I LOVE WESTERN MOVIES … AND WHY!!!
/ I love western movies... and why!!!
I love western movies ... and here's why!!!
Let’s go to the movies tonight.
I love the movies. Love love looooooove. A big old dark theater, big screen, popcorn (the fifty gallon drum size … with unlimited refills please, an extra large soda (again with unlimited refills), and I’m good.
I still love the big theater experience the best but heck … I’ll even stay at home and watch. Why not … the screens are almost as big for God’s sake. The other day I was at Costco and saw someone taking something out in a huuuuge box. I mentioned to one of clerks that I didn’t know they sold boats at Costco.
“Oh no”, he said. “That’s a TV”.
Movies entertain and inform us … primarily because they are directed to our senses, our intellect, and most importantly our EMOTIONS. Movies make us think and feel. They can even make us CHANGE how we think and feel. They can make us DO things.
Why are we here tonight? We are here tonight to talk about movies and specifically how films can help us all affect CHANGE together.
What kinds of change?
In a word: COMPASSION; empathy for those “souls”; those “beings on our shared planet who need help and … do not have the tools to help themselves.
In two words: compassion and of course … SUPPORT.
In the beginning we have chosen the two populations which are “innocent” … primarily because much of the control of their individual and collective destinies are out of their own hands.
Those populations are children and animals.
Our objective is to tell evocative; emotionally charged and very visual stories which influence awareness and raise funding for those populations.
Sometimes it can be hard; perhaps impossible to possess compassion; to really understand; let alone empathize with what discrimination, poverty violence or suffering are like when it doesn’t affect you personally; when it is at arm’s length; on the radio or in a newspaper.
The journey a film takes you on, however, can quite literally and instantaneously dump you into the deep end of the pool. Film can immerse you in other lives for a few hours and help you empathize with people you’ve never met. A film can make you understand and sympathize with them. A film can make you hate the forces and people which oppose and abuse those people. A film can even make you want to help and defend them.
It can reinforce … or change perception and emotion. It can make you CHANGE your mind. It can make you CHANGE your feelings.
It can make you WANT TO DO SOMETHING … about that change.
It can make you ACT to AFFECT that change.
Film has that power.
You want proof that film can change your buying habits, your vote, your political affiliations, your views and stance on issues?
The effect of documentaries is easy to verify. The documentary film WOODSTOCK for example helped to shape the habits of a generation.
Long hair, bell bottomed jeans; free love, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Dramatic feature films have even more impact because they can transport us to DIFFERENT times and places and yet illustrate the same issues which we are acting out in our own VERY PRESENT lives; the same issues we are fighting over. They can help us “see” our own world through a different lens and then offer actionable alternative possibilities and solutions.
The film SIDEWAYS; a comedy about two men on a wine tasting adventure hurt Merlot sales in the US, and gave Pinot Noir a boost.
CITY SLICKERS; Billy Crystal’s “coming of age” comedy about men turning forty while on vacation at a dude ranch immediately boosted attendance at dude ranches by 600%.
The animated classic Walt Disney’s BAMBI cut deer hunting participants in half.
Closer to home and our specific interests; UNBROKEN; the recently distributed documentary about friends training and then riding Mustangs through the Rocky Mountains from the Mexican border into Canada had an enormous impact and helped raise funding for the issue of wild Mustang herds grazing on government land in the States.
Movies entertain us; they inform and educate us, and they can very definitely INFLUENCE us. They can “electrify” our emotions; they can move us to act; even change our opinions and emotions because they possess the enormously powerful ability to affect and even CHANGE our “perceptions” and “feelings”; the way we “look” at things and how we “perceive” issues, events, and the world around us by the way the iancéund “present” the images and sounds on the screen.
Movies create the “lens” through which the audience looks.
Above all else; there are three constants about the movies. They tell stories, they are visual, and they illicit a response. They make us think and more importantly they make us FEEL.
Think about it. Think not only how much movies influence your feelings but how important it is that they DO influence your feelings. We do NOT go to movies to be bored. We go … ON PURPOSE … to be entertained, to be informed, to be excited. We go to be “taken away” from our daily lives for an hour and a half; to sit in a dark place and to have our senses … our intelligence … our feelings moved … perhaps to a different place.
Movies … like no other medium … have the ability to MANIPULATE our emotions; to manufacture exactly “how” we think and feel.
Films are visual and human beings are influenced, more than anything else, by “what they SEE” and of course, the movies also dictate both “what” and “how” we see …
Movies have been around for a very long time. The first images were recorded in 1888; only two short years after Geronimo had surrendered to Nelson A. Miles in Arizona. The first “movie” is a 3 second image of a well-dressed gentleman taking a bit of a stroll from his front door towards the sidewalk and two well-dressed ladies on his left. The walk covered (approximately) four steps. The image lasts 3 seconds … or less.
Four steps. Three seconds.
Movies have come a long long way.
From those very humble beginnings, the movies and the attendant technology attached to them passed through the twentieth century at warp speed. They were first displayed as novelties in nickelodeons which showed short narratives. “Scenics” is what they were called; views of landscapes taken from cameras on moving trains. “Actualities” was an interesting initial name for what would become “documentaries” and of course there were also comedies, melodramas, problem plays, stop action sequences, and sporting events.
The Great Train Robbery in 1903 was considered the first “feature” film. Silent and in black and white it was longer than the other films; a full twelve minutes long and a milestone; the first American action film and the first western; shot, by the way, in the wilds of New Jersey … with some very real technical innovations such as the close up and “cross-cutting”; editing back and forth between two actions occurring simultaneously.
At the end of the film there is a classic example of how one very simple cinematic “special effect” can influence the emotions of an audience.
The Great Train Robbery concludes with a close up of actor Justus D. Barnes firing a pistol point blank into the camera.
Audiences everywhere had a violent and immediate reaction.
Over time films would add sound, music, color and eventually of course … the magic and wizardry of the computer.
Still the fundamental truths about filmmaking remain constant. Movies
(1 – tell “stories” (2 – they are “visual” and (3 – they made us think and feel.
The film’s medium’s ability to manipulate emotions took a giant leap forward in Russia after the revolution. The Russian government took over the film industry with the sole PURPOSE of “propaganda”; to control the MINDS and EMOTIONS of the Russian people.
Sergei Eisenstein who directed the iconic POTEMKIN as well as the anti Nazi film ALEXANDER NEVSKY was one of the leading Russian film theorists of the era and a pioneer in film editing.
Eisenstein often performed an exercise in his classes to illustrate how “perceptions” and emotions were influenced by editing. Eisenstein would project the close up image of a man on screen and enquire of his class what emotion they thought the man was feeling. Eisenstein would, of course, receive a variety of answers; dependent on his audience’s “interpretation” of the man’s facial expressions.
Eisenstein would then show an edited version of the same film that would now JUXTAPOSE the same close up image of the man now edited AGAINST a variety of other images; first a woman; then a child, a lion.
Although the man’s image did not change throughout the short film sequence, whatever image his picture was placed against inevitably drew different interpretations of the man’s emotions; fear, love, affection, anger, etc.
This simple exercise illustrated very early on the medium’s enormous ability to illicit and manipulate the “interpretation” of events, of facts, of emotions and to produce CHANGE in our collective consciousness.
A seismic change in the medium’s ability to influence opinion and emotion occurred in the 1950s when the movies moved indoors through television and played a particularly important role in the lives of the baby boomers; that generation who are now the “decision makers” in America.
Suddenly film was “intimate”. You didn’t have to GO to the movies anymore. They were in your living room; sitting on a table right in front of you; ten feet away.
Products were sold through “commercials”. Viewers were able to look “at” a product and to look INTO and more importantly to look THROUGH the eyes of the news and drama.
How powerful was that influence?
It has been said that the presidential election of 1960 was decided by the televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon. Nixon was homely and sweated profusely under the hot klieg lights. Kennedy was young; handsome. He looked cool and in control. Never mind what either of them said. Nobody listened or cared. Kennedy LOOKED presidential. Kennedy LOOKED like what America wanted. Nixon did not.
The American public saw and voted according to the image; the perception. Homely and sweaty Nixon … no. Handsome Kennedy … yes.
We saw the space age launch on television. We saw men on the moon. All on television.
The protests over the war in Vietnam were initiated and enflamed by the fact that the war was not EXCLUSIVELY in black and white print on a newspaper page but in living color up close and personal.
We could not flip the page or turn away, turn the sound EITHER down or off.
You no longer simply listened to the politicians “spin” stories about some event that was occurring far away. Now you could VERIFY the truth … or the lie … on the television. The truth could not be disputed. You could SEE it.
Now you were EMOTIONALLY involved. Not only was the drama in your face but … the face of the drama was in your face; screaming for attention in your eyes and ears.
And your heart.
It was a new … a dramatically new … page in the history of mankind; an age of media which would BECOME an age of information.
Human beings are very simply … “wired” to respond emotionally; through stories, through visual images, emotional images.
Today the capabilities of production technology through computers is staggering. Films are capable of producing images which are almost beyond belief and there appears to be no end in sight while SIMULTANEOUSLY an increasing number of new viewing “formats” and methods of distribution continues to EXPAND.
Netflix currently has 6,910 movies; it has 10,374 streaming titles, which includes television shows. Amazon Prime Video offers 18,405 movies and 1,981 TV shows in the U.S.
What does all this mean?
It means that, “if you have a story to tell … perhaps more importantly if you have a MESSAGE or an OPINION which has the ability to influence and affect change, there is probably an opportunity somewhere and somehow to get it produced and seen; both by the public and by decision makers and influencers.”
Our production company produces westerns. Westerns have a long history of dealing with societal issues; CHEYENNE AUTUMN and SERGEANT RUTLEDGE spoke to racial issues as did the highly successful and much praised recent film; HOSTILES.
And by the way, if you haven’t seen it; see it. It is a great film.
We have two major film projects up. One film; GO WEST FOR CHRISTMAS dramatizes the issues surrounding horse rescue.
The second film; BLOOD MONEY dramatizes class conflict.
The equine industry is quite literally out of control due largely to zealotry and well intentioned but hopelessly poor management. The slaughter houses have been closed and the mustangs which were originally protected have now proliferated to the point where they are endangering the eco systems. The country’s economics have cut into the middle class as well and increasing numbers of horses are being abandoned; left to starve.
The film tells the story of a rancher; Sonny Steele; an ex rodeo cowboy who has been rescuing and supporting mustangs and abandoned horses to the point of putting his own ranch at risk of foreclosure. In order to protect the animals from sale to the banks and subsequently to “killer and slaughter” pens, Sonny steals his own horses on the eve of his ranch’s foreclose and herds them to Canada.
In addition to raising awareness for the issues of animal rescue, a portion of the proceeds from the film will go to horse and animal rescue.
The second project; BLOOD MONEY is the story of a Confederate deserter who travels to the Mexican border and becomes embroiled in a battle between wealthy ranchers pushing to expand their holdings and the small ranchers in their way.
It is a story of arrogance; of pious privilege associated with wealth and power. It is a story of the type of sociopathic greed which seeks to destroy anything in its path. It is designed to be produced as an episodic series; capable of being marketed on the “streaming” platforms.
Again; a portion of the proceeds will go to humane causes as well as horse and animal rescue.
Both are great stories. Both will champion the causes they dramatize and generate awareness of the issues they portray; as well as funding.
Two great issues. Two great stories.
Why the western?
Simple. Westerns are not JUST films. Westerns are, in a very special way “sacred”. Westerns represent THE American “mythology”.
The western IS the mythology of America. The western IS how we as Americans SEE OURSELVES both individually and collectively as a nation. Westerns illustrate the manner in which we visualize our position in the world.
Westerns represents America’s SELF IMAGE.
This “self image” crosses every diversity; every line which divides us; every cultural, ethnic, economic, racial, and regional divisive factor. All of us as Americans see ourselves in either large and small part as expressions; reflections of the western myth.
There are two very important very VISUAL images in that mythology; two “figures which PERSONIFY what we as Americans feel are our primary character traits,
First there is the image of the cowboy; or even better; the solitary gunfighter; the lawman; the figure of moral authority; the solitary warrior with a broad brimmed hat on horseback who is pitted against overwhelming odds but able to overcome and achieve victory only by virtue of his position intractably on the side of righteousness.
Secondarily there is the image of the settler, the covered wagons, and western expansion which symbolize our nation’s PIONEERING SPIRIT; our quest always for new “frontiers”; the quest always for “better”; better things; a better life.
The western myth represents the values of the middle class, the small business man; yes, even the immigrant who travels to America and through hard work and education “betters” not only himself but his family and the generations which follow.
We are all cowboys. All of us. We all SEE ourselves as that the lone gunfighter; the warrior stoically riding through the barren landscape; seeking and meting out justice often against incredible odds just because … it is the right thing to do.
We ARE that gunfighter. We are courageous, in possession of moral clarity, self-reliant, independent and individual.
Ah but in reality what occurs when that uniquely American “self image”; that middle class ethic and character comes into conflict with some of the OTHER realities of the American “persona” and our history as a nation and people. What happens when it comes into conflict with the wealth and power which resides with the “privileged” few; what we have collectively labeled the “one percenters”; the banks, the government, Wall Street.
The conflicts between our nation’s collective “self image” which stands in opposition to the giant gorilla which is the government and corporate, and monied America is perhaps best portrayed in the classic western films; SHANE and HEAVEN’s GATE.
Both films have derived their stories from a true historical event; the Johnson County War which took place in Wyoming from 1889 to 1893.
The Johnson County War was very simply a range war; a “class” war; pitting wealth in the form of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association against small ranchers. The conflict escalated through a series of events to the point where the wealthy association actually financed an army of paid assassins and invaded Johnson county with a “death list” in hand.
When this paid army of hired guns/assassins was laid under siege and entrapped bu the law they were rescued by … you may have guessed it … the US Government; by order of the president himself.
In SHANE the settler image is portrayed as the Starrett family; small ranchers who ultimately band together with the gunfighter character; Shane … to fight the omnipotent large ranching family; the Rykers.
In a confrontation near the end, Joe Starrett confronts Rufus Ryker with
a line which encapsulates the conflict between the small rancher and the wealthy powerful rancher; between middle class and wealth.
“You didn’t find this country. You talk about rights. You think you’ve got the right to say that nobody else has got any.”
Our film BLOOD MONEY portrays this same conflict between social and economic classes. A lone gunfighter; a Confederate deserter sides with the small ranchers against a veritable “army” employed by wealthy cattlemen in post Civil War Texas and Mexico
Like films such as V FOR VENDETTA, FIGHT CLUB, and very recently and successfully the HUNGER GAMES franchise this film can both entertain and elevate consciousness
We will produce the films with four fronts moving forward at the same time; production, awareness, affiliation/publicity, and profitability.
The films will be PRODUCED in an extremely low budget range in order to fit within the parameters of projected sales in order to insure PROFITABILITY for the film’s participants and its projected charitable recipients.
AFFILIATES / PUBLICITY / AWARENESS
Along that path, equine associations will be engaged as AFFILIATES in order to raise PUBLICITY and AWARENESS and insure that the films will reach and surpass their targeted goals.
The immediate goal of course is to “begin”. The “ultimate goal” is to create a “brand” for our company; a company which produces not only profitable films but films which “give” and “give back” both to its partners and to its beneficiaries; a practice which will also create an audience and ultimately “GIVE BACK” to that audience.
Our company has a distributor / sales agent committed to the film and its profitability through the sale of licensing rights to domestic and foreign markets. Perhaps more importantly we are poised to be extremely aggressive in marketing not only to territorial licensing clients to the “end users” by way of social media and affiliation with equine organizations.
An extremely unique opportunity has recently begun to quite literally dominate the film business in “streaming” and episodic television available through Amazon, Netflix, and others. Not only can we get our message out but perhaps more importantly, we can REPEAT that message through a “series” on any of the streaming platforms.
We very eagerly anticipate opportunities to speak to you privately and in groups in order to facilitate your need for detail.
People can participate through the devices afforded either investors or donors through our nonprofit organization.