I read an article about a new movie a few weeks ago that got me thinking about societal issues, trends and how they’re used within a production, whether it be film, an advertisement or corporate video. It’s no secret that films have been used to convey messages for years – whether they be about various world issues, a scandal, conspiracy, or virtually anything that garners an ounce of media coverage. Most of these films revolve around politics and war, such as The Hurt Locker and its focus on the war in Iraq and the effects of PTSD on soldiers. But what about films that focus more on gender stereotypes, same sex marriages and other “controversial issues”, who then use those particular elements to become an advocate and thought leader in that field? When that happens, how do you measure a video’s success, beyond the presence (or lack thereof) of bags and bags of money?
1. Newsworthiness and reception – This category is measured quite differently than box office performance or Rotten Tomatoes rating. Many people view film as a means of entertainment and not a business, but when you work in the industry it certainly gives you a different lens to see through. The messages within a film often become its marketable resources, in addition to the plot and the actors, they can become some of the most newsworthy elements for use at your disposable. Every film has a budget and powerful messages can certainly contribute to the amount of earned media (or free marketing, for simpler terms) a production receives. If journalists are writing articles about a film’s stance on societal issues, they’re less likely to focus on critic’s reviews and more on the message the production conveys, which is often just as valuable. The same goes for social media.
2. Longevity and inspiration – It’s every filmmaker’s dream for viewers to remember their films and videos forever. In a world where there’s a new blockbuster hit every few weeks, it’s easy for productions to lose their popularity shortly after they’re released. The key to being remembered is to execute on your purpose and to make your messages easy to understand for a wide variety of audiences. When filmmakers make new films, they draw inspiration from other artists and create new ideas to challenge or build on the momentum of a thought. Whether or not viewers know it, inspiration is what keeps filmmakers going regardless of the money they make or the awards they win.
3. Education and awareness – Alike many philanthropists, teachers and artists, filmmakers want to feel as if they’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Film may seem like more of an entertainment venture and less of an education piece, but do you think the makers of Cast Away had no intention of educating its audience on the benefits of multi-faceted mental and physical skills to help you survive in the wild? Surely it was just a coincidence. Film has a great way of doing this because it shows us how another human being sees a particular situation through their eyes and in their own way, not how society tells us they think. Bringing up The Hurt Locker again (it’s a great movie, by the way), one of the final scenes shows Jeremy Renner in a grocery store trying to decide what cereal to buy. As he looks around, everything appears to be pointless and he struggles to find a place in a functioning and civilized world. In this very sequence, we learn more about PTSD than we may have ever learned from reading any book or any article about recovering soldiers and their return from war-ridden cities.
For some of you this certainly isn’t an eye opening thought, but it might serve as a reminder of the power that films have to educate consumers on a particular issue with the ability to change their stance. The article that I read was about Neighbours 2: Sorority rising, featuring women in power and microscopic elements of feminism (or lack thereof) within society. I’m not saying it’s the best movie of the year by any means, but I am saying that it did a great job of curating and amplifying some of its key messages to be one of the most memorable, and marketable movies of 2016 so far.