What I Liked This Week: The Defiant Voice

Furious Faithful. Something must have been in the air this week. So much to talk about. Right into it. Attempting brevity. Probably going to fail. Okay. We all know I’m going to fail. But give me a break. It was another long week. The Furious Romantic literally limped to the finish line today.

Well, if there WAS a finish line. Onward.

I really liked this blog post by Marc Schiller, on the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) web site. It’s about “the one business model every filmmaker needs to know” — which essentially boils down to the filmmaker taking more responsibility over his/her fate in business terms. Here and now, this is a necessity, more than an opportunity. Great read. The only thing “missing” from the equation Marc puts forward (which I think is simply assumed in the post) is the importance of quality. It’s easy to look at smartly drawn, accurate equations and think that anything can be plugged into them in order to achieve success. Really, though, I think innovative paradigms like this are about quantifying the business side of Reaching Out Through The Screen. From my point of view, this starts with understanding the ethos behind the economic necessities of winning the day in the face of an all-around brokenness, of which outdated or crumbling business models are a result.

On a similar note, I like The Dogfish Accelerator. This is a brand new program from Dogfish Pictures that is aimed at helping independent film production teams get started off in the industry as entrepreneurs as well as artists. Accepted applicants get seed money from Dogfish in addition to being set up with mentors and other industry professionals during a summer “incubator” program. Rebecca and I applied to the accelerator and also met the Dogfish team at an Undiscovered networking event in Brooklyn this week. Even if we don’t get into the program, I will remain excited about this. It’s a brilliant idea — a forward-thinking solution that aims to disrupt old and dying business models and replace them with a new model of production wherein the filmmakers control their fate — by working (smartly) to control their fate. This is what Rebecca and I are trying to do anyway. This is why we’re here.

I’m excited to see what happens with Dogfish. The films that founder James Belfer has set up over the past few years (Compliance, Like Crazy) are great. The company seems locked in to what people want and need on the independent level right now. That they feel compelled to elevate their mission and draw more like-minded people into their sucess speaks volumes to their commitment to truly addressing the challenges facing the future of the industry. It’s a tangled mess we’re in, and getting out of it is going to require creativity on both an artistic and business level. Because, as we all know, a film is a strange, often contradictory confluence of these two vital aspects of social life. That doesn’t mean art and commerce can’t be reconciled with one another, especially when the barriers of entry in so many industries are being lowered by technology. All we have to do is be patient, think and feel and analyze — and do the work.

Getting back to our roots — I liked this article from The New York Post. It’s about wealthy Manhattan mothers who have been hiring “black market” handicapped tour guides to pose as family members, so that they and their children can jump lines at Disney World. Quote: “This is how the 1% does Disney.” I don’t actually like this.

I liked Angelina Jolie’s op-ed in The New York Times about her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy after a genetic screening revealed that she was at a high risk of developing breast cancer. Obviously, the decision was brave. But I particularly like that she chose to control the message behind that decision and turn it into an advantage for others — by choosing to write the piece so that she could point out both the value of the procedure and the tragedy represented by the relative cost of the screening that lead her to have it. That cost: $3,000 — which is a lot of money to a lot of women and families around the world who simply don’t/won’t/can’t spend that amount to order the same potentially life-saving test.

I liked this article about the resignation of the Republican Director of Hispanic Outreach in Florida, who mentioned in his resignation letter that: “It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today.” I’m glad this man came around. Republicans have been making efforts to court Hispanics after faring  poorly among the Hispanic population in the most recent election. Instead of, say, expanding their general political outreach to include Hispanics (and thus treating them the same way as they treat white people), they treat the voting data as the problem. I could go on forever about this one, so we’ll just move on.

So what’s next? Maybe we could read about House Republicans wasting time and money by choosing to vote for the 37th time to repeal Health Care Reform. Just a fresh reminder that the current incarnation of the Republican party is more concerned with obstructing and sabotaging any type of progress — and with pouring lemon juice over their heaping bowls of sour grapes — rather than doing anything constructive to help the majority of Americans. I don’t really like this.

I liked this article from The Nation, by Farai Chideya, on the problem and consequences of the current demographic breakdown of our country’s journalistic corps. The gist: classes other than the upper class, and colors other than white, are underrepresented. I’m not going to go into detail about why that’s a problem. Chideya does an excellent job breaking the issue down. What I will say is that journalism has unique and special role to play in our society in terms of identifying injustice and raising awareness and spreading information about the failings of the status quo. When the majority of our journalistic corps is made up increasingly of the “elite” and privileged only, the quality and breadth of reporting — and of this crucial oversight — invariably suffers and falls short of fully representing the entirety of the populace. This is an important issue. The underground, populist, unpredictable, “amateur” reporting that rides through the internet, in a meagre attempt to fill the void left by our incomplete journalistic corps — it’s efforts are sometimes noble but they are not enough.

To end on a bright and hopeful note, I also liked this brief article from The Atlantic that asks the question: What’s driving the rise in suicide among middle-aged men? As difficult and sad a topic as this is, I believe we have a responsibility to be thinking about the question. The data suggests that the rise is due to the continued disintegration of the family unit as well as economic stress and strain.

And therein is the central contradiction of contemporary America, Furious Faithful. Times get tough, necessitating action, and, as a rule, we retreat instead. We run away from the problem. Or, in the case of this last article, we do something far, far worse. And the tragedy of it all is that we are together in our dysfunction. We all need more in the way of family, of community. We all need more from the defunct systems of life that have reversed course on us, such that we feed the needs of the system rather than it feeding ours — or rather than both exchanges proceeding perpetually in more-or-less equal measure. No, instead of digging our way out, instead of searching for solutions, we do nothing. We destroy ourselves rather than fight for ourselves.

I’m allowed to be so harsh because I’ve made these sort of mistakes in my own life. I still spend large parts of my day working to reverse the damage I inflicted on myself during the last several lean years. But you know what else I did over that time? I didn’t give up. I didn’t commit fully to the idea that this loneliness, this fundamental dissatisfaction, this void inside me — is completely my fault, and on top of that insurmountable.

Somewhere inside me, a defiant voice refused to go down. I owe that voice nearly everything.

The Furious Romantic returned because I did everything I could — as hard as it was — to bring him back. I’m going to allow myself to be proud of this, and to recommend that more people — especially more of my fellow “white American males” — do the same. Seems like a real man should be capable of doing that.

Yeah. I went there. Balls on the table.

Have a good week.

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