Monday, January 14, 2019

Social Relevance in Creative Projects

With all that's going on, with many of those I respect fighting in grand, not specific ways, it occurred to me just now to look at what I was doing creatively. All I ever wanted to do was to entertain with great stories that weren't the same old thing.

No, I do not think we need to be socially relevant in all our creativity. But then why not, if we can hide it but it's there to see if one wishes to see it? We are exhausted by our society and government today. Entertainment gives us a break from reality. It is why during the Great Depression, theaters did not go out of business, but thrived. And tend to during great political and societal upheavals. 

As my mother used to say, because we had little money, and at times when I was broke at an adult and putting all my money to survival, to merely existing...

"We have to take the time and a bit of our money for ourselves from time to time. Or what is the use? We have to be able to continue and that takes time and money to enjoy ourselves even a little. So we can continue and get through our troubles. With our sanity."

As the title indicates, The Teenage Bodyguard, is a screenplay I'm finishing up. It is a true crime story and one from my own past. It's a very good story. Professionals keep telling me that. It also has a bigger scope than just myself. It's a highly dramatic situation that, for several reasons, I thought was begging to be told.

Others agreed. In fact, it was an executive producer from London I first told about the project who said he wanted to see it first should I ever write it. So I did. He didn't' like my first draft so I shelved it. A couple of years later I decided to do some more research on it and was amazed by what I found.

So I rewrote it. Sadly, I could not find him by then. Perhaps he moved on? No matter, my interaction with him left me with a new and very good concept for a screenplay. Over the next few years, I continued to research, receiving coverage and redrafting it. It got better and better.

Yet, I wondered today, what if any, social relevance there was in this project?

I hadn't really started the project thinking about that. My intentions were to make money to enhance my retirement savings. I'm using those resources now to do the creative things that I've had to put off all my life to raise a family.

Family raised now, with some retirement stashed away (though not enough and it is quickly in today's economy, being used up), I'm finally pursuing those endeavors. I have the time, full time, to work on what I want.
Me, on right, wearing shoulder holster with my rifle from the story.
Friend is part of a compilation of several for the character in the screenplay.
The story I'm telling in this screenplay is essentially about two people. But in a parallel telling, it is also a fascinating story of an unusual criminal organization that terrorized the Pacific Northwest of the 1970s. No book has been written, no film has been shot about them. And I have a unique perspective and orientation from which to tell that tale.

The handgun I carried in the story from my past.
A Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum
In the story, I take a traumatized woman under my care who witnessed a murder by this organized crime family. It was the murder of a friend whom she worked with. We did our best to stay alive of a week until she could leave town. Did she survive that week of dodging her murderous pursuers? Obviously I did. Right?

But beyond that story, was there something more?

Let me just say, for some time now since I began researching and writing this screenplay six years ago now, comments, even from professionals has increased in quality and demeanor. Well known entertainment attorney Michael Donaldson read and liked it a lot. Contests and The Blacklist have liked it. I just finished working with consultant Jen Grisanti on it. By this point, I apparently it actually is a pretty amazing project.

But still....

I realized when I thought of writing this, there was. Because of these criminals and their reach into whatever resources they could acquire in order to protect their enterprise, eventually, the entire local COUNTY government had to be reorganized to prevent this from ever again happening. The local Sheriff, some of his deputies, some police, a Prosecuting Attorney, and other going possibly and potentially all the way up to a former governor of Washington state.

Does any of THAT sound familiar to anyone, today?

I think it does. I really do. And I think it's socially relevant.

So what? Somehow with all that is going on today, I do feel better in this project, as this is a lot of work. To think that there is more in this than just telling a story, a story that includes myself, a story that would potentially make me money, and may make people reflect on some bigger things. And that, is what being socially relevant is all about.

The problem with the Pierce county government back in the 1970s was that people either did not care. Or they thought it just looked problematic, rather than actually being a problem they needed to address and fix.

Just as we are seeing today.

Democracy and a free society do not just run along on their own. We have to protect it, be vigilant and when necessary, correct our course of actions and our path which hopefully is not one of destruction as it seems to be oriented today.

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