Our film did not get into Sundance. I can’t say I’m not a bit disappointed. It’s hard not to be, though I guess I’m used to it (this was the third attempt). As I’ve mentioned before, Sundance is just one festival of many, but it has also unfortunately become The Great Validator in Hollywood as well. It’s times like these that you cant' get discouraged, and you have to remind yourself that you don’t make films for festivals, you make films for people. And I still think this film will show in a lot of places and make people laugh. My collaborators (two actor-writers) were much more upset, as I think they had been hoping a trip to Sundance would get them some good exposure. I know being an actor is hard and I can only sympathize with them and assure them that we will have success with the film. Of course, if we are universally rejected, it will be hard not to feel like I, as director, let them down.
But life goes on. Last night I went to hear Michael Moore speak in Santa Monica to a packed house of liberals. You could still feel the anger in the room about the election and I am always surprised by the ability of a few to maintain hope (even the far-fetched hope that there will be a recount in Ohio that could reverse the election). Moore did not disappoint; he’s a very sharp guy and most important, a very good storyteller. Even when he was just sharing an anecdote, he had an impressive way of drawing people in, mainly because the sincerity of his feelings is unmistakable. It’s probably no surprise to learn that he is a filmmaker with strong feelings, but there are plenty of filmmakers out there who could fake it if they wanted to. Naturally, he is a complicated guy and I have heard first hand accounts from those who have worked with him that he can be extremely moody and temperamental, a real pain in the ass when he wants to be. Regardless, no other filmmaker has done more for documentaries in the past two decades than he has, and no other filmmaker has had more of an impact on the general public these past three years that he has. So despite his complicated persona, we have to look at the upside: he has become the mouthpiece of millions who feel the same way. And though many may regard him as a pain in the ass, he has had a tangible effect on America and politics.
He made one extremely crucial point last night that I had never thought of, regarding the Republicans and the way they rant against the liberals and “Hollywood.” Moore pointed out that the Republicans are succeeding because they have been able to craft simple messages and powerful images better than the Democrats. In other words, by using good costume designers (putting Bush in jeans), set designers (crafting the Crawford Ranch backdrop) and writers (putting simple phrases in their actor’s mouth), they have been able to out-Hollywood the Democrats. (He also pointed out that Republicans are the ones who push Hollywood stars as candidates: Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono, Reagan, Gomer Pyle, and more!) All the while chastising Democrats for their Holllywood ways, convincing the Democratic leadership that they need to move away from Hollywood and its star power. Moore suggested the opposite: nobody can craft images and compelling stories better than Hollywood, and most important: “Americans love movie stars!” Which is true. We can’t get enough of them. Now they just have to cast their lead actor in the next few years.
The rest of the evening was spent discussing how to fix the current state of affairs in America, the secrecy and corruption of the Bush Administration, and the way the media has let the public down on so many levels. That’s the scariest part of all. (For instance: Did you know Laura Bush killed her boyfriend in high school with her car? Why was that never reported?) When the government no longer has checks and balances (and we are on the verge of that), the only defense left is supposed to be the media. What happens when we lose that too?
I left feeling frustrated and a little optimistic, wondering how I could contribute to this cause in some way. I’m not sure how yet. Maybe it’s through comedy, maybe through drama or documentary. I’m hoping something comes to me soon. I don’t mean to sound too “doomsday”-esque, but it’s hard not to feel like there isn’t much time left to turn things around. For all you writers out there who feel the same way, it’s time to start crafting stories that can change the way the public perceives this administration and our place in the world. Time to start writing.