Violence and the Courage to Create

MANY times in the business of film and television, we talk about creativity but not about how much our fear that something will fail influences, to our collective detriment, creative vision.

We know, for example, that the adrenalin rush produced by gratuitous scenes of violence in our films and TV programmes jacks up ratings and box office. And we also have legitimate fear that if we don't follow the formulaic requirements of the industry for producing blockbusters or smash hit TV series, there is a very good chance we will fail.

Violence is not the issue. Rather is it how willing we are, as individuals and as an industry, to have the courage to create stories that go beyond formulaic expectations. There are thousands of iconic films and TV productions that have been and are being made where violent scenes are an integral part of the story. The Killing Fields, Apocalypse Now, and The Pacific are but a few. And there are films and TV programmes with violence in them made purely for entertainment but whose creators have drawn the line when it comes to violent scenes meant only to pump up adrenalin.  

Then there are the others. In January of this year, Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, said in a television interview he would be moving away from  projects that simply glorify violence. Reportng on that interview, The Guardian quoted Weinstein, whose stack of credentials in writing, production and directing include such films as Gangs of New York, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare in Love, as saying he was ruling out, "crazy action movies aimed at just blowing up people and exploiting people."  Currently in development, Weinstein's project The Senator's Wife, starring Meryl Streep, is aimed directly at the US gun lobby group the National Rifle Association.

Film and TV players should and do create real stories that reflect the violence in our collective global culture, but it takes genuine courage as creators to eschew the temptation to gratuitously amplify that violence. As individuals and as an industry, we have the power to raise the bar on a number of issues and violence is one of them. We have the power to create a real vision of storytelling that dares to leave behind the easy path of stringing scenes of violence together for the sole purpose of creating an adrenalin rush that jacks up ratings and box office.

Weinstein's commitment is but a baby step in that direction, but it's a start.#