Thanks and welcome filmmakers! Every year we at the Film Lab choose a couple of themes to focus on for the Shootout. This year we delved into what it means to be “essential” or “integral to” a society and how words can impact that perception of belonging. The impact of simple words can have a dramatic impact on groups within a society. An obvious example we’ve all seen is how the use of phrases like “Kung flu” and the “Chinese Virus” have influenced anti-Asian hate crimes across the country from beatings to stabbings to shootings. Conversely, we’ve seen how phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Asian Hate” have galvanized people to come together to support equality and inspired people to find empathy for others. In looking at words in our language and how we use them, we were struck by the prevalence of what I call a language of domination or subjugation in our common vernacular. That’s a mouthful. What do I mean by that? We often hear the phrases “kill it,” “slay it,” “crush it.” We’re all familiar with the idea of coming, seeing and conquering. That was what Columbus did, right? And he’s such a role model? So, is it a good thing? This quest for domination, even at the expense of others, written into our very slang?
Essentially, what we’re seeing is a use of our language that values destruction over construction and – as we all should know by now – words matter.
Rather than crushing, killing, slaying, or conquering (your films), what about creating? Collaborating? Learning? Building?
Instead of hunting, slaughtering and domination (over your cast and crew), what about cooperating? Nurturing? Stewardship?
What if we were to re-frame the foundation of our own narrative as constructive rather than destructive? As one of casual kindness instead of casual cruelty? What if we were to place value on the positives instead of the negatives? This year’s theme will invite you to do just that.
One last thing we touched upon in thinking what it means to be essential in a society – to truly belong – is also who our heroes are, how a hero is defined, whether a hero is valued or essential. Going back to words and phrases, we also often hear the phrase “Don’t be a hero” (take care of yourself), which ties into this language of domination, in a sense, by encouraging a self-centered, rather than a compassionate, outlook. We challenge you to think about words and phrases and how you use them. Think about it critically. And we ask, that, for just 72 hours, you be heroes, take risks, be bold, and be courageous with your films. After all, if you’re not, then what’s the point? Most of all, though, have fun! So, good luck. Go create some game-changing films. No pressure or anything.