Using Storytelling to Advance Liberty
Report by Betty Sakai
With so many Hollywood movies type-casting American business, individualism, and entrepreneurship as amoral endeavors of the greedy and self-serving, with scriptwriters making government intervention and control the answer instead of the problem, accomplished Director of Development and Outreach for the Moving Picture Institute (MPI), Adam Guillette introduced to the Forum audience the work of MPI whose mission it is to promote film-makers and films that promote liberty. To be effective, Adam said, stories must lead with emotion. They must either center on an underdog, be in tune with pop culture, center on a hero or heroine, or focus on a problem the listener can relate to. Facts are important but facts alone do not put across the message. Facts make a difference only if the facts provide the framework for the feelings, for the emotions.
For many years it’s been rare to see a film that celebrates American exceptionalism. Films that portray America’s soldiers as thoughtful heroes are rare. Pop culture cannot relate to high-paying corporate executives, so those who favor more government portray corporations as greedy enterprises that need to pay more taxes. The TV program “American Greed” relates emotionally to those who at times have invested unwisely and lost money, or to those who have never invested and fear risk and loss. Everyone wants investment security. So “American Greed’s” message is personal responsibility vacated in favor of government regulating more the investment process….to protect the unwise.
One familiar example of a movie with a pro-freedom message is Ghost Busters, Guillette noted. The writers of this film cast the character of the government EPA regulator as an obnoxiously stubborn, uneducated antagonist. Ghost Busters is well-known for its outrageous humor, making the overbearing government employee an obstructionist, a villain. In the story, the business is called Ghostbusters and the owners and employees are cast as heroes.
Presented to the Forum by Vice President for Programs Joel Fine, Adam Guillette grew up in a family that provided him with direction. He was raised to believe in freedom and liberty. When other children’s parents were telling their children stories of Hansel and Gretel, Adam’s father told him stories of the great achievements of Reagan and Churchill. At age nineteen (19), Adam ran for Mayor of Gainesville, Florida, and lost. He went on to found a freedom-oriented newspaper which became the largest student-owned newspaper in America. Later, Adam successfully campaigned to require university presidents to raise money through private contributions to place an American flag in every classroom. Today he lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, with his wife Nikki and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Liberty.
A veteran in the ongoing fight for liberty, Adam Guillette became a distinguished faculty member at the Leadership Institute in Florida in 2004, and for several years traveled the country encouraging screen writers to create films that promote liberty. In 2007, Adam was chosen to launch the Florida Chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Within a year, that chapter gained over 150 media hits statewide and defeated over $370 million in tax increases. In 2011, Adam Guillette joined the Moving Picture Institute (MPI) to become their Director of Development and Media, working to guarantee film’s unique capacity to give shape to abstract principles that support liberty. Adam Guillette has been featured on FOX News, in the Washington Times, in the New York Times, and in the National Review Magazine.
Guillette captured the large Christmas-celebrating Forum audience’s attention with film clips that illustrate the power of story-telling capturing the heart and mind. He repeatedly emphasized that establishing an emotional connection is important when attempting to inform and persuade. An emotional appeal is absolutely essential when trying to influence the young generation -- also the low-information voter. Adam reminded his Forum audience that story tellers have for thousands of years taught generation after generation to understand the culture through the telling of stories, creating fables that entertain, painting pictures in story-form that result in the listener learning how to live -- to either accept living controlled or to learn what it means to live freely.
Citing notable examples of story-tellers, Guillette showed a photo of the accomplished fiction writer, Ayn Rand. He asked the Forum, “Does anyone remember this woman?” The response was immediate. Ayn Rand, he said, chose to tell her philosophy in story form instead of publishing it as non-fiction. Her movie “brought objectivism to the masses in a way policy papers and non-fiction could never have.” Because Ayn Rand made the decision to tell a story that evokes emotions, she is well known today. Her understanding of the world influenced millions who experienced her movie, Atlas Shrugged. Another age-old example, Guillette added, are the cherished fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark 1805-1875). Anderson’s fables provided many lessons loved by children.
A more universally known source of stories is the Holy Bible, Guillette said. God conveyed to Man His infinite wisdom through the stories written in the Bible. God touched the hearts and minds of Man that Man might live and enjoy eternal salvation. The stories in the Bible were written to connect with the people of the day, stories updated and interpreted by churches throughout the ages teaching Man the importance of staying connected with God, of respecting and obeying His commandments. The stories in the Bible provided the foundation for those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.
Opponents of liberty have been using emotions and story-telling for many decades to advance their agenda. The Moving Picture Institute filmmakers are using this same tactic “to change laws, change the culture, win Emmy Awards, break Guinness world records, and appear on the Academy Awards shortlist.” Capturing the hearts of our youth and the low-information voters matters if liberty is to be preserved. So films that feature an underdog with a story line that contains occasional humor touch the heart and influence thinking. Humor connects. Two examples cited by Guillette highlighting the power of humor: (1) TV talk-show host John Stewart -- not known for his conservatism but viewed because of his humor, and (2) President Ronald Reagan – a master at delivering wit and humor in punch-lines that disarmed even his opponents. He added, Reagan was able to frame the debate. Once he was asked by a correspondent if he should shoulder some of the blame he placed on the mistakes of the past and Congress? President Reagan answered, “…Yes because for many years I was a Democrat.”
MPI provides valuable mentorship and networking to students seeking to work in the film industry with films that tell captivating stories of freedom, free enterprise, and individual rights. MPI provides an economically program for students. The environment is supportive and personalized attention is provided. Imaginations are challenged, technique is stressed over theory, technical advances are kept current, and assistance is provided locating jobs in the film industry. MPI provides aspiring filmmakers training to develop their skills and have access to professional tools to determine a logical career path. Many associated with MPI go on to work in Hollywood full-time. For those working on creating their own film, MPI provides guidance and assistance to help the film-maker locate funding to produce and market their work.
MPI assists and supports film production companies. One such film is Honor Flight by Dan Hayes and Clay Broga. It’s a heart-warming documentary about World War II veterans coming together for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the memorial constructed for World War II veterans in 2004 -- nearly sixty (60) years after their epic struggle. The film premiered at Miller Park in Milwaukie where 28,442 tickets were sold. It was the best Jumbotron screening ever in the history of the industry. Freethink Media today devotes their team of talented artists and writers to produce short web-based films for both nonprofits and corporations “telling stories about freedom, human well-being, and achievement.”
Using story-telling with humor and satire, MPI film makers lead with emotional appeal. Some of the many films produced by MPI graduates are listed on www.theMPI.org. Examples are Freedom’s Fury, Incarcerating Us, Rebel Evolution, State of Control, The Most Dangerous Woman in America, The Rubber Room, and Battle for Brooklyn about the efforts of a New Yorker battling a billionaire developer, and Dog Days about an entrepreneur and immigrant’s struggle to be a hot-dog vendor for a small piece of the American dream.
U.N. Me is a documentary of notable importance. It was produced and directed by Ami Horowitz and Matthew Groff and released in 2009 by the production company Disruptive Pictures. The film follows Horowitz and Groff as they expose numerous scandals and cases of abuse at the U.N. They conduct interviews with involved parties and feature evidence of the use of U.N. funds and equipment supporting terrorist activities. In one interview, the U. N. representative is asked about a situation and blames everything on global warming. The humor connects. Outrageous and funny hits the mark. The film got savaged. It was judged a great documentary because it hit the mark.
Another film of notable consequence is by Bowden Media, The Cartel, written and directed by Bob Bowdon, released in 2009. The film is centered in New Jersey and blames the teacher’s union for creating obstacles to providing good teachers, makes the case for school vouchers and charter schools, and suggests competition will revitalize the school system. The film was Bowden’s first. It took two (2) years to complete. It was supported by MPI with a marketing budget as large or larger than the production budget. Asked in the Q&A session following his presentation what the range of funding is for MPI supported films, Guillette answered anywhere from $6,000 to $3,000,000.
Adam discussed a film not produced by MPI, a film written with an anti-freedom bias, The Promised Land, written and produced by Matt Damon. The film was funded in part by Image Nation, a film company completely owned by the UAE (United Arab Emirates) whose purpose is to discourage fracking in America. American energy independence means to oil-rich nations they will lose forty-five percent (45%) of their income from oil. When asked, Matt Damon explained that part of the funding for The Promised Land came from a liberal issue media source called Participant Media which has a “blind slate” deal with Image Nation that pays for ten percent (10%) of all Participant Media’s films. Other Participant Media anti-freedom films are Food Inc, Syriana, and An Inconvenient Truth.
MPI is funded entirely by tax-deductible donations. It exists alongside a limited number of other freedom-driven film organizations up against extreme wealth from international money sources. The Moving Picture Institute is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code. Donations may be eligible for corporate matching gifts. Adam Guillette acts as Director of Donor Relations and Outreach. Information can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Adam Guillette discussed the film 2081 -- an adaptation of “Harrison Bergeron” set in a dystopian mandated egalitarian future. The film has been shown in thousands of classrooms. The membership website www.izzit.org has proven to be very important in teaching the next generation about the ideas, institutions, and benefits of a free society. The site offers students critical thinking skills necessary for America’s youth to become independent, fully-engaged citizens. So successful has been the www.izzit.org website that seventeen thousand (17,000) classrooms now use it. Success has led to a screenwriting deal for film-makers who created it.
The Forum appreciated hearing about the work of Adam Guillette and the Moving Picture Institute. C-Span filmed the presentation. Forum members and attendees asked questions in the Q & A session following the presentation. One question asked if Common Core was in the pipeline for a documentary and Guillette answered not yet. The Forum thanked Adam Guillette with a standing ovation. He had provided an appreciative audience an enormous amount of entertainment and much valued information.
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