I have a dream. Great films change our lives. Films remind us of events from our past that still affect us today. Films bring us back to childhood, help us to realize how long-held beliefs about ourselves and our world are serving us, or how these beliefs may be blocking our way to goals and dreams. Films enlighten us. Films, at the very least, allow us to have emotions and feelings that we may otherwise be too busy, (or incapable of expressing), with our lives … to allow for ourselves in the dark safety of a theatre or our living room. Of course, the power of film may be short-lived but deep in our consciousness, we have the experience of a great film forever with us. “Oh Captain, my captain.”
Cable TV has also become similar in this respect to films due to the excellent work being produced. If you have gotten into Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire or Shameless, to name just a few, you know the joy from these series’ and the stories they tell. We talk about the characters like we know them. We sit down with our loved ones and share the experience of viewing the shows. They, like films, are events for us that we take with us. I don’t know about you but me and my man are still mourning the loss of Newsroom.
Many people like to criticize Aaron Sorkin for being too ‘preachy.’ Errrrr, no. Sorkin is pure genius. He does not need the politics of a cable network to express his vision of our world. Newsroom was nothing short of epic storytelling that ended up being too much of a political mess with which to deal. I don’t blame him for walking away. I will still always miss what could have, and should have been, in Newsroom.
The politics of the ‘biz’ are fierce and nasty. Sorkin has better fish to fry with a biopic film based on the incredibly revealing Walter Isaacson biography about the late, great, mad genius Steve Jobs — book entitled simply Jobs. They have cast Michael Fassbender as Jobs (brilliant choice), and I am so looking forward to this film. You see, Sorkin may be difficult for some people to understand. Sorkin may be demanding and unwilling to allow compromise to the powers that be to steer his work. I blame him not.
What Aaron Sorkin is most is a genius, just like Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin is also one of those rare artists who is truly deserving of the ‘above the line’ position. It’s work like The Social Network, regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding the founders and inventors of Facebook, to the theatrical powerhouse made-to-tour comedy musical The Book of Mormon, among hundreds of other highly successful ventures that put Sorkin in this place of envy. That is precisely the place those who criticize Sorkin as a person are in — Envy. Personally, I admire him and would give my left tit to work with him. Maybe even my right one as well.
I digress. This article was born from a viewing of Selma and a discovery of why and how the actual MLK Jr. speeches were paraphrased in this particular film. Selma is quite enjoyable and until I discovered the truth, made the assumption that the filmmakers purposely did not want to manipulate our heartstrings and wanted to make the film be truly a film rather than a documentary-type biopic. With further research however, I discovered the ugly and disappointing truth.
The bottom line? They did not use the actual speeches (even with the power of Harpo films backing them), because Dreamworks and Warner Brothers with Steven Spielberg, had been granted the rights to the speeches before them and, film studios are understandably conservative when it comes to copyright issues. To top this unfortunate truth off, the MLK estate has been known to sue over copyright issues and this is more of a financial risk than the studios can take.
As you can see clearly from this short article I have linked for you here, even with fair use copyright laws, it is safer to err on the side of safety in the light of severe copyright penalties. The laws actually make it difficult to practice freedom of expression and tie the hands of great directors like Ava DuVernay. A damn shame.
I have a dream of better things for great stories to be told with complete (reasonable) freedom. Perhaps the Spielberg film will be allowed these freedoms. We can only hope. (I just pray that Spielberg can resist his common temptation of making yet another film about his ‘daddy’ issues #itsnotallaboutyou).
Here’s wishing you a safe, healthy and fun MLK holiday weekend … full of freedom of speech, expression, enlightenment and moments of memorable storytelling for you and those you love. Oh happy day.
Also, I highly recommend the Isaacson book Jobs, especially if you plan on viewing the Sorkin film. This book is just one great read in it’s own right. Here’s a link for you:
— Laura Tompkins