Morally Active Movie Producers

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I submit that the happiest men and women engaged in the movie making process are those that are morally active, or conscientious, in their approach to movie and media production. The news reporter in the field, the video editor in the bay, the storyboard artist at her desk, the screen writer at his computer — each has a moral obligation to fulfill in the creation of their work. Those who can acknowledge and recognize this responsibility add a layer of empowerment to their work and will begin to depict possibilities and situations that are scarcely imaginable.

In my church services over the weekend, I was reminded of the wonderful contrast between man and the rest of Creation. Man was given the power to act for himself, allowing him to choose. This was so, to the end that he might choose to govern his actions by moral law rather than by the natural instinctive tendencies, to which the rest of the animal kingdom is subjected.

Turning this application to media production, there are two ways in which to produce media, passively or actively. Adding the moral dimension to the equation, the idea of being acted upon as a filmmaker is a great, but too frequent, irony. Film makers and media producers are creators by their very natures. Given the  raw materials of a situation, it is their job to mold them into a presentation of ideas to communicate with an audience. So how does a media producer, who by nature and definition is a creator, avoid the trap of becoming passive?

Let’s go back to our original observation of man’s ability to not only instinctively react, like all the rest of Creation, but to act. The difference between passive and active is that in passive, merely an observational mode, we are also placed in a position to react. On the contrast to be active is to be creative. Applied to movie making, a film maker who is active in her approach to a subject, will gather all available resources, and then begin to create something new.

We can’t go much further in this conversation without interjecting at this point the need of morality, the true moral order of Heaven, into our creation process.  For without a moral perspective, there is no reason to move beyond reaction, to the greater realm creation.  This may be harder to discern in film making at first, but it is more easily distinguished in the news media.

For example, news reporters are given limited information about a situation and are forced to make quick deductions and to package it into a 1 to 3 minute story.  This is a real gift done successfully, but most often they are subjected to the forces that be and their limited time and information forces them to react to the situation, rather than to act.

I pause for a brief moment to think as consumers what kind of information do we choose to consume: reactionary reports or purposeful presentations?

The idea of a  morally passive approach to movie making could be defined as one in which the film maker feels no moral obligation, nor does she make moral exertions to enrich the story being told. However, more often the passionate film makers come along that are making films which react to a situation, personal grief, or even another film. This isn’t always a malicious reaction either. Many a film is made on the premise of success of a similar film.  These are reactionary films, instead of creative films.

Morally active movie makers are ones who recognize the creative process is truly just that: an active, imaginary, original, never-before-imagined process of looking for the very best in a situation, and being optimistically and fully engaged at all cost, and risking everything for what one knows to be right. That is creation, and it becomes us to act morally in the execution of our media products, however big or small they may be. God will help us to be such.




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Brent is married to a very supportive woman, is father of a large family, and went into business for himself in 2006.

One Response

  1. Randy Astle

    Some really good thoughts here, Brent, and I’m sorry I’m so late catching up with this post. It’s nice to consider these issues–how we can be morally engaged with our work, regardless of its overt content, and what does it really mean to be an active “pro-creative” artist. I suppose that variations enter the picture when you get into specifics; everyone’s opinion of what constitutes absolute (meaning platonic, eternal, not-relative) morality is, even within the same faith tradition. I’d love to hear any examples of yours that you find to be truly moral films, or filmmakers. Some of mine include films that a lot of my religious friends might not include but which I, as a religious person, find to be highly moral and edifying (25th Hour & Blue Valentine, for instance).

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