not mean supporting Trump in turning back Syrian children to certain death.

His shared belief with yours about abortion should not mean that you support every other action he takes.

Similarly, the fear of terrorism is real. 9/11 was one of the most horrifying events in any of our lifetimes. And though it’s obviously not true that all Muslims are terrorists, it doesn’t change the fact that a very small number of Muslims, just like a very small number of Christians and Jews, do have terroristic beliefs. And though vetting is already extreme, and most terrorism since 9/11 has been home grown, when we live by our values, and resist the urge to close the doors, to kick people out, to protect ourselves from the threat of terrorism by any means necessary, it means we take a risk. We make a compromise. We accept that to help the many innocent Muslims fleeing terror, we will risk admitting the few who wish to perpetrate it.

To deny that risk is to deny what it is to be an American.

Democracy is not supposed to come without a price. Its supposed to be a risk, and values are supposed to be something you fight for, not something that comes without a cost.

We can choose to live in a dictatorship, in which rights can be taken away from a group of people based on the crimes of a few. Or we can live in a democracy, where people are innocent until proven guilty.

We can choose to live in a theocracy, in which some beliefs are acceptable, and others are not. Or we can choose to live in a democracy, in which everyone is free to practice their own religions, even if we disagree with their beliefs.

We can choose the stability of insulation and isolation, or we can choose to live in the chaos of a democracy, where debate depends upon facts and not opinions, where strength grows from difference, and not homogeneity.

This is the story of America. But it is a story we have forgotten to tell.
Writers, directors, producers, agents, managers, actors, filmmakers, artists, our mythology is in your hands. Please take up the pen and tell it.

5 Comments

  1. Constance 3 months ago

    Jacob,
    This podcast is very provocative. You make several great points and I especially
    appreciate that you note your sources, proving that the statements are fact-based.
    We can each be change agents in our own arenas. Thank you for having the courage
    to speak out and provide so much “food for thought”.

  2. Thank you very much for this inspiring podcast! Turning our backs on one another is truly never going to solve a problem! — I also feel reassured that I’m doing the right thing with my screenplay (female-driven action drama in ancient Persia with a very human antagonist) even if it means fighting all the odds of the studio system!

  3. BetteLou Tobin 2 months ago

    Dear Jacob, This is a marvelous dissertation, so true and honest. Your family must be very proud of you. I am twice widdowed of liberal democrats who would be appalled by this president’s actions and his attitudes. I have been the object of that shortsightedness with one of my screenplays. It is based on the real wife of a high-ranking Nazi during WWII, who saved friends and harbored children at her own peril. I was told that no one in Hollywood would touch my story because it glorified Nazis. Of couse it doesn’t; in no way does the script glorify the Nazis or their evil agenda. But because the main character is German, it has been rejected. So much of your speech rings true about poeple’s mindset.
    BetteLou Tobin

    • That is outrageous! Don’t let it discourage you! It sounds like a promising premise for a movie that questions stereotype thinking and I certainly don’t need to remind you of the Oscars list of Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”!!! And if you still hear “But yeah, her husband was a high-ranking Nazi!”, then tell them that I happen to know that even Göbbels bent the rules at his leisure — yes, I’m German. God help me.

  4. Sylvia Marie Llewellyn 2 months ago

    Brilliant, Jake. I had goose-bumps throughout. Thank you for your passion. Although I live in Canada, I fear for my family and dear friends in the U.S. every day now.
    Best regards,
    ~Sylvia

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