2011 Was Quite a Year

Happy holidays

This year will one day be seen as a critical juncture in the project of world democracy. Citizens across the globe spoke out against state corruption, dictatorship, lack of civil rights, the squeezing of the 99% in the name of false austerity, egregious corporate greed, and the broken situation that many of us are in. Governments and companies have reacted in typical fashion, largely trying to beat the crowds into submission, pen them up, or paint them as freaks. But we need to pay attention to these movements. As film professionals, we are in the same boat.

Most of us didn’t get into making movies because we thought we’d become moguls. But I’d bet most of us (myself included) thought we might be able to at least make a living at our craft. Sadly, that has become harder and harder. Working below the line on indie films means watching your salary shrink year after year. Forget about taking a salary as a writer, director or producer. The unions and guilds are stuck in a constant battle with corporations that can outspend them on lawyers and workarounds, and still make money. Distributors are outsourcing a lot of their work to producers and directors, which will have the long-term effect of slowing down independent production (you can’t really create your next project while you’re trying to distribute the current one).

During economic down times, people who work in the arts and entertainment are looked at as expendable. Why spend money on that when we’re lagging so far behind other countries in education? But when presidents talk about education, they discuss mathandscience. They rarely talk about the root skills that scientists utterly depend on to actually do science – verbal and written communication, problem solving, logic, spatial / temporal analysis, visualization, patience. Where can you learn those things? In art, music, and writing classes.

In addition to scientists, all people look to media to help them get through their day, to inform and inspire them, to relieve their stress, maybe even to change their lives. So we have a role to play in this world.

Which brings me back to the world democracy project. Wherever you are, in whatever way you can – by donating some time, money or resources, going to a demo with your camera, spreading the word, incorporating the themes into your next project – try to support the Occupy movement and its affiliates. This is not about politics. This is about what matters to us as a society. They are asking the real questions of the 21st century. How can we all live sustainably, with dignity and respect? How can we have some say in our lives rather than have them be pressed upon us by economic, gender, racial, age, and citizenship status inequality (to name a few)? In other words, how we can we create and live our life story, instead of having them handed to us like scraps from the table? As storytellers, we can both learn and teach in this situation.

Have a fantastic holiday season and new year! Good luck to everyone in the new year with their projects!

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