After the events of the last year, there is a growing realization of how polarizing people’s viewpoints are from across the country and in other parts of the world. Brexit and the U.S. election of Donald Trump put into question what people thought their fellow citizens believed in. What they defined as ‘truth.’ How could we not realize there was this divide growing around the world?
At first it was paralyzing. How can you create anything in such a polarizing environment? What seemed impossible a few months before became real. How can you react to that without polarizing people even further? And what is truth now? How can we create trust when careful editing can allow us to tell any story we want.
We may not trust the news but we still have trust in sitting back in soft theatre seats. Trust the screen as it faintly flickers blue dancing light across our expectant faces. This is where we can find our truth again. We can’t be afraid to challenge the new norm as both makers and watchers.
Who are we making this for?
In this time of post-truth, it’s important to be aware of your audience more than ever. Just as you market products to different audience segments, you have to think that way about your films. Who is this for? In the U.S., we need to not just write for the coasts. We need to create more diverse landscapes the speaks to the middle as much as to the edges. We need to bring to life different perspectives in a way that opens up conversations instead of shutting them down. This is not the time to be patronizing.
We can’t be afraid to create what we believe in. In a time when everything seems political, we can explore how to lean into the emotion more than continue to push agendas or rehash the news cycle. How do we approach what’s happening in a different light? What are some new tactics that will help us reach the core of the issues surrounding us without beating people over the head with it. Genre lends itself well to this pursuit as does historical mirroring.
My current award-winning short film Stitched is about how far people will go to be heard when they feel dismissed and small. Though I wrote it as I contemplated what made people vote for the UK to leave the EU, the emotion of battling to be heard is more relatable on both a personal and political level. It gets to the core of what the divide in the country would be like if it was a divide in a family and gets to the center of how people are feeling right now.
Creating the truth that represents us now
As I embark on crowdfunding for my next short horror film Pay to Stay, I realize how important it is to not only consider the theme at the heart of the film but also the representation in the story. If we want to change the perception of what audiences expect to see, filmmakers have to continue to challenge them. And this allows me to continue to express how I see the world – one that is more representational. One that defines the new norms of our society. The truth is what we define it to be.
And as people take their social media breaks and turn away from the news, they will look more than ever to entertainment to transport them. Let’s not allow them to be complacent. But let’s not force it. Our creation of a new filmic landscape shouldn’t be a drive for press headlines for the Latina action hero or the woman CEO running Wall Street in our latest blockbuster thriller. Let’s just let people be people, on screen and off. But let’s also represent the diversity of the countries we live in until it’s seen as true.