Category Archives: Film Industry Values

March For Our Lives

“You can’t cast too many Blacks in one film. Nobody will watch.”

“It’s just how it is.” 

“It’s an absolute truth.”

As a child (born in 1958) growing up in a film industry family, I heard this “absolute truth” from the experts — writers, directors, producers, actors, costume designers. Although everyone I knew seemed to agree, I was puzzled. I remember asking what the difference was between an all-Caucasian cast and an all-any-other-racial-heritage cast. I didn’t understand why the industry, brimming with creativity, insisted on following the herd regarding this specific convention. Some expressed regret, so I asked why they didn’t do something to change it. Their answer was always a variation of “It’s-Just-How-It-Is.”

With its rocketing success, the film Black Panther has rewritten that “absolute truth” of my childhood. Of course, several other films have already shown this “truth” to be nowhere close to “absolute.” Black Panther is a strong and timely reminder that “absolute truths” should always be questioned. As a kid, I was also told that an all-female cast wouldn’t work, that if actors came out as gay their careers would grind to an abrupt halt, that females needed to be frighteningly skinny because everyone looks heavier on film and “nobody likes a girl with a fat ass” (a quote from an actor, at a dinner party, which drew raucous approval from men and women alike). I was told these “absolute truths” would “never change.”

Even the most decent adults can get bogged down in business analysis, lulled by the familiarity of convention, and lose track of the purity of an idea. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old in 1955, when she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. Malala Yousafzai was in her teens when she was shot in the head, and lived to become a voice for females and education worldwide. Emma Gonzalez — a survivor of the February 14, 2018, high school shooting in Parkland, Florida — has catapulted the #NeverAgain movement to unprecedented levels. Naomi Wadler was 11 years old when she took the stage on March 24, 2018, and stunned the nation with her eloquence in support of Black lives. Samantha Fuentes, wounded at the Parkland shooting, showed us that vomiting onstage can be an act of inspirational courage.

It’s-Just-How-It-Is can’t stop the Claudettes or the Malalas or the Emmas or the Naomis or the Samanthas. Sometimes we need young voices to remind us of the power of decency — hearts and minds unburdened by cost-benefit analysis, less tied to socio-cultural infrastructures. Until February 13, 2018, school shootings were “just how it is.” After February 14, 2018, with several killed and wounded at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School, It’s-Just-How-It-Is transformed into Never-Again.

Young people are rewriting our absolutes. They’re today’s self-evident truths and tomorrow’s inalienable rights. They’re our nation’s We-The-People, leading us as we renew our vows to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They’re our future and our now.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, with her circle of friends, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTIQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under Black Lives Matter, Black Panther, Claudette Colvin, Emma Gonzalez, Film Industry Values, Malala, March For Our Lives, Naomi Wadler, Parkland Shooting, Samantha Fuentes, Uncategorized

Sexual Values In The Industry

Growing up a daughter of a screenwriter, I had no words to describe my intense discomfort with the entertainment industry. Years would pass before I found language to describe the pressure on girls and women to starve themselves, the relentless rating of physical attractiveness, the hype around sex and sexuality, the assumption that anyone would do anything to be tapped into the club. As a kid, I could have explained none of this. All I knew was that I’d never fit in, and I wished my father had chosen a different profession.

Many aspects of the industry feed directly and indirectly into a culture of rape. The sanctioned, artificial, forced sexuality woven into the fabric of the entertainment industry intensifies the problem, normalizing the sexualization of all interactions. I remember attending a party, and a man approached. He was in his mid 40s and when he leaned down to kiss my lips, I ducked my head and instead offered my hand. He took my hand in both of his and smirked. I still remember his words: “Sweetheart, you’ll never make it in the industry if you don’t change that attitude.” I knew that I didn’t belong in the industry, that the idea of being his sweetheart made me queasy, that whether I allowed him to kiss my lips was entirely my choice. Still, it was a gut-shot to be told that I was pathetically uncool. I was eleven.

Something creepy and dangerous lurked in the shadows, and I grew up on guard, waiting for it to pounce. This type of incident was a part of my ongoing experience in the industry and like most children, I didn’t question the values that my environment considered “normal.” And I was extremely lucky — when I said no, people backed off.

Today, I’m sick at heart as so many reveal how badly they’ve been hurt. I support and respect those who are stepping forward, calling out sexual predators in the industry. They’re showing courage on a level that awes me, and I hope that every survivor of every gender will speak out and be given the support they deserve. I also hope every person who ever used a sexual act as a power-weapon will be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted. Beyond the individuals, I hope the industry as a whole owns its role in enabling a sub-culture of sexual abuse.

As a child of the industry, I heard over and over that a good director understands how and when to begin and end a production. If the beginning isn’t compelling from the opening moments, the audience disconnects. If the performance stretches even one minute too long, the audience checks out. We need a new beginning, starting now, paving the way for a future of new endings. So cue the lights, fade to black, and stop. Just stop.

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Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, age 15, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school. Growing up in a film industry family, Caroline is a misfit, and her new school opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay boys bullied in high school.

Tightwire

A psychology intern, who grew up in a film industry family, goes through her rookie year of clinical training, working with her first patient, who ran away from the circus to find himself. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of lesbian and gay parents, as a voice against the stigma of therapy, and as a window into the behind-closed-doors values of the film industry.

Visit Amy’s Author Page on Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under Film Industry Values, Harvey Weinstein Scandal, NoMore, sexual equality, Uncategorized